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

Practice Out Loud

I’ve assembled these “Practice Out Loud” monologues, not just to provide you vocal exercises, but also to show you part of why I love acting and how fun it can be to bring words to life! 

Reading out loud is part of how I warm up and how I continue to develop and maintain my VO skills. I find it a great way to hone your vocal control and even expand your range of characters.

Reading out loud works vocal stamina, diction, sight reading, acting and best of all, it’s fun. I always have my Kindle on hand loaded with novels, plays and poetry so I’m good to do this anywhere, anytime!

As a stage actor, I was never been a fan of monologues, because they didn’t really seem like acting to me. They struck me as isolated- only half of what acting is because there was no interaction. Acting for me was about listening to another and interacting, not just one person emoting in a vacuum, pontificating off into space!

But– voice actors are called upon to perform solo pretty regularly (indeed, on-camera actors must do this for their close ups or green screen acting!). VA’s regularly deliver their half of the dialogue alone in a booth. A voice actor must not only perform their lines, but must also conjure their fellow performers mentally as well. You are alone, but you must imagine seeing and listening to your scene partner. This is a vital part of all acting! 

In addition, we voice actors are required to audition solo. This is probably the most challenging aspect of what we do- conjuring the specificity and tone of a script with no other performers and no live direction! The puzzle of how to audition well alone can be quite daunting and frustrating- one of the biggest obstacles a good voice actor faces.

So, despite my dislike of solo monologues, I’ve come to appreciate that reading out loud alone can be a great way to strengthen and advance your voice acting “muscles.” 

I’ve posted below links to various readings and monologues for you to work with. I’ve drawn these from books I’ve been reading recently, as well as from movies I’ve liked and some classics from Shakespeare and others. 

Don’t just read these- use them as a springboard to explore more! I also encourage you check out the original performances from the movie monologues or Shakespeare monologues to see how it’s done by the masters! 

As you read these aloud, remember a voice actor is an actor–a story teller– so your reading should bring the story or scene to life, honestly and believably. Your performance serves the script by breathing life into it.

You can also use these pages to work up new characters or strengthen accents as well (e.g. I often use Shakespeare texts to work on my British accents, but you can read passages in other accents or characters). You don’t have to read any of this in your “normal” voice! Play with these and read them in any voice you choose. Remember to be specific and clear with what you are saying.

The meaning cannot suffer or be overwhelmed by your character choice, though! Character choice must serve the clarity of story telling.

I hope you have fun reading these and maybe find inspiration to explore further!

Practice Readings: Literature

Practice Monologues: Movies

Practice Monologues: Shakespeare

P.S. It may sound crass, but whether it’s a cartoon, a commercial or The Bard himself- it’s all acting and similar fundamentals apply to each of these.

Okay, class, here’s a reading assignment: “Mastering Shakespeare: An Acting Class in Seven Scenes” by Scott Kaiser. It’s an acting class, but written as a play. Though it helps to be familiar with Shakespeare plays, it’s not absolutely necessary. Mr. Kaiser does a fine job of breaking down the elements of specificity that an actor (yes, even a voice actor) has available to bring alive the meaning and possibility of the words on the page. He shows you how to dig in to what you’re reading and build up authentic and appropriate context and nuance in your performance.

Different teachings appeal to different performers, but I found this a helpful framing of what an actor needs to bring and how to go about it.

24 Responses »

  1. [I’m an experienced actor…}
    My question is, at this point in my life should I even try to do voice-over work? […] How do I get true, honest feedback […]

    • There is no magical age cut off for beginning voice acting.I would seek feedback from someone who works in the realm of VO that interests you and seems it might fit your skill set. I flesh this investigation out on my new page: CLICK HERE. Hope this helps!

  2. [I] have been practicing reading out loud […] but I feel too much like I’m “putting on” a fake voice/emotion and it doesn’t sound genuine. Do you have any tips on staying genuine while maintaining the clarity of your speech? Is it just a matter of practice and lessons?

    • Connecting with characters that feel authentic is a matter of becoming a better actor. It can be a long (fun) journey of discovering your talents, tapping into emotions and characters, etc. I recommend stage time of any type that sounds fun and classes. Practice alone can help some, but remember that “practice makes permanent.” You want to be practicing well, and when starting out, it may take some guidance. In addition, you need exposure to and work time with others who are better at you at this to gain insight and inspiration for your own version of being an actor. Anyone curious about acting must ultimately “get in the ring,” so to speak, to learn and discover what you’re made of and capable of.

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