Taking the Dub Step

As much as a vocal part of the anime fanbase likes to deride dubbed anime, wouldn’t it be cool to actually be the person who gets to voice an anime character? With the increased popularity of anime, mainstream audiences would like the option of an English voice track. With so many anime coming out, there are more opportunities than ever to be one of the lucky few who get to voice those roles. It doesn’t have to be English, either. Plenty of other territories now have large enough anime fanbases to justify localizing the material. So you might even get to do it in your native tongue. So how does one go about becoming an anime voice actor?

Voice Acting is Acting First, Voice Second

This seems to be something that plenty of people don’t realize. Voice acting is ACTING. So before you can even think about auditioning, sign up for acting classes and learn to act. Acting is a tough artform, and learning how to convey what the production needs is essential. Voice acting is about much more than doing impressions or making “funny” voices. In fact, plenty of well-known voice actors don’t alter their voices at all. They are simply good actors and get work repeatedly because of this. That’s not to say being a vocal chameleon won’t help, but if you can’t pull off the performance then it’s not worth much.


Try a Vocal Coach

Our voices are instruments and most people don’t actually know how to play them properly. A vocal coach can teach you how to reach your full range of tones and project your voice properly. Learning how to breathe, project, and properly handle the microphone will all make you sound like a pro.

Set Up a Home Studio

These days it’s not all that hard to set up a space with decent acoustics. Buy a decent professional USB microphone, get some free software such as Audacity and start to practice voice acting.

You can try dubbing characters in existing shows and then listening to your own performance. Be critical. Is it REALLY a good performance? Does your voice have the type of qualities you would want to hear as a viewer? There’s no substitute for practice, so put in some time behind the mike and get feedback from a trusted source such as an acting coach and vocal trainer.

Obviously you’ll have to learn a little bit about doing good voice recordings, but there are plenty of free guides and courses on the web to accomplish this. You don’t have to become a full-blown sound engineer, but you do need to know your way around the hardware and software to produce something usable.

Create a Portfolio

If you want to be noticed, you need to put something out there that demonstrates what you can do. There are plenty of services where you can showcase yourself. You can create a website either by hand or with something like Wix or other “drag-and-drop” site makers. Platforms such as Soundcloud or YouTube can be used to host your media.


Get Involved With Indie Projects

There’s still such a thing as “paying your dues” when it comes to the arts. Try to find independent projects or student films where they need people to work for cheap or free. These projects can be added to your portfolio and also put you in touch with others in the broader industry. There’s nothing like a resume and a reference to show you’re serious and willing to put in the hours.

Do Freelance Dubbing

This is the age of the gig economy. You don’t need to have a solid contract in order to start making a living as a voice actor. Try to find voice over gigs on freelance sites and cut your teeth (using your home studio) on basic voice over jobs. No one starts out in the big leagues, and getting some actual client feedback is a great way to improve your professionalism.

Move to Where Anime Action Is

Although it’s now entirely possible to do voice work over long distances, when it comes to proper voice acting for a drama, actually being at the studio in question has no substitute. For one thing, the voice director has to work intimately with the artists to get the performance they want, and dubbing for animation is an art in itself.

So if you really want the best chance at getting some work at a real studio working on a good show, move to where you are in physical reach. Often such studios will tend to cluster together, which means picking the right base of operations can put you in touch with several organizations at once.

Audition, Audition, Audition

The truth is that some professional communities are quite small in the greater scheme of things. People tend to use those who have proven themselves in the past, and everyone knows everyone. Yet there has to be a way to get fresh blood into the gene pool. In the case of acting in general and voice acting in particular, that would be the casting call for auditions.

Keep a close eye on the dubbing studio’s website or on sites dedicated to voice acting auditions. Audition as much as possible. If you keep at it and constantly improve your craft, someone is bound to eventually give you a shot at doing the real thing.


Try To Network

Whenever you get the chance to meet and share a few words with someone connected to the industry where you want to work, it’s a chance to “network”. This is the art of building up acquaintances and making yourself known.

When you go for an audition, make sure you have a way of sharing your portfolio. Go to conventions and try to have a chat with working voice artists in the anime dubbing scene. Since it is still such relatively nascent industry, these people are still approachable.

Never Give Up

The main difference between people who make their dreams a reality and those who don’t often comes down to something that psychologists refer to as “grit” – the endurance to keep at something even though you aren’t seeing any progress in the short term. Often when you look at the careers of successful people, it represents many years of thankless grind before they finally reached the tipping point. Too many folks give up right before they would have made it. Don’t be that person.

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