It was news to me that I would be interviewing anime voice actor Dan Green tonight.
Last month, I set up an interview/mini-voice acting lesson with Edge Studio, a New York based voice over coaching and production agency. I signed up for a Skype session with an anime voice over specialist. I had no idea that this instructor uses an alias for his anime work. He was none other than Dan Green, a voice actor I’d definitely heard of — and heard — before.
The man behind Yu-Gi-Oh!
As I tried getting my recording program to work (and it didn’t! Believe me, nobody is more upset about this than me), I had to ask Dan about Yu Gi Oh! the Abridged Series.
“I get asked to do Abridged impressions as often as I get asked to do Yu Gi Oh ones,” he said. Even though Abridged pokes fun of Yugi’s voice actor as much as Yugi himself, Dan thinks the series is hilarious and isn’t at all offended.
After I was able to get over this surprise, Dan introduced me to the basics of voice acting. According to him, it’s all about the range you create with your voice. He told me that most people have a much wider vocal range than they think. For example, after hearing my voice (never heard it? Listen to it on O-Talk), he accurately guessed that I was pretty young, but supposed with training I could play any character from a teenage girl to a grandmother.
Voice acting techniques
Dan led me through seven techniques that voice actors use to improve their voices: pitch, texture, nasality, diction, dynamic range, volume and pace. It sounded like I was listening to seven different people over the phone. (When I told him that, he jokingly remarked, “you should see the inside of my mind.”) When Dan raised his pitch, he sounded just like Yugi, but by lowering his voice and increasing volume and diction, suddenly I heard the Pharaoh. By giving his voice a gravelly texture, he started to sound like the bad guys he played in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
He said these techniques are like “knobs you can turn up and down” to increase your vocal ability.
Many people already have ample control over their voices, but Dan said that it’s unlikely that an anime fan could make the transition to voice actor without any lessons. His usual suggestion is to take at least five in order to get these techniques down.
Experiences for aspiring actors
“It’s more than just the voice. Even if you have natural talent, you might be competing against actors with natural talent as well as training and experience,” said Dan.
He used fansubs for an example. “Not to diss on fansubs since it’s great people are doing them, you can recognize the difference between a professional voice actor and a fan.”
Dan said that acting and singing are two examples of experiences that can help aspiring voice actors go from fan subs to anime studios. He recommends acting experience because voice over directors speak like they’re speaking to actors: “I need this kind of energy, this kind of emotion.” Singing is helpful because dubbing anime requires a good sense of rhythm. When you’re trying to give a genuine performance while your lines are restricted by how long the animated character’s mouth opens and closes for, a sense of timing is key.
Pursuing voice acting
At the end of our session, I asked Dan what would be the next step if I really wanted to take voice acting lessons. I would first have a one hour private session where Dan would test my vocal range and control. After that, he’d make an estimate for how many classes I’d need. Sometimes he suggests six or more for inexperienced actors, and other times it’s just three. Finally, it’d be time to make a demo reel of a few character voices to send to anime studios.
I came for an interview, but I had so much fun I might actually sign up for classes. But at $577 for Dan’s recommended five classes, it’s something I’ll have to think about. It’s probably a better investment for people who want to seriously pursue voice acting than for someone like me who just wants to try out weird voices and listen to Dan’s hilarious impressions.
Your turn. Would you consider taking voice acting lessons? Have you ever tried them out?