The Art of Learning to Speak Naturally

Jonathan Anderson

Director Of Education

In the modern voice over world, the art of learning to speak naturally, or “conversationally” is the key to booking any job. The days of the old-school announcers are over, and if you can’t deliver a read that is smooth and natural, you will probably not get hired. This is something that we have to work on with most of our students. Even some seasoned pros still have trouble delivering a read that is free of extra, weird pauses. People tend… to read their copy…like…THIS! As if the script had commas all over the place and choosing odd words to emphasize. It doesn’t sound very natural, and will turn off any casting professional. Don’t get me wrong, I love William Shatner; he’s a national treasure. But you don’t want to sound like him in your voice over submissions.  If you find yourself delivering these weird, choppy reads, you need to ask yourself: do I speak like this in real life? The answer is probably not. When we speak to each other, we tend to do so naturally, without pauses, moving smoothly from one thought to another. So why do so many voice actors fall into this trap? What can you do in order to smooth out your reads and sound more “natural?”

I too struggle with the art of learning to speak naturally, but through private coaching I’ve been able to work out some of my own issues and improve my reads. Here are a couple of tips that I learned working with some of our coaches that you can keep in mind on your next audition:

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever heard was from our owner and founder, David Goldberg. He is a stickler for actors reading naturally, and a master of getting smoother reads out of a talent. I tend to fall into the trap of too many extra pauses. I worked with David, and he told me to just take the punctuation out of the script. It blew my mind, but it totally works. When we are reading a script, we tend to add big pauses at commas, especially when we encounter a list. But if we were talking and I was just listing things to you, I wouldn’t pause. I would just rattle them off. So, next time you find yourself reading a script and having a tough time smoothing it out, try to remove the punctuation. You’ll find that your words flow much more smoothly. Soon, it will become second nature. I’ve gotten a lot of miles out of this tip- thank you, David!

I’m a theater kid, through and through. I’m a big, loud presence, and I love attention. I also grew up in New England, so I speak fast and I am not really sure how to pronounce the letter “R.” This translates well on stage, but it’s a disaster in the booth. I tend to get too loud on the mic, read WAY too fast, and get too sing-songy with my reads. I know it, but I have a hard time fighting it. Many people have the same issue- they read too fast, their reads become very sing-songy, and many words are either mispronounced or unintelligible. I’ve worked a lot with Art Bruder on fixing these issues for myself. He could tell right away that I was a theater kid, and that my reads were going to be too big for narration. We spent several coaching sessions working on bringing me back down to a more reasonable level. Much of what we worked on was just relaxing in the booth. Breathing. Channeling my manic energy into something that was more appropriate for voice over. Art makes me break my copy down into beats, or phrases, and think about each one. What are they trying to say? What is the tone? What are the important words that I should emphasize in each phrase? This helps me slow down, breathe, connect more effectively to the script, and read the copy in a relaxed manner, as opposed to my natural frenetic energy. Art showed me how a better understanding of the script will help me channel the appropriate energy for a more authentic, natural read. You rock, Art!

Many of us struggle with the same issues. Speaking too fast, reading a script with far too many pauses, struggling with the letter “R.” These are real issues to overcome and it can be daunting to start working on them. But I can speak from personal experience – the best way to solve these problems is to meet them head on, be willing to change, and work one-on-one with a voice over professional. The reality is most of us are not aware that we even have these kinds of issues. The ONLY way that you are going to see real improvement is to work with a coach, one who understands the business and can help you meet the needs of the modern voice over market. A good coach can break down what you are doing, show you what areas you need to work on, and help you develop your skills as a voice artist. If you’ve never had a coaching session, or think that you don’t need one, I challenge you to try it. I guarantee you will learn SO much about yourself, and be shocked at all the little mistakes you routinely make but were totally and completely unaware.

If you too want to have additional guidance on the art of learning to speak naturally and bringing your voice over skills to the next level, book your Private Coaching Sessions with Edge Studio here. You will not be disappointed!

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