Microphone, Microphone….who art thou? By voice talent Rachel Alena

Voice Talent Rachel Alena talks shop about microphone basics…
I was at a party this past Labor Day weekend watching a friend’s band play. Being the voice talent that I am, I was chit chatting along with a good friend until I heard my name called. The bass playing/singer in the band asked me to come up. Join them for a song or two. How fun!

There was one mic for us to share because the other mic was being used by the guitar player. The plan? He’ll sing the lead and I’ll do the backup vocals. No problem! Like Simon and Garfunkel, but with a bass and much flatter hair.

We sang our hearts out. I could hear him next to me and through the monitors. I belted out my best Aretha-like backups but when the song was over…the crowd was yelling. They couldn’t hear me at all! What went wrong?

Well…microphone type has a lot to do with it.

Your choice in a microphone can really make a difference in sound quality.

The band used wonderful, unidirectional, cardioid microphones. They were gorgeous, looking like they came from a 1920’s radio station! Scott’s lovely voice was heard because he was standing directly IN FRONT of the microphone. I, however, was standing next to him. So, his unidirectional, cardioid mic couldn’t hear me. It’s designed to pick up only the sound directly in front of it and reject bleed from other voices and instruments.

For me, as a voice actor & singer, using the right microphone type is important.

Microphone types/lingo:

  • Condenser, Cardioid: Ideal for voice over work. It doesn’t pick up much sound from the side or back of the mic. More sensitive to loud sounds.
  • Omni Directional: Picks up more sound from all around.
  • Dynamic, Cardioid: Great stage mics. It also doesn’t pick up much sound from the side or back of the mic.
  • Super Cardioid: Picks up sound from behind the mic
  • Hypercardioid: Takes in sound from the back and less from the side. Good for noisy environments.
  • Bi-directional: Good for interviews since it picks up noise from both sides.
  • Shotgun mic, line mic or gradient mic: Good for film because it picks up voice but minimizes other sounds.

Do your research and pick your mic carefully based on what you’ll use it for.

Also, maybe, keep a dynamic Shure SM58 in the car. You never know….

because when your Simon and Garfunkel moment calls you up to that stage…

you and your microphone, will be ready.

She’s a talker! So far, in August and September 2017, Rachel has voiced projects for: Microsoft, Mundipharma, Zytiga, CheckInAsyst, Alliance Residential, Modern Teacher, Smart Milestones and 47 Mind Hacks for Writers!

What just dropped? 47 Mind Hacks for Writers. Audiobook narrated by Rachel Alena! Check it out.

Rachel is a national voice talent who brings over 20 years of experience in voice acting to her clients and students. She has voiced hundreds of narrations for clients such as Disney, Microsoft, The Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Schnucks and Alliance Residential. She also provides private voice over training for students all across the country. Her studio is located near Boulder, Colorado.

Be a super hero for your voice. Serve & protect.

X-ray vision? Soaring through the air? Voice care.

I can hear it already. ‘I’m not a singer or a voice talent. Why do I need to worry about voice care?’

Please allow me to share with you Margie’s story:

Margie came to me this past April. She is a teacher and an amazing woman, really. At the time, she was volunteering with underprivileged children. Teaching them for free after her full days of work. She was also leading seminars teaching other teachers. Margie came to my voice acting studio because she wanted to be an audiobook narrator. Simple enough. Her dream was to turn her love for reading into something more!

We recorded her voice. During play-back, though, we found something unexpected. It was a scratchy sound in the mid-range of her voice. Uh oh.

This was a rough one. Margie had dreams of doing audiobook narration work. She also had pretty serious vocal damage. Damage that needed to be corrected. This needed to happen BEFORE she could consider doing voice acting work. Damage that needed to be fixed if she wanted to continue leading seminars, long-term, without doing further damage to her voice.

Instead of working to become a book narrator, Margie had to began the journey of repairing her voice.

Since then, I’ve worked with other corporate speakers teaching them how to protect their voices. I’ve also had to look at my own voice care. I record for hours daily. I sing on most weekends. How much can my voice handle? Am I supporting it enough? What else can I do to maintain it? Am I over using it?

What is the voice?

The larynx, commonly called the “voice box,” is made up of muscle, cartilage, and connective tissue.

Here are some things you can do to take care of your voice:

Breath support

Your voice can’t do it alone! It needs the full support of your diaphragm muscles to work properly. How do you know if you’re using proper breath support?

  • Stand in front of a mirror.
  • Take in a deep breath.
  • Watch your shoulders. Do they move up and down? If they do, you are using shallow breathing which does not support your voice.
  • Work to breath lower from your diaphragm.

