Tips For Voiceover Actors
How to get skilled up!
Okay, first things first…let’s begin by busting the myth.
Voiceover is not actually about your voice!
“What? “ I hear you say, “What’s she talking about?”
It’s true! Voiceover is about a whole list of other considerations before you even begin to think about how you’re going to use your ‘disembodied’ voice in the read.
Before I go through those considerations, let’s talk for a moment about what the disembodied voice is.
It’s your voice, without your facial expressions or body language.
When we’re in conversation with others, we express ourselves with the help of that body language.
Body language imparts meaning – it says what the words don’t. It’s a visual language.
When it’s only your voice, you need to create a meaning (or a visual) by varying the way you use your voice.
These variations help you to deliver the language that’s on the page, off the page.
And that’s where the fun begins!
So, if you’re one of those people who’s:
- Been told by others that you have a great voice and you should be doing something with it, or
- You’ve always loved doing character voices, or
- You’re a performer who wants to add voiceover to your skills base and you’ve followed a thread towards voiceover, or
- You’re already working in voiceover but just can’t seem to crack those big paying jobs and you have a feeling your auditions might suck,
…then you need to become well-versed in what the skills and techniques are.
So let’s look at two crucial skills you’ll need to have working for you, before you begin to build your voiceover career.
1. Have a Clear, Easy to Listen to Voice
It’s not necessary to have amazing pipes, a voice of honey or a distinctly beautiful voice to get work as a voice over artist.
Sometimes I work with those who have a rather unremarkable voice, but they just seem to know how to apply it to each different script and create something memorable.
However, it is important that your voice is clear and easy to listen to.
The digital medium picks up every little nuance of voice, so it needs to be crisp and clean, no matter what kind of voice.
It’s also important that you understand how musicality and rhythm comes into play in voiceover, so when you’re handed a script you can put a unique spin on what’s required.
These days, advertising agents, recording studios and voiceover agents are looking for new voices and voice types all the time.
They either want:
- Very distinctive or unusual voices.
- Natural, girl and boy next door voices
- Engaging voices that sound real and believable, and
- Voice Actors who can create something uniquely different.
No matter what your voice type is, you need to understand that voiceover is more about interpreting the script than it is about what a great voice you have.
2. Understand the Skill of Being a Great Sight Reader
To be a successful voiceover artist, you must be able to pick up any text and read it clearly.
You’ll seldom get scripts before the recording session, so you need to be confident enough with your sight-reading and comprehension skills to read through a script and understand pretty quickly what it all means.
Don’t forget – what you’re doing is converting someone else’s ‘written word’ into ‘spoken word’, and have the listener believe those words are your own.
You might think that sounds simple enough – but it’s not!
Sentence structure and rhythms are often very different from one person to the next, so we need to understand what’s being said and what the purpose is.
The script isn’t just a bunch of words cobbled together that you now have to read nicely.
Lots of people read ‘well’ but to be a great voiceover artist, you need to learn the art of reading ‘masterfully’.
Essentially, a script is a series of thoughts and ideas, that each contain separate and different meanings.
A great voice actor knows how to give each of those parts of language, a separate and distinct meaning that allows the listener to hear the intended message.
These days, producers, directors and engineers will often ask you to read in a conversational manner.
That’s all good, but here’s the thing – it’s an ad! It’s written to mimic conversation but it’s not conversation.
You need to understand how to approach the script in a way that:
- connects with,
- and then convinces the listener to do what the advertiser wants them to do.
This is the wonderful game of seduction and manipulation that advertising loves so much.
If you already have the skill of reading a script, and making the words sound like they are your own, then you’re half-way to having a career as a voiceover artist.
If you believe your sight-reading skills are not up to scratch, then start reading out loud and as often as you can:
- articles, and
- magazine ads.
As you read out loud, really focus on what you’re doing and what you’re saying.
Listen to yourself, as you speak – this is a really important skill in voiceover.
At any given time you need to know where you are in the text, where you’ve been, and therefore, where you’re headed.
Ask yourself, ‘If I was listening to this, would I understand what I was hearing?’
Sight-reading isn’t the only skill you need though! There are so many different styles of scripts, often with language that’s heavily stylised and far from naturalistic or conversational in its structure.
To create great reads and book voiceover work, you need to understand how to:
- recognise the different script styles, and
- how to craft a read that both honors the intention of the writer, and the needs of the advertiser.
Voiceover is a skill. Those who make a good living at it, are those who know that every script needs its own particular considerations, based on the advertisers needs and the intended audience.
As you research and practice, pay attention to what others are doing – see if you can hear and understand the framework of their reads.
As you practice putting your own unique spin on it, you’ll be on your way to making the grade.
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.