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Voice Acting Techniques The Pros Use

15 July

Ever wondered how to perfect your Voice Over reads?

Here are two little rules for the voice actor that make all the difference!

The Voice Over pro’s all do it brilliantly – and that’s what makes them pro’s.

Know what they do?

They understand how to convert written word into spoken word and make it sound completely natural.

So, I want to talk about a couple of ways the unwary can fall into traps that can make them sound unnatural.

First:  The Glottal Stop

Singers understand this one.  It’s when the last letter of one word is the same as the next word.  The problem only occurs with consonants.

When you look at the line and ‘read’ it for the first time, you may not even notice it.

But as soon as you ‘speak’ the line, in order to pronounce both letters, you need to ‘stop’.

(There was one in that previous para – did you spot it?)

However, there are two ways of handling this quirk in spoken word.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

This first one is from a McDonalds ad: 

 

“Tender chicken with pesto mayo in a soft tortilla wrap. “

 

Okay, so it’s soft and tortilla – read the line now and pronounce both ‘t’s’.

Clunky eh?

This is a really simple one to remedy.

Firstly, in order to make this line work, and add the required enjoyment of the food you’re describing, you need to read it like it’s one long word, without pausing.

Pausing after any of the words or phrases in a sentence such as this, just won’t work rhythmically – and as a voice actor, you are always trying to find the rhythm in the script.

The solution is to remove one of the ‘t’s’, probably the first one. Just put a line through it.

Now read it aloud again.

The listener hears the words soft and the tortilla but you’re able to deliver the visual description in a much more engaging way by simply ‘not’ stopping to pronounce the second consonant.

 

The next one is from a radio track for a support organisation, and could be handled in two ways.

It’s just a matter of working with the producer or engineer to find out which works best.

 

“No one likes being in hospital.  For kids it can be really traumatic.  So TLC has introduced Distraction Boxes.“

 

Okay, so this one is ‘introduced Distraction’. We can either delete the ‘d’ from introduced, or we can pause after introduced and put the emphasis on ‘Distraction Boxes’.

The reason we might choose to handle this differently is that ‘Distraction Boxes’ is the name of the ‘product’, and we need to somehow make that name stand out – drawing attention to it by separating it from any other words or phrases, is one way to make a word or phrase stand out..

Try reading it both ways, to see which feels more comfortable and natural, and also allows the listener to connect with the meaning.

 

Next:  The ‘the/thee’ rule

You may not have even thought of this one, because you may get this right automatically!

When it sounds right, you don’t notice – but when it’s wrong, it’s very wrong.

The rule is this:  Whenever the word ‘the’ preceeds a word beginning with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) it’s a long thee.  As in thee apple!

Whenever it precedes a word beginning with a consonant, it’s short, ‘the’ – as in, ‘the book’.

Try saying the short way for the vowel, ‘the apple’.  Yes, ugly!

Now trying saying the long way for the consonant, ‘thee book’.  Yikes, just wrong!

If you have a problem with you the’s and thee’s, just make sure you mark the ‘the’ words in your script to remind you.

Whenever you’re looking at a script for the first time (and there’s that glottal stop example again) you need to get the words off the page, as soon as you can.

You need to really listen to what you’re saying and imagine who’s listening – will the meaning in your message reach them?

 

Voice over is all about how you use parts of language:

  • where you pause,
  • where and how you string words together,
  • where you place emphasis and of course,
  • where the meaning is.

 

Remember, in voice over, the language of communication isn’t about reading a bunch of individual. 

It’s about understanding that groups of words, or phrases, carry a particular meaning.

It’s your job as a voice actor to convey the meaning in the message by understanding as much as you can about language.

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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2 Responses to “Voice Acting Techniques The Pros Use”

  1. J. Christopher Dunn August 16, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    I love this Abbe! The two tips in this post come automatically with time but are sure super important to know when first starting out. The/Thee was a focus point with my VO coach. Thanks for sharing!

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