Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

V.O. Home Workout


Read out loud!

Don’t wait to find a class to test your abilities and start building your skills. Begin right now for free!

To be competitive as a voice actor, you’ll need to become proficient with diction, speed and sustainability of character. You may be asked to perform paragraphs at a time. You must also be able to deliver the vocal goods without injuring your voice.

A great way to improve your technical readiness for voice acting is to try this exercise: Read an entire page, chapter, even book– out loud. 

Just starting out?

Okay, newbie, try reading Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks” out loud. Read it through without a mistake and you get a gold star. How about read it all without a mistake and hold a child’s attention? Good luck! This adorable little book presents the reader a jungle gym for the lips. Taking a run at this simple but challenging book will give a beginner a good idea of what you may need to start working on. But don’t stop there…

More advanced:

If you are getting good, then choose something with some meat that’s fun for you– something well written with good characters and lengthy narration. I like to go with “literature.” Some of my faves include: “A Christmas Carol,” “The Hobbit,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Twain, Poe, Rowling, even Shakespeare!  Each is a gourmet vocal feast– an Olympic workout. Try it! (I often read to myself while walking my dogs!)

Start simple: Begin by reading the first chapter of your book out loud– all of it, just using your normal voice, and see how that feels. If it didn’t flow the first time, go back and read it again! When you’re comfortable with that, try adding some characters to your read. You don’t need to over do it– less is often more. Your character voices musn’t upstage the story telling!

Feeling good about that? Then try reading the entire book! Yes, ALL OF IT out loud. (Okay, you can take breaks.)

For more advanced copy check the texts I’ve posted on my Practice Outloud page.

Even more challenging:

How about reading aloud a book of poems? Think they are easier to read because there are fewer words? Nope. Reading poetry outloud can give you practice that extends beyond technical proficiency to work your acting ability as well. You cannot read a poem well without a clear lock on an idea contained within the poem.

The clearer your grasp of the core meanings locked within the words– the imagery, the emotion, the vision– the better your performance (the better your acting). And words have a kind of power of their own. By choosing to emphasize one particular word in a sentence, you change its meaning!

There are so many choices and playing with this can be quite fun- or just exhausting! Working this is fundamentally working your acting muscles.

Another advanced variation:

Want to develop or strengthen a particular character or an accent? Read entire chapters in the character or accents you are developing! Work your diction, acting and your character/accent at the same time!

Variation 1Odd Copy

When working up a new character or exploring your range, try reading from something that is far from what that character would normally say.  This may sound really odd to anyone else listening (it is), but don’t do it for laughs.  Read it straight ahead.  (e.g. read the ingredients of a cereal box or nursery rhymes in an “evil voice.”) Can you sustain the read for five minutes? Ten?

Voice actors are sometimes hired to read copy that may appear absurd or nonsensical or even boring. It is up to you as an actor to imbue the words with meaning, add pre-life, subtext, implication, maybe other flourishes of character– even the silence you add in between words or sentences can have meaning. These may seem silly or a game to do this, but this is actually what you do when hired to voice act.


Cereal box: Get a cereal box and read everything on the box as a character- not just for laughs, but drama, evil, or in an accent, for instance. Try reading it straight. Okay, if you want to go for the funny, do that too!

Newspaper: Read an article out loud switching up the characters, accents, etc. Read obituaries out loud in a character voice.

Nursury Rhymes: Read a children’s book or poem in a variety of voices and accents.

Honestly assessing your performance:

Do you feel you have control over your mouth? Do you “see” the story you are telling in your mind? Do you read with ease or are you struggling and stumbling over words and punctuation? Are you able to confidently and believably act this– that is, bring all the feeling and meaning to the telling of this story– or are you fighting the words or struggling with maintaining character distinction? Are you having fun or sweating bullets?

Remember- voice acting shouldn’t sound like you are “reading.” You are performing this, and it must sound natural, real and relaxed. If you’re not confident, keep it up!

Think you’re pretty good?  Can you imagine someone hiring you to do this? Okay, then try reading it for kids or friends or fellow actors.  Test the accuracy of your self-assessment.

