If you are a person career-minded creative individual that struggles with finding time to relax, perhaps the best way to improve your career is to do the opposite of completing that next to-do… instead, take a quick pause and recalibrate with a hobby that will help you relax AND benefit your career. As strange as it sounds, learning a musical instrument improves cognitive function, relieves stress, increases creativity and, in my opinion, allows you to approach your creative projects from a three-dimensional view.
As a content creator, copywriter, producer, voiceover talent, director, or video editor that is responsible for generating content at-scale, playing an instrument and understanding the intricacies of music composition will compliment your storytelling. The parallels between music and narrative pieces are endless. Songs, for example, follow the narrative structure, and I have mentioned before that a music-bed is the ultimate directing hack. Furthermore, an understanding of instrumentation will allow you to dial-in emotional tone faster. For instance, knowing a major chord will typically sound more “cheerful” than the “melancholy” of a minor chord might enable you to find a music-bed quickly or help you to communicate tone to the voiceover talent and client. Other nuances appear as well: for instance, a string instrument generally pairs well with a spec pushing “inspiration, “ and acoustic guitar plays well with “warmth.” In short, a grasp of instrumentation opens the door for more dynamic storytelling because creatives have a more holistic understanding of the pieces being crafted.
Picking up an instrument will undoubtedly benefit your creative career by dramatically enhancing the skill of script interpretation. To begin, music has its own language that parallels storytelling. For instance, a music piece will begin with an intro and conclude with a resolve just as a narrative piece offers an exposition and resolve. Similarly, a song can crescendo while a story climaxes. Additionally, many musical words such as staccato, tempo, beat, and accent all correspond with directing voiceover talent, interpreting copy and scoring a script. Even the word “score” has a shared meaning! And there is the obvious parallel between voiceover director and conductor…
Understanding music and playing an instrument also makes you a master of pacing and tone, thus creating a “good-ear.” The nuances of a music bed and understanding how a voiceover compliments a piece can improve directing abilities, and learning an instrument enhances this skill. For example, when working with pitch, a director that comprehends musicality can offer the best places to lift words and create emotional pivots at the appropriate times. Similarly, as a voiceover talent with a “good-ear,” directing notes are interpreted more clearly (even if the client is struggling to "speak creative"), because the subtleties of one’s performance are more easily identified and adjusted, since tone has been practiced with an instrument.
In short, music and instrumentation offer many ancillary benefits to a career minded creative individual. By learning a musical instrument, creative minds will benefit from the numerous parallels between storytelling and music. Theses parallels – song-structure, the language of music and listening – will create more enriched content from creators, copywriters, directors and video editors. Simply put, the skill-set that is acquired from playing an instrument is transferable to other creative endeavors building a more holistic understanding of each part of the creative process.
Did you make it to this paragraph? If you have reached this point, I would like to thank you for taking time to read this post. I take pride in crafting unique perspectives on the advertising industry that cut through the clutter. As the world moves faster, I am striving to build connections. True connections take TIME and the ability to slow down when appropriate. Clearly, we are on the same page since you scrolled through an article that took more than :06. I would like to collaborate with you. So please reach out with a “hello,” and let’s make great content together. I would appreciate you commenting or sharing this post if you found it insightful. I can be reached at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com. High-fives from a fellow creative-mind and voiceover artist. ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com
Looking to maximize every voiceover session? Five tips to get the best out of voice talent with a BONUS tip at the bottom...
Let's be honest - placing a "process" on creativity can be a moving target due to its subjective nature. So how does an advertising agency, video producer or creative director ensure success from voiceover talent when every session is a little bit different? Below is a simple formula to maximizing sessions regardless of the different scenarios surrounding it.
1) Give the voiceover talent the script as early as possible.
Often times the voiceover talent receives the script immediately before beginning a session, so there is very little time to prep or read it through. For the best performance from the start, it helps to provide the script (even if it is rough) at least 15 minutes before the session. This allows the voiceover talent to have any pronunciation questions prepared while also noting any tongue-twisters before the session, and marking the script for optimal performance.
2) Begin by playing the original audio from the voiceover talent you hired.
In most cases, an advertising agency or director has hired a specific voiceover talent based on the pre-recorded demo that the voiceover talent provided.
It is preferable to begin the session by referencing this audio so everyone has an objective place to start from in regards to tone. At this point, as the director, you can offer early feedback on the audition that provides a road-map for both parties on how the piece should sound. For instance, “Chris – we liked the energy and personality you brought to this particular set of lines. In the first take, can you keep that same vibe but come down at the end of the line so it sounds more like a statement?”
3) Present a brief background of the concept.
It is surprising how often a voiceover session begins and the first comment from the director is, “let’s grab a take.” Time is extremely valuable, but before hitting the record button, consider beginning with a general explanation of the tone of the piece, the campaign and the company culture. For instance, "this is a friendly, welcoming piece inviting new customers to try out this company’s new product. Their current advertising environment centers around younger audiences who are in-the-know. So we cast you because in your demo, we liked how you sounded cool, hip and spoke to the target audience." Then, let the voiceover talent hear the music or see the rough cut of the picture with the scratch track. By providing a small amount of background information, this ensures that everyone, from the advertising agency to the voiceover talent, is on the same-page when beginning.
4) Lead Your Critiques with a Compliment
Every person, regardless of their field of expertise, enjoys a compliment from a professional peer. Voiceover talent and actors are no different. During the first take, listen closely for an opportunity to praise the actor’s performance and consider leading your critiques with a compliment. This small gesture invites the voiceover talent into the creative environment and softens future critiques. By extending a small compliment, directors can establish a safe-space for creative-play, and bring out the best in the performer.
5) Less is More
Performance is subjective and collaborative by nature, so voiceover perfection is in the ear of the beholder. Therefore, power is having multiple options of lines in various styles of delivery for the final presentation to the end-client. Rather than explain at-length what is needed, mention a small critique and let the voiceover talent give you variations. You can then hone-in on the target by referencing your favorite take of the variations. For instance, “Hey, Chris - can you give me an ABC of this line with a little more attitude?” Then, “those three takes were great, and my preference is C. Let’s roll another set of three in the style of C."
Here are a examples of simple, brief phrases that work well:
"Chris - that was nice - let's try it again with more of a smile throughout,"
"Great, Chris; this time let's try it more determined,"
"Wonderful read; can we go again with a slower pace on the front-half?,"
"I love the delivery. Chris, can we emphasize this word on the next one?"
By keeping brevity in the critiques and leading with a quick positive statement, it allows more time to actually record so everyone can operate from an objective piece of audio versus discussing a subjective idea of what they want. For this reason, when offering critiques and asking for alternate versions of a line, less is always more.
BONUS TIP! Did you notice the words "we" and "let's?" Collaborative words work best when offering critiques, because the best creative is a team-effort.
Did you find this helpful? Please reach out if you have any questions you would like addressed in future articles. For more perspectives from inside the booth and creative needs, please reach out at Chris@ChrisBurnettVoiceActor.com
Chris Burnett - seasoned voiceover talent, on-camera talent, coach, creative thought-leader and hopefully your new best friend. Let's chat-preferably over cocktails.