Imagine going into work and there are 8 people just sitting watching you, ready to push a button and say “You made a mistake,” or “ I don’t like that tone,” or “I heard a lip noise. Can you do it again?”
You are interrupted mid-sentence.
You smile, pretending not to mind.
“Oh, okay, sure, let me fix that!”
The observers take up their pens, monitoring, watching and waiting to pounce on your next mistake.
Welcome to the world of the recording artist.
You’re now in a small, sound proof booth where you have been singing for two hours. You can see a room full of people through the door. You finish the last note and it hangs in the air. You step back from the microphone utterly heart broken, still in character, as a voice cuts through your headphones.
“Do it again.”
Your head thinks “Okay,” but your heart, that’s poured its very soul into the song goes, “What the #$%^%?”
The professional singer in you takes some time to sip some water, adjusts their headphones and braces themselves to continue to channel raw, powerful emotions throughout their whole body while ignoring the monkey mind’s “But why? What did I do wrong? But why? Aren’t I good enough?”
The difference between singing and voice acting jobs
There has been a trend in the last 10 years in the artist management business in Tokyo not to accompany narrators to a studio. This has occurred because budgets have shrunk and talent agencies cannot afford the staff to monitor the whole recording. The thinking is also, “Once the narrator gets to the correct studio, on time, what do they need their booking manager there for?”
As both a singer and voice actor, I have puzzled over why this has happened. Why does the artist manager rarely attend a studio session for a voice actor but will always attend a studio session for a singer?
Difference between voice acting and singing sessions
Narrators are usually seated in a sound proof booth with a table and a chair. If it's a game or anime job you'll usually be standing (like a singer!) For some educational narrations and voice acting jobs, you get the script on the spot with no chance to rehearse or practice. For corporate narrations and documentaries you usually get the script beforehand and read it through to practice before the session.
Singers for television commercial sessions rarely get the music beforehand so they need to quickly catch the melody. But songs are only 15-30 seconds so it’s not hard. For game, movie and anime sessions they get the songs a few days before and are expected to learn them beforehand. This can sometimes be quite tricky as often there is just a quick piano guide, no sheet music or score and a page of words you have to match to the piano sound. Singers always stand up in the booth to sing.
Reading versus singing
You can ask anyone in society to “just read this” but you cannot expect that just anyone, under the age of four, will sing on the spot.
Why is that?
Singing is not considered a “normal” activity like reading aloud in school or in a meeting.
And artist managers seem to recognize how much more the singer has to achieve in a studio session compared to a narrator reading a script.
That’s why they will always attend a singer’s job to give support and reassurance.
As an actor and narrator I definitely use my emotions and need to prepare before hand but singing is just way more demanding.
“Singing is a very physical job and something that comes from the core of your body. Apart from the training and endurance I think just the vulnerability that comes with singing requires using so much mental concentration and physical energy.”
Aimee B Singer, Voice Actor
A singer might be technically good but have no heart or authenticity. A good singer has to be technically perfect and yet full of soul and communicate their very heart.
Music alone without singing also creates more emotion.
Compared to most narration scripts there is just so much more emotional content in a song.
And there is no filter, no character, no script, no instrument to blame a poor performance on or to hide behind..there is just you. Your voice, singing.
So when a director says "Do it again," it can really feel hard to just smile and say "Sure!" if you've given your heart and soul.
So yes, singing is harder than voice acting. So there! Pile on voice actors!!