Woodshed Your Copy

By AM Staff

  • Take Your Copy to the Woodshed

    You’ve booked your first voiceover session, a 60 second radio ad, at a local production house. You arrive in a positive frame of mind, relaxed, and ready to perform. After exchanging pleasantries with everyone involved with the session, the studio engineer hands you the copy. After reading through the script, determining your approach to the read, and consulting with the session’s director(s), you’re ready to nail the spot on the first take.

    Sure, hitting a home run on your first at bat in front of the mic is possible, but by “woodshedding” or marking up your copy first, you establish visual cues that will help you give the director and client your best voice-over performance. Visualing indicating word inflections, words that need additional stress, pauses for pacing and effect, and attitude changes within the copy, creates a framework for a consistent performance, whether you nail the read on the first take or the tenth one.

    So, what system of marks should you use to woodshed a piece of copy? Well, whatever works for you. There is, though, a general set of marks used by many voice talents
    for this purpose.

    For indicating up and down inflections, use an angled arrow: an upward angled arrow over an up-inflected syllable or word, and a downward angled arrow over down-inflected
    syllables and words.

    Underscore (underline) words that require additional stress. Put more than one underscore under a word or syllable to indicate even greater stress. By the way, putting stress on a word doesn’t always mean simply saying that word louder than the other words in the script. You can stress a word by simply raising the pitch of your voice, without necessarily saying that word louder. To really stress a word, combine extra loudness with higher pitch.

    Pauses can be used for both pacing and effect, as well as for giving yourself a place to breathe. Use a slash to indicate pauses. For a breathing point, use one small slash.
    To indicate a pause for pacing, try one larger slash. A pregnant pause for effect can be indicated by multiple, two or more, slashes.

    If you need to indicate a change of attitude, whether subtle or broad, then you can use any visual cue that works for you. A letter in a circle representing the change, e.g. an “H” for happier, or a “C” for calmer, etc. Of course, you can simply write in the word that indicates the change where it happens.

    These are just some of the marks you can use to analyze the copy and create visual cues to enhance your performance. Create marks that work for you: circles, squares, highlighting, squiggles, dots, brackets–whatever you think can help you to develop a believable read.

    Naturally, woodshedding a piece of copy is easy when it’s double or even triple spaced. Unfortunately, you will receive single-spaced copy sometimes and you’ll just have to make do. Of course, always make sure to bring a pencil with a good eraser to sessions. Besides using it to mark up copy, you’ll also  find yourself using that pencil for writing in copy changes from the person(s) directing the spot. The same goes for voice artists who work in their own personal studios. Always keep a few pencils on hand.

    Marking up a piece of copy can take a few minutes, but making it a habit can help solidify the direction of a read in your mind as it gives you visual cues for executing the voiceover.
    Make some time to practice and develop your woodshedding system. It will pay off each time you step into the booth and get behind the mic.

    © Peter Drew, 2005

    Peter Drew, a freelance voice-over talent and copywriter/producer with 28 years of   experience, is heard on radio and television stations, corporate presentations, web sites, and messages-on-hold across America and countries around the world. To send an email regarding this article, please visit Peter Drew Voiceovers.

    Recommended Posts

  • Ad

  • 7 Good Reasons to Get New Headshots 

    7 Good Reasons to Get New Headshots  There are many reasons why you might consider getting new headshots, despite the costs (by Jim Webb) (Photo: Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels) There are several immutable…

    Katharine Hepburn: “You don’t have to act. Let the camera do the work.” 

    Katharine Hepburn:  “You don’t have to act. Let the camera do the work.”  (by Carmichael Phillips) (Katharine Hepburn) “Don’t act! You don’t have to act. Stop acting. Don’t push! Let the camera do…

    The Self-Tape Checklist 

    The Self-Tape Checklist  Use it to make sure you don’t leave anything out of your self-tape (by Carmichael Phillips) (Photo: Anete Lusina | Pexels) I can guarantee that you’ve missed something. It’s inevitable….

