When a project calls for a very specific timbre of voice with a distinct delivery style, often the only sample the customer will accept for consideration is a custom audition.
Fair enough. Even if the voice sample search is as detailed as our own Find Voices, it can still be difficult to unearth the vocal sound you have in your head. If it’s a fun project or of commercial value, we will put out an open casting call for auditions on our Voquent social media pages.
There are surprisingly a broad number of ways to audition for a project and you might think this is a prime opportunity to get weird with it – but most voice-over agencies will expect you to follow a strict process and we’re no different. It’s important to follow whatever instructions you are provided. Doing so will, at the very, least ensure your audition doesn’t get automatically discarded, and in the best case scenario will make your audition stand out.
So, please follow the specific instructions you are given for any open casting call. The following ‘tips and tricks’ are based on what I personally prefer as a voice-over producer, and my experience of which samples tend to get selected by clients.
1. Follow the brief
Oh hey! It’s the same point I just made, but this time in bullet point form! The reason I repeat this is that it is the single most important rule. Very often, when I request a significant number of auditions at once (such as an obscure character voice, that any number of people may be capable of), I will generally automatically exclude anyone who doesn’t follow the brief I provide. Don’t go there. Read the brief properly and follow the instructions.
2. Only read the script
Don’t say your name or waffle on with any pre-amble.
Clients will always have to listen to multiple auditions, so get down to it quickly. If your audition starts off with some variation on the theme of “oh hi guys, it’s so nice to be offered to audition here, I’m going to do three quick reads…” then a client (which also includes me for the purposes of this point) will almost certainly just skip over it.
Part of the reasoning behind Voquent’s sample card system is that clients want to make decisions quickly, usually within the first 10 seconds. Splitting a long and diverse showreel into individual samples makes it easier to find the right voice immediately and discard any voices that don’t fit the brief.
The same applies to auditions – get to the point!
Also, unless explicitly told otherwise, don’t watermark your samples either. The client will decide based on the tone of your character and can use the file name to find out who you are if they want to book you. Keeping the audition itself brief and to the point will make you stand out more, or at the very least ensure you aren’t immediately disregarded.
3. Send a single mp3 as an e-mail attachment
This one is probably the single most specific and universally applicable piece of advice in this article.
Mp3 files are considerably smaller in file size than wavs, and most people can’t really tell that much difference between them in terms of sound quality. For auditions, the client is not going to be listening for audio quality and will mainly be focusing on more subjective aspects such as tone and character. Sending an mp3 means your audio file doesn’t take up too much space, which will be maximally convenient for whoever is compiling the auditions.
Remember: you want to be the most convenient choice!
Sending the audio as an e-mail attachment is also more convenient for the audition compiler (which is one of my many job titles). Having to click on a WeTransfer, Google Drive or Dropbox link is an extra layer of difficulty for someone (like me) dealing with hundreds of auditions. Being able to just drag an e-mail attachment into a folder is so much easier.
Of course, some agencies or platforms will require you deliver the sample following their process, so this rule is specifically for Voquent and what you should generally do if you aren’t specifically told anything else.
4. DO NOT start the audition with any breaths, lip smacks, or mouth noises
This links with point number 2 about “only reading the script”. I know some of you may like to get in character by “acting” like the character with some ad-libbed, breaths, lip smacks or mouth noises – but it’s gross, and I don’t like it!
Characters that can best be described as ‘blustering, pompous, old British professor’ types often contain these sorts of noise. ‘Monster’ characters often have people doing grotesque guttural ‘snorts’ too. Unless these sounds are recorded exceptionally well, with flawless microphone technique, this will sound horrible and need a lot of editing to get to sound pleasant.
Remember, if your audition starts off with an unpleasant sound, then a client is more likely to skip over to the next one. Unless that unpleasant sound is actually in the script, of course!
5. DO NOT ask for feedback on the audition
In almost every situation, a producer or client will be reviewing dozens (sometimes hundreds) of auditions, so they will not have time to respond to your e-mail chasing for feedback.
If you have been selected, then someone will be in touch. If not, then just chalk it up to experience and keep an eye out for the next opportunity. We very rarely get individual feedback from our customers, and the Voquent producers just don’t have the time to get back to everyone individually unfortunately.
6. Only reply to an audition request with your audition: NOTHING ELSE
When you are invited to audition, that is all you have been invited to do. Don’t use this as an opportunity to ask about any other work, send your showreel, or talk about how keen you are to work with the client in the future. That is all irrelevant to an extremely busy client and is liable to just irritate them because you are demanding more attention than they can provide.
I very often get e-mails from people asking about the quality of the samples on their profile, or sending me their very specific availability, or their brand new showreel. This is all completely irrelevant to the task at hand – which is to audition for this specific project. If you are shortlisted by other means for more work, then you will be contacted separately. Which neatly brings me full circle to…
7. Follow the brief
This point may look suspiciously familiar, but it really is the most important rule. Following the brief is the bare minimum you need to do for your audition to qualify for a shortlist – anything less will ensure you are immediately disqualified from the running. If the brief you are given contradicts any of the points made in this article, then follow that brief.
That’s it! If you follow these seven amazingly simple tips (well, six really), this will definitely increase your chances of being more successful here at Voquent and many other agencies. However, this is far from a guarantee of work – at the end of the day the decision is based on entirely subjective reasons that can be infinitely variable. If you follow these instructions unless specifically told otherwise, then you will be optimally convenient to the producer or client and be far more likely to get through to the later stages, and stand a great chance of winning the job.
Thank you in advance!
Article Contributors: Alex Harris-MacDuff (Producer), Al Black (Co-Founder, Director)
Featured picture is the amazing Ann Grutman.
More useful articles by Alex:
Everything you need to deck out your home studio professionally, whatever your budget.
- What is the Best Microphones for Voice-Over?
- Best Interfaces & Pre-amps for Voice-Over
- Top Operating Systems and Editing Software for Voice Over
- What is the Best Headphones for Voice-Over?
- Acoustic Treatment Basics for Voice Over Studios
- 5 Tips for the Perfect Microphone Technique