Top Voiceover Artist Joan Baker Finds Success by Cultivating the Talent of Others and ‘Surrounding Herself’ with Neumann Microphones
New York–June 21, 2011: In her ascent towards becoming a top voiceover artist, Joan Baker’s success has taken root on two basic principles: “know your voice” and “choose the right equipment.” After getting her start by doing cartoon character voices on cable television, Baker’s talent was quickly spotted by several top voiceover agencies, giving her a platform from which to drive her own success and become aligned with the right tools of the trade. One her first decisions was to use Neumann microphones.
Since then, Baker has built her career not only on doing traditional voiceover work for clients like CNN, the Tribeca Film Festival and The Biography Channel, but her career has blossomed in other areas such as narrating audio-books and teaching aspiring voiceover artists how to take the next step in their own careers. In her book, “Secrets of Voiceover Success” and as co-founder of the annual “That’s Voiceover” conference, Baker describes the importance of equipment selection and her own affinity with Neumann microphones.
What have you been working on lately?
I am working on the next incarnation of the “That’s Voiceover!” conference, which takes place in Los Angeles this October. This event is meant to help people interested in doing voiceover work take the next step in their careers — it is like my “Secrets of Voiceover Success” book, but brought to stage. I am excited about the project because it creates a sense of community in the voiceover world by bringing together actors, agents, buyers, ad executives and manufacturers. Also, proceeds from the event go to Alzheimer’s Association.
What advice can you offer to aspiring voiceover artists?
You need to train and develop your vocal craft and become accustomed to using the right equipment. To gain optimal confidence and perform at your best, you must understand your voice and its strengths: what it can produce and where it can grow. You need to be able to create abundance for the people that are hiring you. The right choice of microphone makes all the difference in achieving your best. It isn’t wise to skimp on microphone choice since competition is tight and the difference between a Neumann and an ordinary microphone is very audible — especially to those who are doing the hiring. I’ve learned that Neumann microphones bring out all the colors and nuances in your voice, and highlight what is unique about it. Save a little bit more money and invest in a microphone that will serve you well for a long time. A voiceover career is all about the long term — not the quick fix.
What was your first experience with a Neumann microphone?
After I joined a top talent agency, and began working in high-end studios, I noticed after several jobs that my voice sounded better; it was buttery and dynamic. I was amazed, and asked what the microphone was. Each time, the answer was always “It’s a Neumann.” After a while, I realized that every good studio in New York City used a Neumann and that when I didn’t use one, I simply didn’t sound as good, no matter how skilled the engineer. From that point on, I knew that if I ever went into a studio, or if I ever had my own studio, I wanted Neumanns all around me.
What specific Neumann models do you use now?
Depending on the job, I will use a Neumann TLM 67 or a TLM 103. If the direction in the copy is one where they want ‘powerful’ and ‘authoritative,’ I will use the TLM 67 because it has a fabulous bottom end. However, if I am doing radio commercials that call for copy where you are an ‘ordinary person,’ I will reach for the TLM 103, which excels in delivering a crisp and clear midrange. Recently I recorded a massive audiobook project where I performed as 45 different women, each with their own stories. I did the entire project on a Neumann U 87 and it was amazing.
Can you share a little bit about your microphone technique?
In voiceover, it is all about creating intimacy, so when people hear you in their living rooms, they are hearing you in an intimate, conversational way. People don’t want to feel attacked, cajoled or manipulated. I usually place my mouth a fist length away from the microphone, and that creates subtleties and nuances that you can’t manufacture if you’re further away and projecting more. If I am going for something a little more sexy, then I will get a little closer. These techniques apply to any microphone, but a Neumann microphone is especially sensitive, and captures the nuances with unmatched clarity. For me, Neumann really represents the best in communication.