Reality check: We all start our journeys innocent of where we stand. A true beginner is unaware of their deficiencies of talent or their various blind spots (we all have them!). Gradually (painfully?) you become aware of where you need work, where you are lacking. Further along your climb, you strive to gain conscious control of your talent. You can now execute well, but with conscious effort. Finally, through hard work and luck, you may attain mastery that is an unconscious flow of your hard earned expertise. Your art becomes an intuitive and almost effortless instinctive response. This is the arc of an artist’s journey from neophyte to entrepreneurial pro.

Back to earth: Vocal control is one of the baseline skills a voice actor must possess.  This exercise will reveal much about your level of technical readiness and can serve as a fun workout for improving command of your vocal instrument and your ability to act.

More important than technical proficiency or ability, a voice actor needs to love reading, speaking and acting. Practicing out loud- reading words that inspire and move you- will deepen your love of this art form in ways that may surprise you!

Continue on to the Practice Out Loud page for practice copy and monologues!

Many thanks to my friend, the incredible Kath Soucie, for suggesting the idea of reading a book outlout.

64 Responses »

  1. I am really wanting to get into the voice acting scene, since ever since I was young I ALWAYS enjoyed reading the lines in my favorite games, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (separating this from the main series games, since those UNTIL RECENTLY didn’t really have dialog one could draw emotions from easily,) Okami, and so on, as if I was voicing their lines. And I think I am good.

    Any advice for one to be able to get started in finding work, or should I take classes at a community college, find a vocal coach, or can one pretty much start voice acting without any “Professional” training. I like to imagine as one grows in the community an agency finds you and offers you a contract. But I could be wrong.

    Would it be wrong if a novice like me sets up a simple-ass website via Webs, Wix, or WordPress, or some other free site builder, and just begins listing things out on a site like that, or would it be best if said novice waits until they have more “Experience” under their belt and has had a few gigs and/or an agency pick them up as a client and whatnot?

    • I won’t give you permission to not try anything you’ve suggested. Try it all. There’s no one way to become an actor or a voice actor. You go with what feeds your fuel and offers practical, constructive steps forward, you learn from missteps and you drop whatever doesn’t help or that you don’t like. You keep going as long as it’s fun, and as long as you have to. That’s it.

  2. Cold Reading is probably my biggest setback as an actor… I am planning to move to LA in 3 and a half years but am doing all the training and saving all the money i can until that time. Do you think if i practice cold reading every night, with these structures, that I’ll be ready in 3 and a half years? (as well as doing all other training on this website)

    • Cold reading is one of the most advanced things an actor can learn. You need a lot of acting experience as well as perhaps some real world classes to start getting good at that. It’s even harder for voices actors, as beginners are often auditioning from home with no direction or scene partner to play off of. Don’t beat yourself up on it being hard to do.

      I’d much rather you work out your comfort with cold reading, auditioning, performing and improv in a smaller market before you move to L.A., where you are swimming with sharks. For your training you need much more than a website’s guidance. I would also not look to an arbitrary time period for confirmation of your readiness to move to L.A. It’s more a matter of if you have the talent and if you are confident in your abilities. It’s best to move when you’ve good confirmation you’re ready. That could take a shorter time or longer to confirm.

      The exercises I offer are helpful (I hope) but are meant to be supplemental. This site is not a complete course in becoming a voice actor. As I mention on numerous pages, I want you to get out and learn to act by doing it. And there are many ways to do that.

      Good for you having a long term view of this with an eye to preparation, but if you are thinking of going pro in animation voice acting (or anything else), I want you to get away from this website and out into the world, which is the best place to stage your acting education.

  3. I have a stutter. It’s not a bad stutter, but would that cause any problems?

  4. I use youtube as a creative, and acting outlet per-say… any advice for someone like me and how else to train to voice?

  5. When one wants to broaden their vocal range and do character voices ( as in say..from Mel Blanc’s natural voice to Bugs Bunny to Porky Pig) how, physically, do you learn to do that? What do you look at and study to learn that sort of thing? “What is the breakdown of skills and exercises that I’m wanting to study?”

    • Study with Mel. Watch lots of Looney Tunes and do what he does- start with mimicking what he does. Beyond that- his training comes from lots of live performing, vaudeville- essentially stand up, sketch comedy and improv, as well as other forms of live stage acting. Research him- Do what he did- or a modern version of that- to become your version of that.

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