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 Tips For Building a VoiceOver Career 3

17 January

Solving the problems of emphasis and inflection in voiceover!

Yes, emphasis and inflection!

Two little words!  Two very important little words.

These are the two words that give some voiceover actors the most difficulty and of course, they mean very different things.

Let me explain that.

Emphasis

Emphasis is placed on words that the advertiser or client wants their audience to hear.  Emphasising those words should draw attention to them for the purposes of getting the message across.

Inflection

Inflection is more about creating a rhythm that works for the content of the message.  This is unique to each script, and is really about your understanding of who you’re delivering the message to and what response you want from them.

Often, I hear a script that sounds like a rollercoaster of words, with inflections rising and falling for no apparent reason, and emphasis either in all the wrong places, or non-existent.

It’s always hard to listen to that kind of read, because it’s completely un-natural.  That is, it doesn’t mimic the way we speak in conversation, which is one of the skills you need for successful voice acting.

This kind of read comes from not understanding that you need to analyse the words, to find the meaning of, or the intention for, the message…nd then tell the story of that message.

Let’s talk about emphasis first

…and I’ll give you an indication of how to find the words that need it.

No matter what kind of voiceover script you’re working with, there are words that will need more emphasis than others.

There’s only one reason for this.  They’re important.

Here’s a sample script.

This Valentine’s Day…Hallmark Cards are helping me get a little personal…
…by creating my own unique Valentines Day Card online.
I just choose a card, add my own photos and message…
…they print it and post it…
either straight to me or direct to my Valentine.
How easy’s that?

The first thing you need to do before you work out where the emphasis belongs is find:

·      The product – Hallmark Cards

·      What it’s about – Valentines Day

·      The concept, idea, or message –Valentines Day Cards Online

·      Those key words or phrases that are about the message

·      The audience – in this case, young females

·      The style – conversational, as though you’re talking to a friend

I want to take you through the script, now that I’ve made decisions about where to place emphasis.  I’ve underlined only the words that need to be emphasized.

This Valentine’s DayHallmark Cards are helping me get a little personal…
…by creating my own unique Valentines Day Card online.
I just choose a card, add my own photos and message…
…they print it and post it…
either straight to me or direct to my Valentine.
How easy’s that?

“Is that all”?  you might well be saying.  Yes, that’s all.  Well, that all that needs to be emphasized.

If you say only those words out loud now, you’ll hear the reason for the ad.

You many think that you need to emphasise ‘Valentines Day Card’, in the second line, but you don’t, because we already know it’s about Valentines Day and we already know it’s about cards, which is why the emphasis in on the new information only, that is the word ‘online’

Now we’re going to move on to the next little word, inflection.

Inflection is about knowing the story and knowing who you’re telling the story to.

So, what is the story?

This is the story of a young girl, who has a ‘boyfriend’ (Valentine) and has discovered an easy way to send a Valentine message.  She decides she’s going to tell her best girlfriend.  They share all kinds of intimate information.

For instance, you’re saying that the product is ‘helping me get a little personal’. Why would you be saying that?  What personal meaning or attitude could you place across that phrase that would help the audience to hear the message?

In this ‘conversational’ story, you might also like to include your friend responding to you, as you roll out the information.

I’ll add some possible responses, which will help you to sound more conversational.

This Valentine’s Day…Hallmark Cards are helping me get a little personal…
How?
…by creating my own unique Valentines Day Card online.
How do you do that
I just choose a card, add my own photos and message…
…they print it and post it…
Tell me more
either straight to me or direct to my Valentine.
How easy’s that?

If you are being true to the story, you’ll find you really don’t have to place much emphasis at all.

Once you’ve nailed the right emphasis on ‘the reason for the ad’, and ‘the product name’, you’re almost done.

Then it’s up to ‘how’ you place inflection.  And, as I said that’s about knowing the story.

Try to keep phrases that are not needing emphasis, quite flat in their delivery.

I don’t mean boring!  I mean, without inflection that is for no reason.

The life in the story comes from the personality you give it.

* Here’s a technique for delivering ‘flat’ (or on the same note).

The phrase ‘by creating my own unique Valentines Day Card’ needs to be delivered as though it is one long word, without inflection on any word in particular, and with emphasis only placed on the word after that phrase, ‘online’.

The description given in the script of how to create the card is ‘instructional’ in tone.

All you’re required to do is explain, and of course because the last line is ‘How easy’s that’…it would work best if you gave the instructions in a way that says, ‘this is easy.’

Simple eh?  Well, yes, I know.  It’s simple when you know how.

So, I hope this has gone some way to helping you get past the problem of rollercoaster reading, and wondering where and how to place emphasis and inflection for any voiceover you do.

Happy voiceovering!

Abbe Holmes About Abbe Holmes
Find Your Voice As a Voice Over Actor And Artist With The Voice Over Coach. For over 30 years I've had a successful voiceover career. I work in mainstream voice over for radio and television, narration for the corporate sector, website content and documentaries, as well as characters for animation, IVR, ADR, on-hold and foreign film dubbing.

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