Apps For A Voice Over Artist On The Go

It’s a Sunday, and on Sunday I like to get my coffee, turn on some music, usually Haley Westenra or something instrumental and meditative, and cruise the web.  In today’s webtrip, I ran across an article on Backstage.com from March 22, 2016.  6 Apps Every Voice Actor Needs by Benjamin Lindsay.

Being able to work from home as a voice over artist is absolutely wonderful. I, like many of you, have a family to care for, doctor’s appointments, and errands to run. And that can throw my schedule and my best intentions right out the window!  Finding the balance between the love of the work, the responsibility to the business, and the need to get-up-and-go can be a challenge.  Being flexible is a must.

So how do you do it?  My two cents’ worth…

Plan ahead.  Do you work full-time or part-time?

Be honest with yourself about your schedule.  Can you set aside uninterruptible time to record that is not at 3 o’clock in the morning?  Trust me, 3 a.m. is the perfect time to record – for your noise floor – but not for your sanity.  I’ve done it. Figure out when you can record and block that time as sacred.

Put your personal obligations on your business calendar.  If you have to leave every day at 3:15 pm to pick up your kid from school, block it off on the calendar.  Life doesn’t stop because you work.  And work doesn’t have to stop because you have a life.  As an appointment on your calendar it becomes part of your business day instead of being an interruption.

Can you go mobile?  “Are you nuts!” you ask.  Nope.  It actually works, if you don’t have kids or dogs in your car with you.  There are plenty of YouTube videos about recording in your car.  Check some of them out.  If you’re a taxi mom, it may not work for you right now.  Keep it in mind.  I’ll post in more detail about how I do this on another day.

Stay connected.  Staying in communication and knowing what is going on is key to being able to perform as a good business executive.  And you are the executive of your business.  Responding to clients quickly and professionally is a must.  And you can do that from just about anywhere with your smartphone. 

Here are a few phone apps I use to stay connected and work mobile.  I work on Android; many of these are also available for iOS,

For Business Communication

Messages.  First, my two cents’ worth on text etiquette.  Text messaging is okay when the other side has initiated it or requested it.  Don’t assume, just because you have someone’s mobile number, that it’s okay to text them all the time. Save it for something urgent, like a traffic jam that is making you unavoidably late for a call.  Then keep it short, simple, and clear.  No emojis in business communications.  Any text app that works with your phone is fine.  Just make sure you can forward the text to your email for record keeping if you are going to discuss terms of service, deadlines, or fees.

Email App.  I use Microsoft 365 Outlook.  I used 365 extensively in the corporate world and have stuck with it.  It works on my phone as well as online.  It’s accessible from any browser and secure.  Be sure to set up your email signature with your branding in both your online and mobile email service.  You can also, with Outlook, set up template emails to respond quickly to inquiries.  This will save you a lot of time typing and swyping.  Microsoft 365 does cost money.  If you’re looking for a free alternative, think about Google’s gmail. 

For Scheduling:

Calendar App.  A calendar app is a must.  Using one that is tied to your email is best.  Microsoft 365 Outlook has a calendar tab built in.  My daughter prefers Google and uses Gmail for both email and calendar.  To be honest, it would be my next choice if I were willing to give up all of the integrated applications I get with 365.  One thing my daughter really likes about Google’s calendar is the color-coding and the ability to set up multiple calendars and easily switch between seeing them individually or all at one time.

Job Board Apps. You can’t manage your time without knowing what jobs or auditions are going to fill your time.  Whether you work on ACX, Backstage, Fiverr, Upwork, Voices.com or any other voice over job board, check to see if they have a mobile app so you can get notifications of client messages, job offers, and new auditions in real time.  Build out template responses so you can reply quickly and keep the communications flowing.

For Recording:

Sound Analyzer.  Sound Analyzer by Dominique Rodrigues is a free app that lets you measure the noise in your environment in decibels in real time.  I have found this very helpful when trying to find a quiet spot to record.  I use it most frequently in my car before recording.  I have also used it in my house to pick the location of my studio.  And would definitely use it if I were looking for a new home or apartment.

 WavePad Audio Editor by NCH Software is available as both a free app and in pro version for $13.99.  It’s an audio editing app that lets you record, edit, add effects, and then email the MP3 file to yourself or your client.  If you need to do auditions on the go, this is great!  Other apps like this to check out are:  TwistedWave Audio Editor, Audio Evolution Mobile Studio, Audiodroid Audio Studio DAW, and RecForge II Pro.

Split-screen viewing.  This isn’t an app.  It’s a feature on most smartphones.  I only discovered it recently.  It works great and allows me to see my script and WavePad simultaneously while recording.  If you don’t know how to do this, check out one of the many videos on YouTube such as this one.  Just search “multitasking view for my cell phone” and follow the links.

