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How Much Should Voice Talent Know About Audio Production?


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

June 15, 2009

Comments (12)

Audio Engineer Mixing or EditingAs a voice over talent with a home recording studio, how much should you concern yourself with learning more about (or becoming proficient at) mixing, editing, adding sound effects, and music?

Is it of vital importance that you learn all you can about audio engineering?

Hear some expert advice from David Goldberg of Edge Studio.

How Much of an Audio Engineer Do You Need to Be?

Warren Garling of Voice Coaches moderated the expert panel discussion at the 3rd Annual Voice Coaches Marketing Expo. He directed the question of how proficient a voice talent should be in the arts of audio engineering to David Goldberg, owner of Edge Studio in New York City.

David replied, "That's a great question and it really depends on the type of voice over you are pursuing. So, if you are pursuing, for example, audiobooks, the average unabridged audio book is I think 9.5 hours long. And as Dan spoke earlier from Full Cast Audio, it can take four hours to complete one hour of audio. It takes that long because you have lots of retakes, and you make mouth clicks and pops and you have to go back and start things over again. All that means is that when you go back it, you have 36 hours of recording to clean up, 36 hours of editing. If you are not proficient, it's going to suck. The more proficient you become the more money you make per hour, so again in audiobooks, you are paid by the completed hour of audio. So if you're paid, for example, $100 per completed hour, if it takes you four hours to complete that audio including editing or ten hours, you are at a much better advantage if you can do it in four hours.

"With respect to adding music and sound effects: It's a wonderful service if you can be a one-stop-shop for your clients, but adding music and sound effects is very difficult. We've been doing it for 21 years and we're still learning, we really are. Stephanie said you have to continue learning. I believe that if you offer a service to clients, and you don't do it very well, you'll really hurt your relationship with your client, so go to Voice Coaches (people in attendance were all graduates of the Voice Coaches program). David Bourgeois and Jenny (Marcotte) have a wonderful studio and hook up with them, let them do the music and sound effects for you, and maybe do a little markup on the thing, but be a one-stop-shop for your customers."

You Don't Need To Be Ben Burtt, But it Helps To Be Skilled

In a nutshell, David suggested that if you are good at editing audio, you will be able to work faster and smarter. Incorporating and or mixing in different production elements will give you a leg up on other voice talent and will also enable you to offer your clients a one-stop-shopping experience.

Any Comments?

If you have any tips or advice you'd like to share about audio engineering from the perspective of a voice over talent, please leave a comment and join the conversation. If you're an audio engineer, you're also welcome to chime in with your thoughts!

Best wishes,


©iStockphoto.com/Chris Schmidt

Related Topics: actors, audio recording, Ben Burtt, David Goldberg, Edge Studio, New York, production, technology, voice talent, Wall-E


    This is very helpful. As the business has changed so much and the standard agent-client business model no longer exists solely as such, many vo artists have had to get home setups - some more elaborate than others - to keep up. I've had mine for about 5 years now and it's literally saved me. My agency also exclusively requires auditions to be sent from home unless it's an emergency, so I do probably 90% of my auditions from my own living room. It saves tons of time ultimately to say nothing of the $ it costs to book a studio.

    Posted by:

      Great, great article! I myself am of the opinion that the more versatile you can be, the better for customers AND yourself. Home studio is all but a necessity in many cases, provided you do your homework and don't buy more than you need. Nothing says 'awkward' (or 'expensive') like hunting mosquitos with an elephant gun!

      Posted by:

        Yeppers - the industry has changed. We voice over artists wear MANY hats; talent, engineer, director, post production. It's great! I love it all.

        Posted by:
        • Lisa Foster
        • June 16, 2009 8:53 AM

          I find editing my voice very easy. I just make cuts where I don't see any stuff going on. But Is audio production really as simple as owning stock music and sound effects and knowing how to add them to a voice track? What skills do I need to start offering this service? How quickly can I get going?

          Posted by:
          • Dave Stone
          • June 16, 2009 11:32 AM

            These topics always baffle me a little bit. In my area commercial recording studios such as mine have all the library music, and other tools, plus years of expertise in production. My studio helps cast voice talent for projects. IOW, we bring you work.

