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Drew Birns: Voice Coach

Drew has been teaching voiceover technique for a long time, and has developed a unique approach to this elusive and diffcult art. Scroll down, or click on the links below to find out more.

  Philosophy Testimonials References  


In His Own Words: How Drew Teaches Voice

My idea of doing voice-overs is simple:


By that I mean the same principles of acting Shakespeare and Chekov in the theatre can and should be applied to any voice-over commercial or narration. Doing a voice-over is not about how you normally sound and how you feel. It's about the character speaking the copy. You must decide:

1. Who is the speaker?
2. What does the speaker want to communicate?
3. How does the speaker feel about what he/she wants to say?

This will help to bring infinite variety to your work.

The first thing to do is listen carefully to your direction. Make sure you understand it.


Examples: What does "conversational" mean? What do you do when you are asked to be conversational for your second take if you thought you were conversational for your first? When asked to be "bigger", what does that mean? Learning definitions is very important.

Then, how do you express that direction into sound? It's one thing to understand a direction and another to know the properties of the voice well enough to bring that direction into fruition.

This leads to some other questions:

1. What is the difference between"speech" and "voice"?
2. What are the four elements of voice?
3. What is your normal voice and your habitual choices?

Many actors auditioning for a voice-over do one take, get direction, nod their head, and then unknowingly repeat the first take! Understanding the elements of the voice gives you the tools to change the voice and comply with the direction and still sound utterly real and human.

Having learned how to use your voice, the next big idea is:


Young actors often overdo their training, romancing almost every word of the copy. Get to the point so the listener can understand the ideas behind the copy.

Realize that you will probably be asked to do two takes on any audition. Always give another approach to your second take. Show the ability to change and take direction.

Lastly, my voice-over motto is:


You can't be inside the head of the director and know exactly what is meant. Wrong is to make a strong choice in how you want to express the direction, and perform that choice in a strong manner. You may have chosen wrong but your ability to do voice-overs will be clear. More direction may be what's needed. Bad is a weak or unclear choice performed in an undecided manner. No one will have any idea what you are doing, and you will undoubtedly hear ... NEXT !

  Philosophy Testimonials References  


Testimonials: What they're saying

Actual quotes from students of Drew:


"All of my life I have been complimented on my voice-its resonance. Drew was the first teacher who encouraged me to forget about myself and put all of my attention onto the listener."


"Drew's commitment to a group/class environment ensures that we hear how to make our work better, from his critique and the perspective of the rest of the class. He is encouraging without being unrealistic; maintaining a balance between telling us what our problems are and arming us with the ability to figure out how to solve them for ourselves."


"Drews knowledge is encyclopedic and his harsh honesty regarding the business of the business is highly respected by us all."


"Drew does a fantastic job in leading us through the concepts and giving us useful feedback."


"Drew is committed to ensuring that we not only understand the business, but are prepared for its inherent challenges. He plays samples of actual casting CDs so we know our competition. He encourages us to listen to all current media. He has brought in professional casting people and producers to answer questions and listen to what weve been working on."

  Philosophy Testimonials References  



Jan Gist
Voice and speech for Old Globe Theater of San Diego
University of San Diego Graduate Actor Training Program

Susan Sweeney
Head of Theater Voice Training, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Melissa Agnew
Voice Teacher/Coach
PhD, MAO, Bed,
Brisbane, Australia

Jeremy Goldsmith
Tabby Sound Studio, New York City

Phil Lee
Full House Sound Studio, New York City

  Philosophy Testimonials References  
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