Dee Bradley Baker's "Basics of Going Pro in V.O."


“How do I become a voice actor?” “How does the voice-over biz work?” “How do I get from amateur to pro?” “How do I make a demo?” “Where do I start?”

If you have questions about voice acting, you have come to the right site. I’ve created for you a thorough, practical overview of the craft and career of voice acting by distilling everything I’ve learned from over two decades of working in television animation, commercials, video games and movies in Los Angeles. Much of what I have to say applies to on-camera acting as well.

Ultimately, no website, book, class or guru will transform everyone into a professional voice actor. Study and research may help, but your progress is more dependent upon your talent, your ambition and much “paying of dues.” There are no short cuts to the hard work ahead, even for the few that are right for this line of work.

If you are new to voice acting, start by reading my pages “Starting from Zero,” “Classes,” “VO Myths,”  “FAQs,” “Workout” and “Research.” All you find here applies to you whether you live in Nowheresville or a Big City, whether you are inexperienced or already on your way, young or old. I’ve tried to include everything I could think of that might be helpful to the beginner. (Check back often– I continually add new content while I polish up the old.)

The rest of my site offers the more advanced aspiring voice pro ideas to improve your readiness and hopefully up your odds of sustained career success by pointing out missteps to avoid and what to shoot for with your demo, auditioning, and how you handle yourself as you navigate your career. I want to help save you time in what will hopefully prove a long but fruitful journey.

Best of luck and maybe someday I’ll see you in the studio!

Dee Bradley Baker

129 Responses »

  1. [...]I am curious as to whether or not you think would be a good website for me to get some vocal training. The program seems to be legit, but I don’t want to make the investment unless I can get an approval that it is definitely worth it. [...]

    • I don’t know them, which doesn’t mean anything. Looks like they’re East Coast. I’d seek testimonials/recommendations of those who know the teachers or who have experience with their program.

  2. Hello Mr. Baker, I am a 17-year-old aspiring voice actor with pretty much no prior experience. Cartoons and the voices behind them have been a passion of mine, however, since I was a young child. My ultimate goal is to voice cartoons, but I understand that it takes time and a well-built reputation. So my main question to you is this: In your opinion, would audiobook narration be a good starting point that might lead one into the world of VO opportunities, and eventually voice acting for cartoons?

    • Books on tape are to cartoons as soap operas are to prime time television. They are separate worlds that happen to have overlapping skills. Any experience working with your voice as an actor/storyteller is valuable and could lead you forward or at least give you a clearer picture of your abilities. Books on tape is very specialized and focused work that goes for hours. It ain’t easy, and if this sounds fun for you, go for it! Anime is closer to doing original animation records, but again, it is a unique corner of VO. If you are interested in cartoons don’t forget stage and improv training as well. All VO related experience can be of benefit. Why not? The worst that can happen in trying something is that you learn something about yourself and voice acting.

  3. Hi Dee! Thank so much for this site, I’ve found it extremely helpful. In the past year and a half I’ve gone from being a primarily on-camera actor to discovering a passion for VO. I’ve trained hard, signed with an agent, and have been steadily audition for cartoon and commercial projects for nearly 2 months now. I hope this question isn’t too specific, but recently I went in to read for a cartoon who’s spec said “non-accented american” after doing a first take my agent asked for something that was a bit “more cartoony”. Since I had prepared with the voice from the first take, I couldn’t seem to come up with something different in a pinch and audition became a wash (lesson learned to always have multiple choices for a single character). Can you give me an example of a non-accented, yet cartoony voice for reference? Also, what are some ways that you develop and create new characters? Voice-matching is a strong suit of mine, but I struggle with coming up with my own original voices. Thanks for all you do!

    • 1. Not everyone has a great range. If you are very good but with a limited range, you could still work.That said, you need to be ready to offer different ideas or change your read if asked. You must know your instrument well enough and understand the copy well enough to have this all at the ready.
      2. You sounds like you could use a good dose of improv training to free up your mind and reads and maybe find some more voices in yourself.
      3. Never cling to what you have “prepared.” You must be ready to jump off that diving board in any direction that seems right. Improv might help here. If you’ve had improv experience, you need more or with better teachers.
      4.Examples of “non-accented” yet cartoony are everywhere. By non-accented, I take that to mean non-regional or non-foreign accents. Watch old Adam West Batman episodes. Watch Rodger Rabbit. Watch Fairly Odd Parents. I could go on. You need to be familiar with the cartoon landscape you are auditioning for so that examples leap to mind.
      5. Voice matching is a specialized skill that is only occasionally used in cartoons. It’s more used in film or television ADR when a star doesn’t have time for post production. You may consider voice matching your “strong suit,” but if your auditioning and improv skills are lacking, none of your “strong suit” will matter if you are auditioning for cartoons.
      6. If you are aiming at cartoons, you must know what shows are showing along with their tone, their level of cartooniness or “realness,” and you must be able to dial that up if you are reading for that company or network.
      7. When they say they want more “cartoony” it could mean a lot of things. Adventure Time is pretty cartoony, but the reads aren’t necessarily that broad, they can be disarmingly offhand or just odd. Fairly Odd Parents is pretty over the top “cartoony.” Some Disney toons are heightened in their energy, but tend more real, while others in their XD stable can be darn loud and very energetic. Each is a different form of “cartoony,” but each might be thought of as a “cartoony read.” It is up to you to know the context of that usage and draw upon your inner voices to deliver the right version of that.
      Hope this helps! Good luck! Woohoo!! Woohoo!! Woohoo!!

  4. Hello Mr. Baker,
    I was talking to Phil LaMar at SDCC and he recommend your site and spoke very highly of it. Been browsing around and I wanted to say thank you for making this site, it’s very informative and amazing! However would you recommend Karaoke and open mic nights to practice your skills?

  5. Hi I would like to use my voice for books on tapes, manuals, textbooks…the not-so-glamorous types of work. Is that niche hard to break into? I do not desire to become rich or famous. I just want to work.

    • Ha- V.O. isn’t about becoming rich and famous, generally speaking, anyway. If you like the exacting work of books on tape, etc. and you are well suited for it, then go for it! I’m not familiar with that pocket of V.O., but I know some who enjoy it, despite the more modest pay per unit of work time. But satisfaction is beyond that- for reading an entire work in itself can be fun and interesting and some can earn a living at it, or at least supplement other revenue. I’ve no idea about “breaking into” it, but don’t see why you couldn’t start reading some “public domain” texts and go from there.

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