            With one exception, the voice actors in my area get much more work from me than they do from their home studios. Why would voice artists (A) want to carry the costs of a commercial facility, (B) not want to cultivate a relationship with their local studios, and (C) instead alienate them and try to compete with them?

            Maybe there are a lot of areas without commercial recording studios. If there is one near you, though, it would seem best to steer clients to it for production work (for which is it better suited), and have the studio steer the more lucrative, low-overhead voice work to you.

            What am I missing here?

            Posted by:

              I worked on the music and editing side long before I became a voice artist, so for me, the integration is natural. To be honest, if it's NOT natural for you--I don't think you should do it.

              If you combine bad editing and bad mixing with GOOD voice over, no one's going to appreciate that voice over. Your experience and talent will be overshadowed by what you don't do well.

              So if you excel in the voice over area, and have no interest in pursuing a mixing or editing career (which have completely different working mindsets than voice over does), my advice would be to find someone whose already great at this, plays at it instead of works at it, and partner up. Even if it's an 'online partnership' with a non-local, where you ftp files to them to finish, you're going to get *so* much better of an end result than trying to wing it.

              Editing isn't just stock music - presets - save - done! Just like voice over isn't just "talking into a microphone" (ever seen *that* in a job proposal? I have! ACK!). There's a finesse to it. There's far more skill involved. And for us, we create our own music, so there's a whole other licensing side to our business, too.

              If the idea of spending hours with sound waves, and being able to identify things needing to be cleaned up with sight, not sound, doesn't sound appealing--there are a TON of great behind the scenes folk out there who, no doubt, would be thrilled to have a steady roster of voice artists to work with. Take the time you spend commiserating over editing and put it into the craft you already love instead!

              Posted by:

                Being able to fully produce a project is a plus for every client.

                Posted by:

                  95% of the demos I do through voices.com are dry voice. But when it comes to that 'special' demo, where I feel some production elements will help make me stand out among the 120 other demos...I'll use them! Sometimes, it's just a music bed to give the proper feel, others---it's sfx.
                  I don't like to spend time 'producing,' but when necessary I'll do it, and it occasionally helps.
                  PS In the past 6 months, I've been doing LESS producing and MORE dry reads

                  Posted by:

                    When I was first started working in voice over, I didn't voice - I produced other voice talent. I loved it. It was mostly radio imaging. It amazed me how you can take a voice talent's dry track and add fx and music, giving it emotion and substance.

                    Like JC said, the majority of my voice work is just dry. Learning the production side early on has helped me in my voice over career. I can usually hear the production in my head as I voice, hopefuly helping producers in the end.

                    I've done many long form audiobooks, and because of my production background I am able to "speed review" the raw voice track when editing. Which really saves time, without skimping on quality.


                    Posted by:

                      I particularly love doing audio production, and with the economy the way it is, the value added skill may well help increase the bottom line – it has for me.

                      In the past month I have been asked if I'm able to offer full production, to which I happily affirmed. Both clients were relieved that they didn't need to shop around, they simply gave me the go ahead and then watched as it was delivered directly to their Inbox! They were happy to get the job done to their liking and I was very thankful for the additional income!

                      I just think that anytime we can offer additional pieces of the puzzle, no matter what we are doing, it's a good thing – provided it is done well.

                      Posted by:

                        As primarily an audiobook narrator, I have to say that the audio publishing industry is definitely trending toward tighter budgets, deadlines and voice talent working in home studios. For voice talent, this means becoming as proficient as possible with at least the basics of recording and editing for content (and some require ready-to-master files as well). As a side tip, I strongly recommend learning to do a rolling punch-in recording method in whatever DAW you work in when doing long-form narration. I have staunchly refused punching in until this year...but will say that once you figure out the method that works best for you, it does save a tremendous amount of time during the editing process because you ultimately end up with a fully content-edited recording at the end of your narration, without having to go back and listen to each take after you have finished recording the piece.

                        Xe Sands
                        Listening is a journey...

                        Posted by:

                          I have an extensive library of SFX, royalty free music beds, & work parts in my studio. To be able to offer full production services to my clients along with my voice, allows me to have a continuous stream of income even when my voice over workload is light.

                          I believe if you can make your clients' job easier for their engineers, it will lead to repeat long term clients.

                          Posted by:

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