Voice reels are essential for finding work as a voice actor or narrator. We always recommend getting outside expert help, as industry insights from the perspective of those who work in casting are invaluable. An attentive and creative producer will help get the best out of you with live direction and professional experience – this is where Voicereels comes in!
However, we’ll cover the basics if you’re hell-bent on doing it the hard way! 🙂
There are three seemingly straightforward steps involved:
Let’s break these steps down further because a lot can go wrong.
The first step is to define what you will say in the reel and the vocal skills you want to show off. What style of reel will it be? Business, characters, commercials and narration are the top four. Once you’ve picked a style, you’ll need around six scripts to record, possibly more for character-style reels.
You can use these scripts as they are, edit them further or use them as a reference to write your own. All methods are viable. It’s about finding the best scripts that work with your voice. Think of your reel script selection phase as akin to an artist’s colour palette choices. A reel with various complimentary scripts is less jarring to the listener. Each read should compliment the next, but with enough variety to create a full picture. This helps to increase engagement and ultimately land you more roles.
A voice reel should include around six reads; each recorded initially as a 30-second sample. You may want longer 1-2 minute reads for the narration style. Remember, a reel is a mix of your best samples. For this reason, choosing more scripts than you’ll use in the final reel can often be worthwhile. It gives you or a producer more to choose from.
A reel shouldn’t sound overly flashy (lots of FX or loud music) except in the case of the Character style. Customers want to hear your natural voice at its best, so pick out scripts that serve their desires. If you have a natural conversational style, choose lighter material. If you’ve got great comedic timing, edit scripts to allow you to inject the humour. Or, if you have a nurturing tone, pick out a script that allows the empathy to flow – What does your voice offer?
Before you jump headfirst into the studio, practice!
Practice a little and then some more. You must know the scripts by heart to focus on the performance, not reading. It’s also worth topping up on vocal coaching or training a few weeks before recording a reel. It will make a big difference to your vocal strength. There are lots of great vocal coaches available online. We can even recommend one in your timezone when you order a reel.
A high-quality recording is vital to the success of your reel. Even if you have a home recording studio, booking a local studio with an engineer is still beneficial. We always recommend this approach because it improves the quality. Talent can focus on performance, whilst audio professionals take care of the engineering.
If you insist on recording in your home studio, ensure acoustic treatment on all hard surfaces and good microphone placement. Where you position a mic makes all the difference, and any hard surfaces will immediately add reflections to the audio, which will sound awful. If you don’t have acoustic tiles or foam, a duvet/pillow fort is equally viable.
If you have a cheap USB microphone, forget it. This will sound terrible compared to professional voice actors’ reels, and you’ll never land jobs. It’s best to invest in a decent condenser microphone and pre-amp if you are going the home-studio route, along with a pop-shield and mic stand. It shouldn’t cost more than 300-400 USD. If you don’t have the money to invest in quality equipment, it is best to hold off recording a reel, or you should just go ahead and book a local studio.
Remember, when customers hear your reel, they imagine what their script will sound like when you read it. If your reel is of poor quality, they won’t hire you.
A customer will decide in a matter of seconds whether to keep listening and potentially shortlist you for the role or skip.
So, the first few spots are critical. Get them right and pick your best Samples. Get a third party, such as a producer, friend or relative to help you. They will be much more objective.
Let them hear your voice immediately. Don’t have long intro music or over-the-top sound effects. Ensure listeners hear your natural voice and grab their attention. Any music or FX should be supportive only so your vocal traits, tones and characteristics stand out.
Once you’ve finalised the sample order, it’s time to edit and mix them. Unless you’re an accomplished sound engineer, we recommend keeping this simple with fade-in/out transitions between Samples. Mixing the music with your voice is also more complex than simply layering two tracks and constitutes an entire blog on its own. However, a paid app like Adobe Audition includes pre-built mixing functions which can generate adequate results. Free apps like Audacity aren’t a good choice for mixing reels.
Regardless of the apps you choose to use. There are a few things to note when editing. First, remove any pops or clicks using a noise gate or careful editing. Second, there must be NO noticeable changes in the perceived volume between recordings. Finally, ensure the transition between each section flows smoothly and quickly into each other not to waste the listener’s time. They won’t wait.
Creating a voice reel yourself is understandably daunting without relevant audio engineering training and experience. You need to find a place to record or set up your space with optimum quality and invest in relatively expensive equipment. This is why at the very least, we recommend booking a local studio. Doing everything yourself is also exhausting. Creating the space, sourcing scripts, self-directing, and editing and mixing. We advise getting some outside assistance, especially if you don’t plan to do voice-over work full-time.
Hiring a Voice Reel Production Service
Our voice reel production services are geared toward acting talent who want the best reels without compromise. You focus on your performance, and we focus on helping you and your reels to sound the best they can be.
Our producers are all trained audio engineers and also cast voices for projects daily. They know what works, and they know what customers want to hear. Our packages include a dedicated producer, consultation, studio booking, revisions, and plenty of editing time.