There are tons of different apps out on the web that can help you.  These are just the ones I use.  They may not be the right choice for you.  They can get you started.  My advice is to:

  • get recommendations from people who actually use it
  • always try the free version first, and
  • test it with yourself, your family, or a trusted coworker before you use it with a client.

What apps do you use when you’re on the go?

My Journey to Voice Over

Have you ever thought about what force or forces guide us through life?  Is our path pre-ordained by God (by whatever name you call him or her)?  Is it fate?  Predestination?  Or just happenstance?  I have to wonder because twice now, my life has taken a major shift after a seemingly random event.

At 16 I was accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Vocal Major.  The application process in the 70s was pretty daunting.  I had to sing three songs, a classical piece, a musical theater piece and one of my choice, in front of a faculty/adviser panel.  I had to play a minimum of 2 instruments.  And you had to sit in a music lab and transcribe a 5-instrument orchestral piece in as much detail as possible in 30 minutes.  No feedback was given at the time of your audition.  You were just shuffled from room to room and then dismissed.  I received an acceptance letter and a full scholarship the following month.  I thought my path was set.  I would attend UW-Madison and become a music teacher.

A few months after graduation and barely a month before my scheduled move to Madison, I left the house after lunch, walking across the farm fields, taking a shortcut to some now unremembered destination.  There was construction going on over the hill to the south of me. They were building what would be the new Highway 69.  To this day, I can’t tell you how close I was to their worksite.  I knew from the sound that they were at least over one hill from the field I was in.  I could not see any construction fences or cautionary signage or hear any voices – just the big equipment off to the south.  I had no idea they were setting explosives into the hillside.

A construction representative stopped by the farmhouse and told my mother they would be setting off dynamite at 1 o’clock and showed her where on a plat map.  He gave her a claim form should the explosion break any of the windows in the house.  My mom told them she had kids in the fields.  The rep shrugged and said, ‘You better bring them in.’  Impossible when she only knew I was out walking and didn’t know my route or destination. 

I had no warning of it happening. I have no memory of the experience. I woke up, lying in the field with blooded ears, a pounding headache, no balance, and a loud, piercing sound that filled my head.  It was late afternoon, and my music education was ended before it even began.  This event… fate… destiny… happenstance… changed my life.

I was dropped as a music major due to the loss of 98% of my hearing on one side and 60% on the other.  I couldn’t match pitch or transcribe music due to the constant dissonance of the C# ringing in my head. I left college. I moved out. I got a job.  I started to learn ASL. I met a man, got married and started a family.  And I never looked back.  I loved my life.  And I loved my family.  The ringing in my ears started to subside 10 years after the explosion. It became a persistent sound but no longer an overpowering tone. I found a new venue for my love of music working in community theater.  I wasn’t going to be teaching or directing choirs anymore, but I was blessed with imperfect hearing, perfect pitch, and a three and a half octave voice.  Life was good.

The second turning point came in 2012 when I had a quadruple bypass.  (Yup, quad. Evidently I don’t being in doing things in half measures.) The surgery went fine as did my ultimate recovery.  But the initial recovery had a few skips and stumbles.  Starting with my having a bad reaction to the anesthesia and being a very bad, naughty, and some might even say combative patient.  I didn’t hit any of the nurses, but I did frustrate them.  I removed all the monitors and IVs and tried to get up off of the bed.  After three attempts, four nurses managed to get me back into the bed. The head nurse decided to remove the endotracheal tubes.  If I was strong enough to get up, I was certainly strong enough to breath on my own.   

Unfortunately my vocal cords were damaged when she removed the tubes. It ended my ability to sing or even hum for years. To heal the cords, the doctors recommended complete silence as long as I could. That’s a really hard prison sentence for a gabby introvert. At first I could only get a sentence or two out at a time without having to drink/lubricate my throat. It took two years to build up to a 15-minute conversation. Still couldn’t hum. Five years later, I could speak and hum about six notes in a low alto range. Very frustrating when you want to sing to your new grandbaby.

When I was laid-off from corporate work I decided to try voice over. If I couldn’t sing, I’d use my voice the best I could. And voice over would allow me to break sessions up into smaller segments as needed. It also required the same type of breath support and training. There was a lot of vocal fatigue at first. I could only record for about 10-15 minutes at a time, but I kept at it.

Is it fate?  Predestination?  Or happenstance?  I still don’t know. And honestly, I don’t care. I love my life. I have voiced audiobooks, radio dramas, commercials, e-learning, animations and many other gigs.  I keep my recording sessions to 60-90 minute increments, stay hydrated,  and have even managed to sing a full octave scale.   The character/animation voice overs are fun and give me hope that this work is, in fact, my physical therapy and that I will one day be able to stand on a stage and sing again.

When life sets an obstacle in your path, how do you deal with it?  How do you find a new path?  What keeps you strong?  I’d love to hear from.