1. Narrative, prose/novel - descriptive - A paragraph from a book/novel, usually quite descriptive. The opening paragraph often works best, or start of a chapter. Obviously, something closest to your own accent/ethnicity is best. This is so we can hear you make a story come to life. Largely passed over these days in favour of a documentary. But if audio books is your goal, perhaps worth including.
2. Narrative, modern/childrens -Something from a children's book - perhaps a Roald Dahl or silmilar. As a contrast with piece 1, its useful to have dialogue in there along with the 'narrative voice', for which there is no limit as regards accents/age/gender. A great chance to include some
3. Radio ad/Character piece - A lot of radio ads particularly are very character driven, and an ad that has a character in it is often preferred these days. This piece can be a cartoon character one liner, (or characters), something you wrote yourself, or better still an actual radio ad with 1 character or more (even with 2 characters interacting, followed by a tag line VO). It allows you to bring the energy of a character to the reel and show off sides to your personality or range that the rest of the reel doesn't allow. The Radio Advertising Bureau website has an advertising database on it which is amazing for sourcing pieces.
4. Character (drama) pieces (ONLY if doing radio reel) - anything that contrasts with the first of these. Don't forget this can be an opportunity for you to lean towards the computer game market with some fairly extreme or dramatic characterisations. Or more sedate Radio drama type characters. Or a montage of accents/characters. Radio reels require a broader age range and accent range in these pieces.
5. Documentary - Here we can recreate the feel of a TV documentary, working alongside music and SFX to create a sense of a VO over video/TV images. The subject matter can be anything, but its crucial you stick to something that relates to your age/gender/accent. It can be dramatic ('do ghosts really exist?', 'the disappearance of Flight 107' etc), or more journalistic (i.e. 'the miracle of multiple births', 'discovering King Tut's tomb', Dispatches etc), or more reality TV/Fly On The Wall based (First Dates, The Undateables etc). Try YouTube for examples, or the main TV channel online players (4OD, iPlayer etc)
6. 2nd Documentary – As Reality TV and Fly on the Wall docs become more popular, a second 'narrative' read is becoming essential. Make sure you contrast it with the previous doc's style. If the first was more serious, this might be more upbeat or throwaway- Hollywood A-listers and their quirks, reality TV style etc.. Or maybe a more gossipy 'Grazia' or Rec Carpet style, talking about Big Brother or a celeb's career relaunch. For both documentaries, you'll find all you need on YouTube, iPlayer, 4OD etc. The introduction, or first minute or so leading up to the titles, is perfect., but any section will work.
7. Promo/Trailer - A promo/teaser for an upcoming program or series - onTV or radio. The kind of thing seen at at the start and end of virtually every ad break. Ends with something like Mondays at 8, on ITV2, Coming soon on 5 Live, etc. Try to avoid movie trailers, unless you have that classic voice. Not to be confused with continuity.
8. Idents/Sponsors messages - Very short. Often seen at the start of a programme, or start of an ad break. Ie 'Comedy on Dave, brought to you by Cobra Beer. Now You're talking'.
9. Continuity - The kind of 'coming up next' VO heard over end credits. Has an improvised feel to it. Usually chattier and quirkier than a promo. Usually written by the VO artist in the real world.
10. Corporate/IVR(Phone menus)(optional) – Can include telephone hold messaging, training videos, learning modules, presentations, appeals, website audio, instructions, science, nature, public announcements etc. Usually 'in house' training/information voiceover. The art of simply giving information.
11. TV Commercials. - The possibilities here are infinite, but the crucial thing is to find ads that perfectly suit your voice and style of delivery, and find a balance and variety across the three. A bit of a natural London/urban accent? Then maybe an ad for the new Paul Weller album, or Ministry of Sound cd etc. Just be really honest with yourself about what would make sense in an ad using your voice. Don't always go for big company ads.
Please bear in mind this is just a guideline, and by no means a definitive, carved in stone list, and it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need to record more than 8 or 9 pieces for your reel, so you won’t want to include all these options. Most people, however, find it very useful to have a starting point to help them start choosing. Also remember that no one piece should ever be more than a minute long, so the amount of material to source is probably much less than you think.
Have a look around the voice agents websites and listen to their clients reels to see what works and why. You'll see that most of the time they don't want crazy voices or accents that aren't genuine. 'Natural voices' is usually what they're after. And notice how they will often summarize your main selling point in just a few words. i.e. "Young, light, effervescent sound. Versatile and fun", or "Rich and resonant, yet natural and unaffected". Our job is to help you find what yours will be, and make it easy for them to know how to sell you in an instant. Your uniqueness is your best ally.
A few good agencies to start looking at:
Sue Terry voices
Excellent Voice Co.