Our New World Of Self-Tapes

Decades ago, when my voice-over career first began, I was asked a few times by my agent Sandi Sloan to deliver a commercial audition by voicemail.


The stakes were high, which I loved. This type of audition had to be done in a single take and often went straight to the ad agency's producer. This unique opportunity would require a "slate" or intro of my name, role, and agency and two versions of the ad copy. 


I've always loved a creative and time-limited challenge, most likely due to my background as an Improviser. There was nothing cooler than being booked from a voicemail audition.


Cut to the fall of 2008, when the economy changed drastically in North America. Naturally, this instantly affected our voice-over industry. Since client budgets were being cut, agents started to get requests for Demo Recommends. Demo "Rec's" swiftly became The New Normal in the commercial voice-over market, in lieu of auditions at casting and production studios.


A few years later, so did self-tapes. Over the last several years, I have regularly recorded my own audio auditions for animation and video game projects as well.


Often when I coach my talented clients, they share the same self-taping dilemma:


" I never know when to stop!"


We've all been there.


A simple slate of:


"Tracey Hoyt…Woman…"


…can become an obsessive and epic exercise in dissection during playback:



Did I sound authentic enough?

Was that smile a little too toothy? Did I stretch out my last name enough?


Don't even get me started on the takes themselves. A simple 30-second script can easily turn into several hours of flop sweat-inducing work if we over-think things too much.


Whether you're using your smart phone mic or a state-of-the-art home studio, here's my advice: before you begin, limit the number of slates and takes you will perform. That way, you can get on with your day.


In terms of technical set-up for audio recordings, I have a simple solution in my walk-in closet: I use my iPhone 7 and a handy dandy rubber phone grip to keep it steady on the top of my dresser.


I tape the script pages onto the upper shelf, so they're hanging at eye level. This way, I can be free to fully embody my choices as I read - from the most subtle announcer copy to larger-than-life animated characters.


Since we're often alone when we record audio self-tapes, it can be helpful to remember my trusty advice regarding the number of takes:


"Less is more."


In terms of performance, in whatever medium, I'll share a gem from the most generous teacher I have ever had, Mr. Alan Arkin:


"Serve the scene and get out."


Don’t forget the importance of slating correctly with your genuine voice before performing your takes, as instructed by your agent - Name, Character Name and Agency, for example:


"Tracey Hoyt, Announcer, Fountainhead Talent"


Be sure to properly label the .mp3 file - the preferred industry format - as instructed by the Casting Director and/or your agent. For example: Your name, Character Name, Client or Project Name. For example:


Tracey Hoyt, Announcer, Happy Place Bank


When in doubt, read the fine print your agent has provided. Make sure you are presenting yourself as efficiently and professionally to the Production as possible.


Happy self-taping and happy holidays!


Until next time,