When you’re first launching your career in voice acting, it’s common to find yourself holding your own recording sessions and working mainly from home. Many of the most celebrated talent in the industry carry out most of their business from home, and once they have established themselves in the field, even develop their own state-of-the-art home recording studios.
However, as you move forward in your career, you may find yourself invited to attend an in-studio audition, requested to deliver a script read from a professional recording studio of your client’s choosing, or do a live-directed session from your home studio.
Once you’ve gained a handle on how to best conduct yourself in a recording studio environment, attending your recording session will become far less of a challenging task.
Brushing Up On Studio Etiquette
When in the studio, you’re sure to find that engineers are protective of their equipment. So, if you get the honor of being invited to attend a recording session at a professional studio, there is some studio etiquette to be aware of.
Follow these recording studio dos and don’ts in order to pull off a faultless read that impresses your studio mates and gets you invited back to record again.
Arrive prepared to read the script several times
While this definitely means that you should show up prepared to deliver your strongest vocal performance, it also means that you’ll have already put in the preliminary work to understand the project and character that you’ve been hired to read for. You’ll ideally pull up to the recording studio having interpreted the meaning of the project and carried out multiple read-throughs of the script aloud. All the work you put in before stepping foot into the studio will cause you to be more familiar with the characterization, pacing, and general tone of the piece.
Have supplies on hand that will keep your voice in tip-top shape
Arrive armed with lots of water and an apple (or two). Anybody who has worked in a call center or held a job that requires talking all day long will appreciate how difficult it is to articulate yourself with a dry throat and mouth. Granny Smith apples are highly acidic, and help reduce pesky mouth noises the mic might pick up. As someone whose vocal conditions can make or break a recording session, you never want to underestimate the importance of having warm or room temperature water on standby at all times.
Go with the flow of the recording session direction
Creative directors are just that: creative. The direction of a recording session can take some unexpected turns, including last-minute script revisions, experimentation with different styles of voice over, and unconventional directorial decisions. Different clients will have different workflows, so be ready to be spontaneous and show that you can go with the flow.
Ask questions (but not while you’re recording!)
If you find yourself uncertain about how to pronounce a certain word, the punctuation at the end of a sentence, or if any other questions arise, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for some guidance. Your colleagues at the recording studio will be happy to lend you a hand. Just remember not to wait until you’re mid-delivery to interrupt your own read and pose these questions—odds are that this will cause some frustration.
Be courteous and professional to everyone in the studio
Check your ego at the door. Every recording session is a collaborative process, and everyone present in the room is an integral piece of the puzzle who shares the same interest in achieving the best recording possible. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned professional or an industry newcomer: you’re providing a service, so put on your customer service hat and be friendly and respectful.
Wear noisy clothing and accessories
Be warned: microphones pick up everything. If you’re wearing jingly jangly jewelry, the sound of your outfit will disrupt the recording any time you move your arms or body. Replace any accessories that jingle, jangle, clink, or clank with a loose-fitting, comfortable getup comprised of cottons, knits, jeans or khakis, and soft-soled shoes.
Leave your phone on in the recording booth
While in most cases it’s encouraged to have your phone handy—to find the address of the recording studio, to communicate with your clients, or to snap photos for social media—the one place your phone doesn’t belong is inside the recording booth. Besides the fact that it can be distracting and take you out of character, if you receive any texts or calls, the sound will damage your whole recording. In fact, even anticipating texts or calls can affect your focus. To be respectful of others’ time, turn off your phone and leave it in your bag, or lock it away in your vehicle. Calls can wait until after you’re finished recording.
Show up late
In the entertainment industry, first impressions are everything. You do not want someone to remember you as the voice actor who forced them to wait for you to arrive. Every minute inside a recording studio is precious. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early for your session so that you have a moment for proper introductions. If your session is in-person, budget extra time for travel in case you run into any transit or traffic delays.
Change Your Delivery
While it can be impressive to arrive with your own creative take on the project, veering from the actual content within the script is highly discouraged. Unless you are instructed to improvise, it is not your job to write original material. When you’re hired to serve as the voice for a project, don’t overstep your boundaries by additionally trying to act as its copy editor or director.
Apologize if you make a mistake in your vocal performance
Everybody makes mistakes. So, if you slip up while performing a read, resist the urge to break character and apologize. Simply take a breath, remain in character, and reread the sentence that you had an issue with. The clients will appreciate a brief pause between takes, so if you happen to stumble on your words, just take a few seconds to regroup before beginning afresh. Although you may feel bad about your mistake and want to make that known, your restraint and professionalism will pay off.
Next up, Understanding the client’s needs.