Articulation and mouth placement support

‘Rubber baby buggy bumper?’ ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers?’

There’s a reason actors and singers talk to themselves before the show! Stretch and prepare your facial structure. Mouth placement helps to take care of your voice by relieving some strain from the vocal chords.

Warm it up!

Would you run sprints daily without warming up your quads and hamstrings? No. Not if you didn’t want to be in pain.

Just like the muscle of the voice, strain can occur if you don’t warm up properly. Say, yes to ‘aaaaaaa, eeeeee, ah ah ah ah, oh oh oh oh, ew ew ew ew!’

Go ahead. Be a super hero. Protect and serve that voice!

Rachel Alena’s latest audiobook is about to release! Check it out here at Amazon, 47 Mind Hacks for Writers.

She is a national voice talent who brings over 20 years of experience in voice acting to her clients and students. She has voiced hundreds of narrations for clients such as Disney, Microsoft, The Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Schnucks and Alliance Residential. She also provides private voice over training for students all across the country. Her studio is located near Boulder, Colorado.

That announcer guy…

 

Voice Acting? Here’s little history….

Back in the early 90’s, I was working at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles and working as a session singer. I sang songs for writers to pitch to major recording artists.

At that time, it was extremely difficult to break into the voice acting biz. Only a lucky select group of voice actors, the likes of Don LaFontaine, were able to achieve the dream and they had to live near the major markets! In the 80’s and 90’s that deep ‘announcer’ voice was the big thing. In fact, the bigger, the better!

Things started to change, though. In the early 90’s, the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) was introduced.  ISDN allowed folks to digitally transmit voice over the phone lines! Now, major players could record outside of major network/radio stations and studios. While it was still difficult to break in, smaller studios and radio stations started gaining more access and control. 

Well, now, we all know what happened from there…

Poof! Just like that computers and the internet were born! We became a digital world. And, guess what? 

First of all, that announcer voice that everyone loved, lost a bit of its allure. Personally, I think it’s because the world became more connected and people wanted to relate to the voice over.

What do you think? 

Take a listen yourself. Listen to FM radio next time you hop in your car. Yep. Most of the v.o. talent sound like the guy/gal living next door. That’s on purpose!

Also, we’ve seen a boom in the quantity and types of v.o. work that’s out there. For example, in the past year alone I’ve done voice acting on:

  • Audiobooks
  • Radio Commercials
  • Television Commercials
  • Corporate Tutorials
  • Web Videos
  • eLearning
  • Animations
  • Children Interactive Toys
  • Apps
  • Award Ceremony Narration, and more

What’s coming next in the voice over world? It’s hard to say. Some think we may be replaced by ‘Siri’-like digitized voice overs. Maybe, but I’m not sold on that just yet. Because, I believe in the power of a good connection. And, of course, the power of a good announcer every once in a while, too. 

Just for old time sake.

Rachel Alena, a national voice talent, brings 20 years of experience in voice acting to her students. She has voiced hundreds of narrations for clients such as Disney, The Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Schnucks and Alliance Residential. She also provides private voice over training for students all across the country. Her studio is located near Boulder, Colorado.

Copy reading for voice actors. It’s all about connection.

Good voice actors don’t just read words. They strive to reach out and touch the audience!

As a voice acting coach, I’m often asked…what makes a narration pop?

My answer?

Listen up voice actors…it’s all about connection!

Connect to just one person who feels like you are talking to them. If you can accomplish this, then you’ve done your job.

To help with this, familiarize yourself with the script BEFORE you start. To do this:

  • Read through the copy
  • Speak it out loud
  • Understand what you are saying
  • Ask the writer or director for more information about the back-story of the script
  • Understand who your audience is and who you are speaking to
  • Relax! The more comfortable you are, the better your recording will sound
  • Be likeable, personable and friendly
  • Annunciate. Sound clear and concise

It’s really important that voice actors understand the ‘what and why’ of the material they are reading. Without this, the necessary connection between the voice talent and the listener is lost. And, just think of how sad that would be! That important message, or story, or concept, or thing, or feeling that the person on the other end of the microphone needs to hear may be lost. An opportunity missed!

So, the next time you pick up a script and start to read…take a pause. Then, start again. This time, though, really think…about WHAT you are saying and WHO you’re talking to….

…Go ahead. Make a connection!

Rachel Alena, a national voice talent, brings 20 years of experience in voice acting to her students. She has voiced hundreds of narrations for clients such as Disney, Microsoft, The Rockefeller Foundation, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Schnucks, Uber and Alliance Residential. She also provides private voice over training for students all across the country. Her studio is located near Boulder, Colorado.