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, develop and maintain my VO skills. I find it a great way to hone my vocal control and even expand my 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 stuck me as isolated and fake. 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 feeling your scene partner. This is indeed acting! 

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

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 it 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 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

22 Responses »

  1. …where should I [move to] get my start? [Would] moving to someplace where more resources are at my disposal […] be a move in the positive direction?

    • The higher the density of opportunity, the more expensive and challenging the environment, generally speaking. The place to be when targeting union animation VO is Los Angeles- but I only came here with a number of years of experience in paid live performing in Colorado then Florida.

      LA tends to select for a comedic energy and improv ability, as opposed to NY which strikes me as selecting more for a “trained” actor. Other markets like Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Orlando, Austin- many others- each have their own range of types of acting work and opportunity. Each presents its own unique kinds of opportunity and “ceiling” or obstacles.

      In any case, it makes more sense to me to unleash and refine as much as your talent in a less competitive/challenging “down market” environment first, but that’s me. Others may be more ready early in their career to make the leap to L.A.(or wherever) and skip the middle steps. My advice is to look for some objective confirmation of whatever “rocket sauce” you think you have before moving to a top level market.

      If you’re a young hotshot with resources, knock yourself out. Your odds are ultimately a function of your talent, personality, backup funds and other issues I discuss at length on my site. It’s always a calculated risk. But as successful fighter pilot once said, “Never tell me the odds.” Even with experience and confidence the slog towards success can take years- but that shouldn’t turn away someone who is right for this kind of work and is ready to take on the challenges of a new setting for a shot at opportunity and growth.

  2. Would reading manga or comics out loud be good practice too?

  3. I find myself being my own worst critic and doubting possible good reads. Other than looking into acting classes, any suggestions on building that confidence in hearing an audition back and saying “yea that’s a read I can send in.”

    • Excellent question. The most difficult challenge a new voice actor faces, I believe, is self directing. It is key to diagnose an appropriate tone and pace for your read (along with a fitting character) and deliver that in a way that leaves little to the casting director’s imagination as to it fitting into the actual commercial/game/cartoon. Rarely is someone hired when they say “maybe we can direct him into it.” It’s got to feel and fit just right, usually first swing at the bat. Would your agent let you listen to auditions after the gig is booked for you to hear what works and what doesn’t?

  4. I was practicing the moment where Marley’s Ghost confronts Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. As I was practicing the excerpt, while standing up, I became progressively tired and I had to stop halfway through to regain my energy. That was the first time I read the excerpt out loud.

    How do you muster the stamina to sustain yourself when recording large segments like the Scrooge and Marley’s Ghost meeting?

    • A lot of what experience teaches is to do more work for less effort. When you are starting much energy is expended that either tires your voice or even hurts it, while taking away your ability to sustain a consistent performance. I’m glad you’re practicing. Keep reading outloud and do it a lot. Also pay attention to your breathing and try to relax and take your time. The more you work at this the better you get and the more efficiently you’ll use your physical energy when speaking.

  5. …when should I approach an agency?

    • Think of it this way: If you were an agent- who would you want to approach you? Who would you want to work with? What kind of pitch would appeal or draw your attention?

      Approach an agent when you bring a level of skill and professionalism that makes you worth spending their time and effort, that indicates you’re good enough to interest an employer, that is competitive in the market you’re focused on. Until then, you get experience and training. You focus on exploring and strengthening your skills, sharpening your talent and having fun as you improve your viability as a professional creative commodity.

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