Understanding how to find the right voice for whatever voice over script you’re handed is essential for a successful voice over career.
But the most important thing to remember when you’re on your way to discovering this, is that different scripts require different things of you.
Every script has a purpose, a meaning, and an intended audience.
I’ve written often about the processes of working out what all that means, before you make any decisions about what kind of voice you’ll use.
- Sometimes the script is written in a conversational tone and you need to sound like you’re talking to a friend.
- At other times the script is asking you to jump into someone else’s shoes and tell their story. I call this a character script – it doesn’t necessarily require a ‘character’ voice (just you in a different environment), or
- The script could be heavily stylised in the way it uses language. It’s either a few random lines that point to the concept of the script, or it’s poetic, or it’s written very formally. No matter what, it’s usually completely different to the way we use language in our every day.
No matter what the style of script, they all require you to find a voice style that works.
But ‘herein lies the rub’ – before you make any decision about the voice, you need to have worked out a whole lot of stuff about the script.
Voice over is not just about your voice!
If you make it about your voice, you’re in danger of missing the most important reason for being a voice over actor – and that is…
You’re delivering a message on behalf of an advertiser.
If you make it about your voice, you’re also in danger of sounding inauthentic.
Whatever way you use your voice, it needs to be true to you and to who you are – even though the voice may not sound exactly like you.
I’ve coached people whose speaking voice is natural, engaging and full of personality…but when I give them a voice over script, they jump into a voice-overy style of something random that bears little or no resemblance to who they are, authentically.
What they’re dishing up is an ‘idea’ of what voice over is.
If you work like this today, when a more natural, conversational, ‘real’ style is required, you’ll just be thought of as passé.
Creating voice over persona’s, for some voice over actors, is the key to carving out a career.
So, here are some things you might find useful when you’re either preparing an audition (or submission) or are at the studio looking at your script for the first time.
Before you decided on what you’ll sound like, make all the decisions about the purpose of, and meaning in the script:
- Where do you first see the product name?
- What’s the concept of the script or what’s the central message? *Often the central message can be found in one line or phrase.
- Where are the key words that are about the message?
- Where is there repetition, either of the same ‘word’ or idea? *You need to work out how to use the right inflection for words that are repeated, so that they work rhythmically in the overall story.
Now it’s the right time to work with the script, with ‘what voice’ in mind.
If you’ve done the work on all the above elements, the right voice should come pretty easily.
You’ll still need to experiment and try slightly different shades of that voice.
One of the wonderful aspects of voice over is that it’s so spontaneous. Remember not to fix an idea of ‘how’ you’re going to perform the script.
Allow yourself to be flexible, changeable and be ready to throw out every idea you’ve had – to try something completely different.
Let’s look at some technical aspects you might like to consider – they’re all about ‘how’ you’ll use your chosen voice.
Volume is a key aspect in voice over.
*Tip: Digital hates loud voices!
You need to find a volume that works, not just with digital recording, but for the style of message.
Experiment with volume and really listen to how changes in volume alter where the voice is placed in the body.
When you’re young, especially female, your voice is more often placed in your head.
Lowering your volume will place your voice in your chest – this is where the resonant voice lives.
For reads that require warmth, sincerity, gravitas or trust, try to drop your volume…to find that resonant voice, but keep your energy and intention strong.
Practice this one – it takes time to perfect.
It’s all about really listening to what you’re doing and analysing what works and what doesn’t.
Pace is an essential element in all voice over reads.
Sometimes, the script is overwritten, so pace is…well, fast!
However, all scripts are a series of messages, where some parts of the language are more important than others.
If it’s important, take your time.
However, if the language doesn’t mention any words that are about the subject of the ad – and you can see that it’s just there to get you to the important stuff, put a bit of pace on those phrases or parts of the sentence.
Then the words or phrases that you’ve taken your tint through will stand out.
Making the right decision about whether to include emotion in any part of the script takes skill.
First, you need to find words or phrases that are evocative emotionally.
Here’s an example from a script I have – it’s for a bank.
The opening line reads in part…”If you’re feeling anxious about finding the right home loan…” The word anxious, and only that word, conjures emotion.
If I find a word or a phrase in a script that does this, I will always find a way (or ways) to deliver the word that connects the problem the ad is addressing, to the emotional state of the intended audience.
That is they’re feeling anxious about making the right choice for their home loan.
Want to build a successful voice over career? Find the voice that fits the script and delivers the message successfully to the listening audience!
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.