Over the past year or so I have received numerous requests from people asking for advice on how to become a better voice actor/actress, get cast in more roles, etc. so I decided to write this guide of pretty much everything I've learned that I hope will be helpful to you.
-Do not put the microphone too close to your mouth. Chances are it will result in a horrible distorted sound, as well as unwanted breath huffs. (However, you don't want to overdo it and stand halfway across the room either - it will be far too echoey!) As a general rule you should be at 3-4 inches away, but experiment with your mic until you find a setting that works because some are more sensitive than others.
-To avoid clipping, turn your mic volume setting down enough to where it doesn't "peak" on the shouting lines. Some people stand far away for the yelling, but this is generally not a good idea as it can make you sound like you're recording in a tunnel. Just turn the input volume down low and record at a normal distance and you should be fine.
-Don't move the mic around or fidget with the cord while recording your lines. Get a stand if you need to. Also, don't click the switch on and off in the middle of recording. Any extra noises result in an unprofessional sound.
-Cut out excess breathing, coughing, sniffling etc. from the beginning and end of your lines. Audacity or pretty much any audio editing program will allow you to see the waveform of the line you just recorded and delete any extra noises, so be sure to clean that up for a more professional sound.
-Say the audition lines, and the audition lines only. Don't ramble at the beginning or end of your audition files or say things like "Hey, this is my first time trying out for voice acting, here's how to contact me.." That kind of stuff goes in your .txt file or in the body of your e-mail.
-If you mess up a line, start over. Don't say something like "Oops I messed up" in your recording and then finish the sentence.
-Standard recording format is 44100 mp3. Either mono or stereo is usually fine; a producer will specify if s/he has a preference. WAV files are large and take up lots of space, so always save in .mp3, not .wav, unless the producer has specifically requested .wav files. Other recording formats, such as .wma or .ogg, are generally not accepted, so please download any codecs that you may need in order to save your lines in mp3 format directly from your recording program - it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
-Static is nasty. We all know that, and unfortunately there are limited options for fixing it. These include noise removal (quick fix), buying a USB mic (better), or buying a new sound card or a preamp (best, but expensive.)
-Don't overemphasize your consonants - this often creates what is referred to as a "pop". Also, watch out for hissing "s" sounds and breath huffs that tend to occur on certain words. Some people put tissue or pantyhose over the mic. Your best bet, however, if you become serious about voice acting, is to invest in a pop screen. They generally cost about $20 and can be ordered from online music stores. You can also look for sites that show you how to make your own using pantyhose and a coat hanger.
Remember that any technical issues will reduce your chances of getting cast. Cut the distortion, static and breath noises and you will sound much more professional.
Voice Acting Itself
-Slow down, take your time, and know what you're going to say. It is a common habit of many beginners to feel nervous or embarrassed and therefore rush their lines. But if a character talks too fast, it is hard for the listeners to catch the dialogue. Make a point of doing them at a slower speed than you think you would normally talk. It will probably sound awkward to you when recording it at first, but listen to the playback and it will sound much more clear. It's also a good idea to quickly skim over your line before you say it so that you don't get hung up on a word you don't know how to pronounce or a typo which breaks the flow of your line.
-Enunciate your words. It may make you feel like a total geek or sound ridiculous to you as you're recording, but when you play it back it will sound much more professional.
-EMOTION. Voice acting is not simply reading the text in front of you. Get into the character's mind and personality. That is ultimately what makes a character believable. You want the audience to think of it as the character talking, not a person in front of a computer. This doesn't mean overexaggerate your lines, but don't sound like you're about to fall asleep.
-One very important part of acting is knowing your character. You may have to be assertive with the producer and ask him or her to provide you with pictures and a backstory on your character (Who are they? Where are they coming from? Why are they acting this way? Why are they saying these words?) The producer may give you leeway to "make up" your character's personality. If so, do it. Know who your character is - don't just read words on a page. And don't be afraid to vary your emotions and explore the lines - rarely is a character one-dimensional!
Etiquette and Attitude
-Read the whole post before you audition. Many producers have specific guidelines they expect, such as how to name your lines, including a .txt file, etc. Even if they ask for something silly like "Title your subject line with the words 'hungry ninjas", you want the producer to know that you can follow directions.
-It is fairly common of new AVAs to expect to get cast in a starring role on their first try, but rarely does it work that way. Depending on the project, you will often be competing against 20 or more people; some who have years of experience and even some who have landed professional voiceover jobs. Don't give up. If you don't get a part, either congratulate the cast or say nothing. Sending angry emails to the producer or making a post whining about why you weren't cast will only hurt your ability to get roles in the future. Sure, some producers don't cast fairly - they give out parts first-come first-serve or always cast their best friend in the starring role despite opening auditions, but just don't audition for them anymore if you notice a pattern of unfair casting. If you're repeatedly getting turned down for roles, you can always send a polite e-mail to the producer asking for a critique on your auditions so you can improve your skills in the future.
-Be sure to observe deadlines. If you're overly busy, many producers will be understanding enough to give you an extension on your lines, but it's a good idea to let them know before the deadline passes that you need it. If someone won't quit bugging you for lines, just ask them to give you a deadline and say that you'll get them in by then.
-TAKE. CONSTRUCTIVE. CRITICISM. I cannot stress this enough. If someone's just a jerk and tells you that you suck at voice acting, then don't bother listening. But if people are giving you helpful tips, use it to IMPROVE. Unless you have some kind of personal disagreement with them, chances are they are trying to help you and not hurt you. Obviously, we all like compliments, but in the end, hearing what you did "wrong" will actually benefit you more because it gives you something to work at. Try to at least *consider* every intelligent piece of advice you receive about your work. If you don't agree with someone's critique, just leave it be - taking it personally will only cause drama.
-Promote your work. If you don't have a demo, make one - even a basic one - as soon as you feel ready (see my guide to making a demo). People don't want to wait for entire flash movies or Youtube videos to load just to hear what you sound like. If you want roles, don't just sit around waiting for people to ask you to voice act for them. Audition for anything and everything, even if it's just a small role or extra. Experience is experience and it's something to put on your resume.
-"Leave your ego at the door." Chances are, you'll hear that a lot in the world of voice acting. No one likes an arrogant, stuck up voice actor who thinks that s/he is better than everybody else and is above taking criticism or learning anything new. Not only will a massive ego discourage people from working with you, but you are deluding yourself if you think that you are the best there is and you cannot get any better. Everyone, no matter their skill level, has something they can improve upon, so don't shun others or assume they don't know what they're talking about just because they have less experience than you.
-And to go with the theme of moderation...you don't want to have an inferiority complex either. Have enough confidence to put your full effort into your auditions and roles - if you think you're just a failure and you completely "suck" at voice acting, you won't get very far.
To summarize the two above points: As I see it, the best attitude for voice acting is to believe in yourself and do the best you can, while still remaining humble. Know that you have talent and potential, but recognize that you can always improve, and never turn down an opportunity to learn something new.
Okay, so now you've (hopefully) learned a few tips on how to make your lines sound better. Don't think such small things would actually make a difference? Try it and find out.