AUSTIN — Mike Coffin can’t get the Texas out of his voice.
He’s in a sound studio on Bee Cave Road, providing the voice of a cartoon duck who’s admiring himself in the water.
It’s just for practice. Coffin and a handful of others are getting lessons from Lainie Frasier, who is possibly the pre-eminent voice-over actor in Austin.
Frasier has voiced more than 2,000 audio productions, ranging from commercials to cartoons to video games. She currently provides voices for video games such as the locally developed “Wizard101” and Nintendo’s “Metroid Prime 3.” Perhaps her biggest role was as the cartoon fox Tails in “Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie”
Currently, she’s helping Coffin and others learn the ins and the outs of the voice-over business.
Frasier did her first commercial when she was 4 years old. She knew immediately that it was what she wanted to do with her life.
She majored in theater and got her degree from the University of Texas in 1979. A mentor, Austinite Joel Block who had the first voice-over production studio in town, kept telling her she should try voice-over work.
“My voice is a little unusual, right?” she told the Austin American-Statesman “So everybody kept saying, ‘What a great voice, what a great voice,’ which I think is where everyone starts.”
But there was no training available at that time, she said.
She ended up doing voice-over work through college, as well as stints in advertising and audio production. She started getting so many requests for advice on voice work that she started teaching around 1990.
Eventually she started her own company: Lainie Frasier’s VoiceWorks.
But voice acting isn’t just doing a funny voice into a microphone. As Frasier told her students, there are a million things you can do to change your voice — from the pitch, the dialect, the rhythm and the volume, just to name a few.
Animation requires you to be particularly flexible, she said.
“It’s not just, I’ve got these couple of characters I do in my pocket,” she said. “It’s, I can create whatever you want. You want an accent on that? Sure. You want a dialect? Sure. I can change the placement of it. I can change the rhythm of the character.”
What does Frasier like about voice acting?
“I love the fact that I just never know what I’m going to be. Every job is different,” she said.
And she values every job, even a corporate gig where she’s doing phone prompts for a bank.
Even in those gigs, Frasier said she tries to challenge herself.
“Can I do this all in one take?” she said, giving an example. “Can I blow them away because I have such good technique and I can make a whole bunch of money for five or 10 or 15 minutes worth of work? So I love that part. I love the variety of it. And for me the combination of what I do, the acting part is thrilling and it’s a high.
“But I really am rewarded when I am able to take other people and am able to help them discover their voice, their talent and help them achieve their goals.”