    Actor Stories: How Ed O’Neill Landed His Breakout Role by Making a Bold Choice 

    Actor Stories: How Ed O’Neill Landed His Breakout Role by Making a Bold Choice  O’Neill hit casting directors with something they weren’t expecting (by Carmichael Phillips) (Ed O’Neill in Married…with Children) At an…

    Actor Stories: How Matt Damon Created His Own Opportunity, and Made Himself into a Star 

    Actor Stories: How Matt Damon Created His Own Opportunity, and Made Himself into a Star Damon, along with pal, Ben Affleck, refused to wait for Hollywood’s approval (by Carmichael Phillips) (Matt Damon in…

  • Ad

  • When You Don’t Have an Agent, Your Agent is You! 

    When You Don’t Have an Agent, Your Agent is You!  You’ve got a very demanding client. So, get going! (by Jim Webb) (Photo: Fauxels | Pexels) Set up your office space. Clean off…

    Michael Jai White: “This business does not support talent. It supports heat.” 

    Michael Jai White:  “This business does not support talent. It supports heat.” (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) (Michael Jai White) “This business does not support talent. It supports heat.” Actor and martial artist, Michael…

    4 Things to Remember When Writing Your Cover Letter 

    4 Things to Remember When Writing Your Cover Letter  Keep it short, sweet and to the point. (by Javier Guerra) (Photo: Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels) You probably already know what marketing materials you…

  • Ad

  • Give Me Feedback on My Self-Tape, or Pay Me for It!

    Give Me Feedback on My Self-Tape, or Pay Me for It! Casting directors don’t even give us the courtesy of a little feedback on our self-tapes (The Anonymous Actor) (Photo: Andrea Piacquadio |…

    What is Taft-Hartley? 

    What is Taft-Hartley?  Let’s explore the law, and the report, that gets actors in the door of America’s largest actor union (by Tonya Tannenbaum) (Photo: Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels) A Taft-Hartley is the…

    Stella Adler, On the Importance of Confidence 

    Stella Adler, On the Importance of Confidence  “No actor is a success unless he feels inside himself…that he is good.” (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) “No actor is a success unless he feels inside…

    The Acting World Goes Virtual 

    The Acting World Goes Virtual  And that’s a good thing!  (by Carmichael Phillips) (Photo: Beci Harmony | Unsplash) As the old saying goes, “The only constant is change.” But in this new Covid-19…

    Actors Losing Health Insurance at an Alarming Rate 

    Actors Losing Health Insurance at an Alarming Rate  Covid-19 is forcing changes that put new constraints on the accessibility of health insurance (by Javier Guerra) (Photo: Bermix Studio | Unsplash) Covid-19 has dramatically…

  • Ad

  • 10 Actors We Loved and Lost in 2020

    10 Actors We Loved and Lost in 2020 Here’s a partial list of some of the actors we will miss (by Carmichael Phillips) (Photo source: Jamie Street/Unsplash) No doubt, 2020 was a rough…

    What is a SAG-AFTRA Must-Join? 

    What is a SAG-AFTRA Must-Join?  Let’s explore this SAG-AFTRA status… (by Tonya Tannenbaum) (Photo: Eunice Lituanas | Unsplash) A “Must-Join” is the label placed on actors who have surpassed the grace period (usually…

    Bill Nighy: “I still don’t have a process” 

    Bill Nighy: “I still don’t have a process”  (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) (Bill Nighy) “I’m old enough to say that I’ve never knowingly been in character in my life.” Bill Nighy, the English…

  • Ad

  • Create Your Own Opportunities!

    Create Your Own Opportunities!  What’s your excuse for not producing your own projects and casting yourself?  (by Jim Webb) (Photo: Gianandrea Villa/Unsplash) The advent of things like social media and the internet allows…

    Viola Davis: “I write a bio of the character.”

