Let The Words Do The Heavy Lifting

Hey there!

It seems I’ve been asked more than a few times recently, by VO talent and actors, about the use of accents, dialects, characters, music and sound effects…

…when producing audiobooks.

After I gently disabuse the actor of their preconceived notions, I always end with this important and valuable suggestion:

“Let the words do the heavy lifting.”

That seems to elicit more “oohs” and “aaahs” than the explanation itself.


Because it neatly wraps up all of the advice in a nice little let-you-off-the-hook gift.

See, if you’re really great at accents, and characters, and foreign languages, great. Use them.

But don’t use them in a way that calls attention to them.

Don’t push them out in front of the story itself.

Don’t show off your mad dialect skillz.

Voice them in the vast sea of your straightforward English “neutral narrator” voice (or whatever your native language is), at an appropriate energy and pace, so that they meld nicely with the rest of the story.

(Here in LA, there are several news reporters who interject their Spanish as a screaming bludgeon in the midst of a fairly even-tempered story in English. You can hardly go to a comedy club in town with them being lampooned on stage for it.)

And it’s OK if you don’t do accents and dialects well. Don’t try too hard. Nod at them. Tip your hat at them. Just be authentic with the story.

The story will save you.

The writing will be your biggest ally.

The words will do the heavy lifting…if you let them.

(And no, you shouldn’t use music or effects in your audiobook production. Or your auditions. Ever. Don’t let the author talk you into it. If you’re producing a book for ACX, let the rights holder know that listeners absolutely despise music and effects, and say so in the reviews and ratings.)

The bottom line?

Your performance should always be in support of the words the author has written. Don’t get out in front of the story by showing off, say, your ability to perform a perfect Mongolian (Eastern Mongolian, actually) accent. Use your energy to serve the story. Use your efforts to keep the listener engaged in the story, not aware of your performance.

If you let the words do the heavy lifting, your performance will be ultimately engaging and satisfying to both you and to the listener.

Hope this helps!


10 Responses to 6 Steps to a Perfect VO Demo

  1. Kelli August 18, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I feel really good about my demo. It is a quick and fun process, even for someone like me who gets very self concious. :)

  2. David Britz September 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    The demos are great. Superb quality. Why go anywhere else?

  3. David Britz October 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Can’t wait to record my Narration VO Demo!! :))

  4. Mike Brang December 31, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Having a well-produced demo is one of the most important things in the VO business. I had a number of demos made from other producers in the past and they all had one thing in common — that manufactured, cookie cutter sound!
    What sets David apart from the rest, besides his affordable price and tremendously fast turn around time, is that all of the clips you record with him sound unique. Each spot sounds like an actual commercial you recorded for a job.
    My agent loved the quality and even asked who produced it to refer his other talent there!

    Thanks again, David for producing such a great, high quality demo for me. You made the process relaxing and enjoyable. I urge anyone reading this unsolicited reply to listen to David’s student demos to hear the difference for yourself. Anyone would be lucky to work with him

  5. Kristy Liles February 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I can not thank you enough. I worked so hard on 15 page IVR project, one day I cryed, look for answers, pull my hear (not really) but I was about until another VO send me this great tool. Thanks!

  6. Frank June 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm #


    When v123 indicates the audition is for a student/ nonprofit are we to assume it is for $0. If so, why does the audition ask for an amount to be entered?

  7. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    I did get this scam through Voice 123. In our discourse, they offered me the gig and they gave me the name of a legit local place to record and the same runaround with the money. I didn’t send anything, but instead, I called the studio to make sure the booking was for the day we set up, and lo and behold, the people there had no idea what I was talking about. I then tried to call back my “contact person” who was setting this up and there was a fax machine beep on the other end. I immediately contacted Voice 123 and told them what had happened. You know what they say…if it sounds togaed to be true, it probably is. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    …too good…not togaed.
    The one time spell check didn’t work!

  9. Bernard Prame July 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    extremely helpful demo. Thank you!

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