The 5 Most Important Qualities a Voice Can Have
If you listen for all the places you hear the disembodied voice, you’ll hear a huge range of ages, voice styles and voice types…and that’s because whatever it is you’re communicating, whether it’s an fm radio ad, an instructional DVD on retirement homes, or a government ad about road safety, the message is going out to very different groups of people, sometimes broad, sometimes specific, but always targeted to create maximum audience reach and effect.
If you listen to the best of these voice actors, you’ll hear that they really understand how to deliver the message…whatever the content…in a way that really connects with us. It leaves an impression. It calls us into action, or it entertains or empathises.
When you study these voices, you hear that they all have an ability to satisfy on several different levels. This is the magic of listening to a voice artist who understands how to use their voice to satisfy in different ways and this is what advertisers listen for when they’re looking for a new voice, or to cast a voice for a particular type of job.
Let’s talk about some of them.
The first most important quality a voice needs to have is ‘believability’. When you’re reading the script, if you believe it, we’ll get it. Believability comes from really understanding what the script is saying and then delivering the message in a way that honours the writer’s intention. A tip for creating believability, is to take your time with the message. Really look beneath the sentences, phrases and words to find the meaning. Break the sentences into parts that move from one thought or idea to the next, so that each different thought stands alone, because if you don’t understand what you’re saying…we just won’t believe it.
In advertising, the notion of a ‘voice we trust’ is a really important consideration when casting a voice, especially in matching a voice to a product (voice branding). Trust is achieved by creating a read that works through the words. It’s not actually reading at all. It’s called transparency, when it sounds like the words are truly your own…and the message comes from your genuine belief that what you are saying is true for you. A voice that we trust is a voice that speaks with conviction. When we hear that you really believe what you’re saying, we instantly trust you.
There are many ads that ask you to empathise. They will more often be for subjects or products that have an emotional content, such as for the Cancer Council, a community refuge or support organization, or whatever your local traffic accident organization is. These reads call upon you not only to understand who you’re talking to and why but to achieve a state of controlled emotion. You’re asking people for help and support. You’re not begging. There’s a fine line between being emotional and empathizing. The secret is to achieve a genuine state of emotional connection to the material and let the words do the work. Avoid deciding how to read the script. Allow yourself to be spontaneous. Don’t act, just feel! Overacting emotion on radio just sounds yukkky!
Not all scripts are written for comedian type gags. But a lot of scripts are written in such a way, that in the hands of a voice actor who understands of how to find the humour, they really stand out…and the way the experts find the humour is through really understanding what is happening to the character in the 15 or 30 second ad and what is that character’s response. Make a strong choice about a character trait or an attitude and try it on in the read. If it doesn’t work make another. Don’t forget, working in the studio is a collaboration. Making character choices and creating a voice that suits the context of the scripts can be the most fun a voice artist can have.
Some voices are naturally warm. You’ve head them, the voice of honey or the golden voices. But you don’t have to have a naturally warm voice to be able to achieve warmth in a read. Warmth is a performance choice, combined with good microphone and studio technique. Dropping your volume level is the first thing you need to do. When you do this, the voice will naturally drop into the chest, where it resonates, warmly. Warmth will also be achieved by smiling, actually smiling, actually lifting up your cheek muscles, so that the corners of your mouth turn up. If you speak through that, your voice will sound warmer. Believe me, it works!!!
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.