I want to write down some of the things I’ve learned about voice acting so I can have a place where I can share them. I get people asking me every once in a while how I became a voice actor. (It started with a career in rock radio and a BA in theater.) The next thing they say is usually that they have a friend who makes lots of voices and would be a great voice actor. Then I have to tell them that most of the jobs out there don’t need funny voices. They need people who can sound comfortable and natural while saying the same thing over and over again into a microphone with a few people watching them do it through a pane of very thick glass. After each time, those people talk about what you just did (which you can’t hear) and then press a button and tell you that it was great and could you please do it again, but with a pause here and a go down in tone at the end of the second line and can we add back that half second we just tried to knock off for the last take?
When you have a 15 second TV commercial that is already cut and the voice has to match the video, there really isn’t any room for error. The ability to shave off or add a half second of time is something that can decide whether or not you’ll be called back for the next job, and there’s no way to learn how to do it other than practice. It’s one of those 10,000 hours things, because you just have to ‘feel’ it. You can’t watch a timer and read a script at the same time and even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to make it work that way.
I liken it to recording a pop song. TV and radio commercials have a rhythm that is unnatural to perform but sounds natural when it’s done right. So if you want more commercial work, along with practicing breathing and finding your ‘natural’ sound, don’t forget to work on timing.