    Viola Davis: “I write a bio of the character.” Viola Davis describes her character-building and collaboration process (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) (Viola Davis) “I read the script over and over and over again….

    Do You Have an Acting Mentor? 

    Do You Have an Acting Mentor?  How having a mentor can help you save time, money and your sanity (by Jim Webb) (Photo: neONBRAND/unsplash) You already know that taking acting classes can help…

    Good News & Bad News for Background Actors

    Good News & Bad News for Background Actors  There are lucrative opportunities for those fortunate enough to find them  (arranged by Carmichael Phillips)  (Photo: Sigmund/Unsplash) There has been lots of bad news for…

    The 3 Main Types of Commercials 

    The 3 Main Types of Commercials  Commercial actors can benefit from understanding the distinctions (by Javier Guerra) A commercial is a commercial is a commercial. They’re all the same, right? Except, they are…

  • Ad

  • Ed Harris: “Acting is a lifelong situation.” 

    Ed Harris:  “Acting is a lifelong situation.” (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) (Ed Harris in Westworld) “Acting is a lifelong situation…’til you drop dead.” Ed Harris is one of the most successful character actors…

    The Easiest Way to Improve Your Acting Life? Go to Sleep!

    The Easiest Way to Improve Your Acting Life? Go to Sleep!  The subtle ways that sleep impacts your performance (by Todd Bruce) (Photo: Damir Spanic/Unsplash) Not getting enough sleep at night? Do you…

    The Self-Tape Request from Hell!

    The Self-Tape Request from Hell! Sometimes casting directors ask for far too much! (by The Anonymous Actor) (Photo: Usman Yousaf/Unsplash) Forgive me for saying this, but this self-taping thing has gone too far!…

  • Ad

  • 10 Reasons Why Being a Modern Actor is Bad Ass

    10 Reasons Why Being a Modern Actor is Bad Ass There simply has never been a better time to be an actor (by Carmichael Phillips) (Photo: Roy Alanwar/Unsplash) Aren’t you glad to be…

    How to Sell Yourself in 10 Seconds or Less

    How to Sell Yourself in 10 Seconds or Less Quick! Sell your acting career in 10 seconds or less! (by Tonya Tannenbaum) (Photo: August de Richelieu/Unsplash) Quick! Sell your acting career in 10…

    What is a Right-to-Work State?

    What is a Right-to-Work State?  There are currently 27 Right-to-Work states in the United States (by Tonya Tannenbaum) (Photo: Joey Csunyo/Unsplash) A right-to-work state is a state that forbids union security agreements. That…

    7 Words That Can Trip an Actor Up

    7 Words That Can Trip an Actor Up  Confusing, isn’t it? (by Tonya Tannenbaum) (Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash) As if the acting business was not perplexing enough, there’s always something else to confuse the…

    Edie Falco: “Just make sure you’re always working on something. Representation or not.”

    Edie Falco:  “Just make sure you’re always working on something. Representation or not.” (arranged by Carmichael Phillips) (Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie) “Just make sure you’re always working on something. Representation or not.”…

    The Virtual Audition Waiting Room

    The Virtual Audition Waiting Room “It’s now your turn to audition, please enter Studio B.” (by The Anonymous Actor) (Photo: Vladimir Fedotov/Unsplash) The global pandemic has forced us all to reevaluate the way…

    The Pandemic Ruined My Actor Life!

    The Pandemic Ruined My Actor Life! But here’s to hoping things get back to normal (by The Anonymous Actor)  (Photo: Cristian Newman/Unsplash) My Last Normal Day…  I can’t remember the exact date. To…

    The Actor’s Job Description

    The Actor’s Job Description  Help wanted. Apply now! (by Javier Guerra) (Photo: Yogendra Singh/Unsplash) Help wanted: ACTORS Employer: The Entertainment Industry Salary: $52,000 annually, on average Bonuses: Possibly Millions Benefits: Health and Retirement…

    Load More