Jerry Horwath

May 19, 2021

Beginners Guide to Voice Over - Part One

The rise of the gig economy has many people asking, "how do I become a voice actor" or just exactly how to do voice over. Whether you're looking to supplement your income or build a career as a voice actor, this practical guide will explain what's needed for success as a voice over actor.  

We'll begin with Part One and then continue with supplemental chapters. We encourage you to bookmark this guide for easy reference.

What is Voice Over?

So just what is voice over anyway, and what does it encompass?

Voice over is the addition of a person's voice layered over music, sound effects, video, or live event whose purpose is to convey a message or add emotional influence.

While accurate, that's a pretty clinical definition and continues to leave you wondering. When we asked non-industry people to describe what voice over is, they had these responses.

 Someone talking over a video or pictures. Or recording something for a book or commercial. (film, audiobook)

I'd define it as removing the original voice work and replacing it with someone else's voice by dubbing over it. (ADR)

A voice over is when you record someone's voice, and you can put it over a video or just leave it as is. (Radio)

Recording a person's voice and that recording may be used in various types of media. (Corporate Communications)

As you can see, people define voice over differently. In fact, all those definitions are correct, and all are areas and aspects of voice over work. 

At its core level, voice over is includes two main facets.

  1. Physical and mechanical (the act of performing and recording)
  2. Purpose (to convey message or meaning)

You are likely drawn to voice over for artistic purposes. Prepare yourself for a delightful journey of exploration and discovery. It's where the fun begins!

The 3 Key Elements of Voice Over Success

As a modern voice actor, you need to manage three key elements for career longevity. They are Talent, Technological Expertise, and Business Acumen. Each plays and an important role, and together they form the foundation of success.

Let's explore the first element of talent - how to develop it and where to improve it further. 


Repeat this mantra:
Voice acting is acting, Voice acting is acting, Voice acting is acting,

If it's not clear yet, voice acting is indeed acting. It takes the same skill to deliver a meaningful performance as a voice actor as it does for any traditional acting role. In fact, voice acting is extra challenging because you cannot rely on non-verbal cues, such as body gestures, to communicate with your audience. You have only your voice, and using elements such as intonation, cadence, and inflection play a key role in your acting arsenal. You'd be wise to develop them for long-term success. 

Nobody begins as an expert voice actor.

 You will need some training, and that customarily starts with coaching and acting classes. A good coach and teacher strengthens your weaknesses, dismantles your bad habits, and provides critical acting feedback despite how wonderful you perceive yourself. 

Either way, we encourage you to adopt the principle of exploration to discover what works best for you. 

Professional Coaching

As we stated, most voiceover actors have some formal training, many by way of coaching. Consider either private coaching or group coaching. It's a terrific way to build your VO skills quickly, but each has its merits.  

One benefit of private coaching is that it provides personal attention tailored to building your unique talents. You alone work with the coach, without interference from other students who may not be as accomplished. It's an efficient way to maximize your time spent learning. You'll get more practice time and more valuable feedback which is key to improvement. Private coaches also hold you more accountable while motivating you towards your goals. Their success is dependent on your success, so they definitely want to see you succeed. 

Group coaching has benefits, too, particularly for the beginning voice talent. First off, you'll receive professional training at a lower cost. While you won't get the same amount of one-on-one time as private coaching, you'll gain added insight through the observations of others. 

You'll learn what and what not to do before stepping into the booth and use relevant feedback to improve your performances. This an oft-overlooked benefit. 

Group coaching can inspire creative thinking and is a terrific way to start building a network. 

Self Development

While we don't recommend it as the sole way of learning VO, you can and should work on improving your voice over technique on your own. This can take many forms, including home study courses, reading books and blog posts, and watching videos, all of which can are found on

However, practicing voice over copy remains the number one way to improve your skillset. Practice helps develop intonation, articulation, and phrasing by way of repetition. Sight-reading is also massively improved, as is breath control. Additionally, you can also explore characters and play with persuasion tactics. The skills you develop will benefit all types of voice over from commercials to video games.

A good coach will work with you on all this, but there's no reason you shouldn't do a little homework on your own. Start practicing today by using our collection of free voice over scripts to get started now.  

Traditional Acting Experience

Remember our mantra. Voice acting is acting, so it's essential to get acting experience where you can. This means working for free at times - but don't make it a habit, especially for those who should have the money to pay, like businesses. 

Act when you can!

A great place to start learning is at your community theatre. These are small player (actor) groups found in church basements, school auditoriums, and lakeside bandshells who usually perform classic works. Often filled with other amateur actors, community theatre is a place to explore acting fundamentals in a low-stress environment.

Once you improve, audition for larger local theatres or ask if you can play bit roles. You'll gain experience by watching others as well as expand your acting network. 

Don't forget fringe festivals and 48-hour film festivals! Fringe festivals are experimental plays that run for a few weeks. They are ripe with acting opportunities because they often don't have enough actors to play roles. Don't expect to be paid. Fringe is all about the love of acting, and it's a great place to experiment with outlandish characters. 

48 Hour film festivals are similar but require minimal time. They usually shoot on one Saturday and have a variety of roles to play. Again, don't expect payment except for the buffet of goodies found at the craft service table. 

Voice Acting Experience

Options for voice acting experience include reading books for the blind. Even experienced voice over talent do this. On top of getting good vibes, you'll quickly develop essential sight-reading skills, which are supremely beneficial in long-form narration work. 

Take this idea a step further and volunteer to read children's books at the library. Explore characters and play with silly voices in a fun way. Kids will love it, and you get to be creative. 

If your goal is to be an audiobook narrator, start by recording free audiobooks for Librivox. You can record as little or as much as you'd like. This, too, will improve your sight reading skills and challenge your audio editing chops. 

If you're into video games and anime, volunteer to record new lines for game mods or get involved in radio dramas. There are some great ones out there!

Whatever your voice over goals is, it's best to get involved as soon as you can.  In our next article, we'll explore the different types of voice over.

About the author 

Jerry Horwath

Jerry is a veteran audio engineer who has recorded and directed thousands of voice overs for fortune 500 companies over his 25-year career. He's the former lead agent of Voicebox Talent and current principal engineer at Buzz Cutz Audio.

His well-rounded experience is matched only by his well-rounded body. He's fat and good at what he does.

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