How a Simple Course on Voice Over Changed My Life

It was the month of March in 2016 and I was on an official trip to Bangalore. 2 days of work was finally over and I was waiting at the Bangalore Airport lounge for my flight back to Pune. Due to my marketing profession, I normally travel for 3 to 5 days in a month, and naturally end up spending a lot of time at airports. Bangalore Airport lounge is one of the best in India, and I love spending time there. In fact, most of the times, I reach the airport a little early so that I can spend some good time at the lounge.

It was one of those similar days when I was browsing through my mobile, sipping a hot cup of coffee at the lounge. Suddenly, a promoted post appeared on my Facebook app saying ‘Learn Voice Over and Movie Dubbing in 15 Days’.

Honestly, I have been pretty good with my vocals since my childhood. I would not say I’m amazing, but I can definitely catch the right notes in a song. Music has always been close to my heart and I have been a decent keyboard player too (without learning anything professionally). During college days I created a lot of content in terms of giving background score to college plays, self-composed songs, a few live shows etc. Throughout this journey, I was always fascinated by music studios, but never got a chance to work in them, unfortunately.

But when I saw this ad, I got immensely excited and immediately decided to take this course. It was one of those moments when you do not think about logic, and you just want to do that thing.

The decision was taken but the path was not very easy.

104 KMs of Bike Ride Everyday

I had enrolled for the evening batch of 2.5 hours each day, which also meant that I had to go to the studio after my office hours. This was the biggest challenge. Leaving office on time and reaching at the studio on time was on top priority. I had no option but to let go of office transport and use my bike for 15 days. Home to Office – Office to Studio – Studio to Home. In total I had to ride 104 kilometers each day. That too in the peak traffic of Pune city. We all can imagine. But you know what was the best part – It never felt exhaustive. The joy of reaching the studio everyday and getting to learn something new made me forget about the tiring bike rides. Most of the days, I ended up reaching home late at night. But still woke up fresh every morning, excited for the new day of the course.

Can You Talk Like a Drunkard?

The best part of learning voice over is having careless fun while learning. You have to set yourself free. On the first day our coach started with voice modulation exercises. In short, making your tongue do the cardio. For those who can read Hindi or Marathi, following was literally the first page of our course book. We were supposed to read this Shloka loud with clear voice at the start of each class. Try reading it once and you will realize that this is the toughest tongue twister ever.

Doing characters was the most fun part. You can’t even imagine the detailing one person has to do to create a character through his or her voice. Talking like a News Anchor on TV to a Cartoon Character, this course covered all aspects of voice. Similar case was with movie dubbing. We were working on various movie scenes, and we had to re-dub those scenes with our voice being in the same character. It taught me how to observe. How to catch the emotion of people. A Voice Over Artist is nothing but an actor. He or she has to take the same efforts which an on-screen or on-stage actor has to take.

Working Professionally

Turns out, I was the best student in the batch and the coach really liked all my assignments. One week after the class, I got a call from the same studio for an assignment of a corporate film. Corporate films have typical voice overs, I would say they are one of the easiest ones. Reason being, your pitch more or less remains at the same level throughout. I immediately said yes to them. They shared the script with me in advance and I prepared well and reached the studio. The recording was completed in one take. It was an amazing feeling. All the hard work of long travels and late nights finally paid off with something productive. After that, I kept getting assignments from the same studio for different types of works. I used to request them to keep the recording on weekends so that it does not disturb my office schedule.

When I started doing voice over professionally, I learnt a lot about sincerity. How an artist needs to be professional and honest about his work. You can not just rely on your talent. There is a way of approaching the professional work, which is true even for artists. One day, I got another assignment like this. Having done only 3 assignments, I overconfidently entered the studio without properly reading the script. That day I could not give a correct take even after multiple attempts. Finally, I had to request them to plan the session to the next day. It taught me a big lesson about being professional.

When You Keep Money Out of Equation

Voice Over industry is very competitive. It involves good amount of man hours. Typically speaking, you get paid based on how much ‘usable output’ you can give to the studio; which is time bound. For example – If I’m recording an eBook, the ‘per hour’ rates for an eBook are fixed. A professional voice over artist gives 8 to 10 hours of final recorded output per day (imagine the patience required for it and maintenance required for your voice) Ironically, shorter the duration of your work, higher the rate you get for that category. That is why, rate for a 30 seconder radio jingle is higher than eBook or a documentary. Mainly because of the complexity and voice modulations involved in the jingle. Your skills are tested in such formats.

When I started getting assignments from the studio, I never thought about how much I am being paid. Because money was never a criteria for me. I kept accepting the assignments despite it being loss making. The studio being 30 KMs away from my residence, I used to travel in my car each time. If you consider the travel cost, then it can never fit into the equation. But I wanted to do more and more assignments so that I can learn as much as possible. I never said no to any assignment unless it was clashing due to any personal reason or some pre-planned commitments. This taught me ‘learning without expecting benefits’. If I had considered my income from my assignments, it would have created a lot of hurdles and I would have ended up rejecting many assignments. I would have never learnt enough to understand the deeper insights of this industry.

Be Good To People and They Will Do Good For You

In a creative industry, being humble is the biggest skill one should acquire as soon as possible. Pretty soon, I realized that this industry is highly competitive. You are not the only one who is talented. Even if you were the best student in your batch, there are people who are equally talented, perhaps more talented than you. This reality you have to accept. When you submit your creative work to the organization, it is better to be skeptical about it. This helps you in getting real feedback from them. Offer them to have a re-work (re-recording). In a Voice Over industry, the person who spends the most time in the studio is the Sound Recordist. A person who does all the executional work of recording in the studio. He knows the process from A to Z. Since he has spent so much of time with the artists, he can clearly make out if the recording has come out well enough or not. Hence, it is better to take feedback from the Sound Recordist, while being in the studio itself (even though he is not the decision making authority of your work). It helps you in improving your work while being on it.

This behavior helped me getting more contacts in the city. Since my current studio gave me so much of work and they liked it as well, they started recommending me to other studios in the city. All these studios have a strong network and they keep sharing, transferring or replacing their assignments with each other. I got assignment calls from other studios and I continued there with the same approach – saying yes without any conditions. Working in a different studio, new people and new atmosphere helped be reduce me anxiety and it increased my confidence even more. Now it finally felt like I’m a professional Voice Over Artist.

So is that ‘The End’?

I asked the same question to myself, after doing my VO assignments for almost 2 years. I never intended to have a career in this field. But honestly speaking, if you think you can do well in this area and if you are ready to put 100% of your professional time into this, the opportunities are endless. This is a proper career option for all the aspirants.

So it may not be ‘The End’ for me in this field. While writing this blog, I reconnected with my memories in the studio, and it made me think to re-start being a Voice Over artist. Now I’m going to find some time in my weekly schedule to go back to the studio and start recording my voice.

If you want to know more about Voice Over industry or want to start something in this, feel free to reach out to me.

Cheers !

I owe my learnings in this field as a VO Artist to my Voice Coach Mr. Kedar Athavle  and his institute under AK Studios. You can reach out to them here.

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