If you follow my YouTube Channel, you know I’m always talking about auditions, and voice over audition techniques. There’s a good reason for that! For those of us in the voice-over and voice acting industry, auditions follow us throughout our entire career. I’ve been recording VO work for over 25 years now, and I still have to record auditions daily. They’re a fact of life.
Of course, when you’ve been around for a long time and you have long-term clients, you’ll probably record fewer auditions (you can be more selective about taking on new jobs), but you’ll still have to audition, again and again. So, anything we can do to improve our auditions is worth talking about.
In this blog, we’ll talk about recording the second take of your VO audition. If you’re new to auditioning, providing two takes of short audition scripts is a bit of an unwritten rule in VO, and in my own opinion, it’s good VO etiquette. This is especially true if you’re getting the audition from an agent, or if it’s an audition in the animation or video game sectors. A wise voice actor will also give pay-to-play auditions the same treatment. Those clients might not ask for it, or even know they want it, but recording two takes can help you stand out from other VO actors.
Now, if the script is on the long side (say over 60 seconds, or 150 words), you can forgo this “unwritten rule”.. But I would encourage you to provide a couple of takes of any script that’s around 30 to 60 seconds, or for a character. You can record more if you want to, but decision-makers will typically listen to two takes (provided you’ve hooked them early-on in your first take).
The main reason to record two takes is that it helps casting directors and clients determine whether you have “range”. In other words, it lets them know if you’re a voice actor who is directable, or if you’re stuck in your ways (like a one-trick pony). This is something I talk about extensively in Part 1 of the Get Clever Series.
The key to recording that second take is to do something fun or creative that will help you stand out from your competition. Let’s go over a few ways you can vary your second read.
Put the Pedal to the Metal . . . or Not
The first thing you can do for your second read is to vary the speed at which you read. For example, you might read the first take very deliberately and slowly. If you read the second take much quicker, it changes the energy completely. This technique is also useful in commercials where you receive a script that’s just too long for its running time. So, for example, the client may ask that their script fit into 30 seconds, but when you read the script at a natural pace (and edit out your mistakes), the read comes in at around 45 seconds. In this case, try to make it fit into 30 seconds. If 30 seconds makes it sound too hectic (and it’s not a commercial retail spot), try to make your read fit into 35 or 40 seconds. Then record another take in which you take your time.
By taking your time, the client will hear what it sounds like when you have time to say the words properly. After hearing that difference, they may realize they need to cut the script. Note that the reverse can also be true, where scripts have too few words for their length and clients need to add more (though this is less common, it happened to me just last week!). But even when the script is the right length, varying the speed is still a useful, simple strategy for a second take.
Pump Up the Level
Another trick is to “project” less. In this instance, turn up the recording level, lean into the microphone, and get intimate by speaking at a low volume (a little “hush hush”, just above a whisper). Playing with projection is a wonderful way to get listeners’ attention.
But be careful, depending on your voice, an intimate reading can make you sound overly sensual. So, if you play with projection, make sure it’s appropriate for the content.
Say it Like YOU Want To
Improvisation is another technique you can utilize in your second take. It’s especially useful when you’re auditioning for animation, video games, and radio spots in which you’re required to play a character. In this case, read the first take as written, and on the second take, improvise (ad lib) a little. Have fun! Add a word here or there—even a sentence. Now, don’t go so far off the script that you’re rewriting it (let’s not offend the copywriters), but you can add a little bit of your personality—or better, the character’s personality—into the mix.
Breathing some life into the character will help you stand out and give you a better shot at booking the gig. If the client mentioned they are looking for good comedy or acting chops, doing some improv in the second take is a good way to show off these skills. Whatever you do, always remain positive about the product or client.
Another strategy that is targeted toward character-based scripts like animation and video games is to change up the emotion. Let’s say your character is a confident commander who is in control, and you show this emotion in your first take. For the second take, you can keep that “I’m in charge” feeling, but now add a little urgency. Or say a character is a soldier, and they’re described as arrogant or self-confident. You could do that in one take, and you could also record another take in which the character is more Machiavellian and scheming. This can show that you’re thinking about other sides of the same character.
Gimme Some Attitude
In the same vein as emotion, is attitude. Choosing an attitude is helpful in a commercial or corporate piece. In the first read, you might be smiling, optimistic, and positive. In the second take, you might be more serious, authoritative, or matter of fact. Adjusting the attitude is a powerful strategy for getting a second take on the same VO script.
Always Put Your Best Foot Forward
This is important, because the client or casting director isn’t necessarily going to listen to your entire audition. More often than not, they’ll only listen to the very beginning, and sometimes only a few seconds. If they aren’t intrigued right away, they’ll move on, so it’s imperative that you put your strongest material at the beginning.
I know . . . I’m recommending you record two takes, even though that second take might never be listened to. It’s tough out there! Becoming a great auditioner, and eventually transitioning to being a great booker, is hard, consistent work.
Now, I mentioned earlier that you can add improv in the second take—but if the improv is great, break the rules and make it the first. The “voiceover police” aren’t going to come and hunt you down. The important thing is to show the client that you are the answer to their prayers. So, always, put the best take first.
Try It On
If you’ve never considered recording two takes before, try it! It will challenge you to come up with new ways of reading a script, and over time, you might discover that your best take is often the one you record last. If you keep at it, you might even discover your own special sauce! And remember, practice makes perfect.
Want some VO advice you can hang your hat on and act on TODAY? Don’t do it alone, piggy back on my success by joining my “Everyday VO” newsletter here to get exclusive tips from me, so you can do VO the Clever Way, Right Away. My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author.