Interesting stuff happened in my class today. I teach one class a semester at a local community college – an introduction to voice acting class. The assignment was to listen to demos – I gave them and as two places they could hear lots of “demos.”

I told them to listen primarily to commercial demos at this point in the class. And gave them a couple of things to be aware of with each site. Voicebank – depending on which agency you select – will have the “stars.” Many of whom don’t have real “demos” – well, because they don’t need no stinkn’ demos. And in fact, that is what some of the students discovered. Several well known actors didn’t have real demos – just a sample of a spot or two. Others found great demos from both the stars and the non-stars.

On Voice123, I told them that they would find the wonderful and the truly awful. And in fact that is what they reported. This is a great exercise in honing the “great – good – not-so-good” evaluation skills that are so necessary for a voice talent.

A couple of interesting things happened when we discussed the assignment in class this evening. The subjectiveness of this business was brought home a couple of times with some rather interesting critiques of people I happened to know. Things I didn’t expect.

I knew a lot of the people they had listened to! 22 of them were familiar. My virtual and personal friends demos were “critiqued” by the students.

  • One student heard the same copy in the demos of two people I actually know. I tried to point this out to each of them a minute ago, but Facebook was acting up. I’m wondering now if I should let them know.
  • One student heard Don LaFontaine’s demo and thought it was wonderful – he didn’t recognize the name.
  • One fine young voice talent with what I consider a pretty great demo was ripped by someone in the class with a completely different style voice. I listened to the demo because I was curious –  I hear none of what the student heard.
  • I saw comments such as – “cheesey, fairly boring, good technically, lots of variety, relied on a lot of sound effects, confusing, a shouter.” All different demos – and some from people I know.

This was an interesting exercise for the students and for me.  I listen as I have the time and occasionally try to “tag” demos on Voice123. Tagging is finding key words to add to a person’s profile. Words that describe the voice on the demo. I think I have been able to add one tag in a year of on and off listening. Most of the demos that pop randomly in the searh engines fall into the not-ready-for-Prime Time category.

Listening to what other people are doing is a wonderful way to keep your self-evaluation skills honed. If you can quickly figure out why something works or doesn’t work, you will be better equipped to listen to your own demos (and auditions) with a critical ear. 

Always keeping in mind that it is pretty easy to tell the good from the not-so-good, but defining what takes something from good to great is a bit more subjective.