Rich Van Slyke

By Rich Van Slyke


If you make a living with your voice, naturally you want it to sound great. And there are many simple things you can do to improve your sound. Habits are hard to break, and I’ve made the same mistakes for years, over and over. Finally, it’s beginning to sink in. Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way. I wish somebody would’ve told me this stuff years ago.

  1. Don’t Shout – Getting loud feels great. Because it’s raw emotion. And raw emotion makes great radio. But when you shout, it strains your voice. And the best sound is a voice that’s not strained. The answer? Express raw emotion without shouting. Which leads right into the second most important thing…
  1. Get Emotional – People respond to emotion on the radio. And it doesn’t matter which emotion – anger, love, sadness, fear, humor, as long as you are evoking emotion. The sound of your voice is more pleasant when we hear emotion.
  1. Spend A Little Money – A voice coach can help you find your best sound. You are doing things that make you sound bad and you don’t realize it because you’ve been doing them so long. Friends and family won’t tell you, so you won’t know and you won’t improve. But a paid voice coach will tell you the truth. And you will improve very quickly. It’s great to have a new set of ears. Whether it’s one session for $75 or 10 sessions for $1,000, it’s worth every penny. Just Google “vocal coach” and keep going until you find one. They all have something to teach you.
  1. Identify the Natural You – You sound best when you speak naturally. But what is your natural sound? Record a phone conversation with a friend. After a while, you’ll forget the recording and revert to your natural sound. Save that recording, and you’ll know how you really sound. I know you don’t think you sound good when you are talking on the phone, but the truth is, we prefer the sound of your real voice over the sound of your pumped-up broadcast voice.
  1. Confidence – Can you sound confident? Even if you are not feeling confident? People love the sound of confidence. So record yourself and listen back. Does it sound confident? If not, record it again. It doesn’t matter if you fake it, if you sound confident, you will be very pleasant to hear.
  1. It Ain’t The Mic – My voice would sound better if I had a better mic. I’ve said it to myself 100 times. But it’s not true. The mic you’re using now is just fine. Don’t be fooled. I’ve spent the money for good mics, and yes, the audio quality is better, but it’s not even close to the dramatic improvement from speaking naturally and confident. It ain’t the golf clubs, it’s the golfer.
  1. Ask and You Shall Receive – You want to get better? Ask somebody to help. You want to make more money with your voice? Ask for it. But there’s a catch. When you get the answers, you actually have to do it. Talking about it ain’t enough. You have to actually do it. Which means you must ask the ultimate question of yourself: “Am I taking action, or just talking about it?”
  1. Underline The Verbs – When you are reading copy, and you want to stress certain words, which words do you choose? The verbs. The action words. Cheesy announcers stress the nouns. “Right now, you can buy a new F-150 for just $199 month!” Pros who sound great stress the verbs. “Right now, you can buy a new F-150 for just $199 month!” Record yourself. Which one sounds better?
  1. Use Your Hands – It’s no secret that emotion makes you sound better. And the best way to get emotional, and really convey personality is to use your hands as your talk on the mic. Try it. Record one take with hands moving, and one take without it. Instead of focusing on your throat, focus on your moving hands. Then come back the next day and listen. It works!
  1. Send It Out To Others – If you talk on the mic for a living, part of your job is to record it and send it out to others. This is not optional, it is part of your job. Doesn’t matter if it’s friends, co-workers, voice coach, management, clients, or even strangers. You’ll receive feedback. And that is critical! So send it out and reap the rewards.
Rich Van Slyke does VO for KUFX San Francisco, WWSK Long Island, KSEG Sacramento, KXTG Portland, KZDC San Antonio, Production Vault Classic Rock, WXMX Memphis, WGRD Grand Rapids, KKFM Colorado Springs, WZEW Mobile, WKQZ Saginaw, WKZQ Myrtle Beach, WTMM Albany, KZOZ San Luis Obispo, KOZZ Reno, KTUX Shreveport, WXKE Fort Wayne, WIXO Peoria, WRMR Wilmington, The Minnesota Timberwolves Radio Network, and more. 770.962.4788