VoiceOver Techniques For Success: How to use Volume to Create Versatility
In life, we communicate using different levels of volume all the time.
- project our voice across the room to get someone’s attention,
- captivate a table of friends at a dinner party with a story,
- converse above background noise to be heard, and
- talk at an intimate level with a friend or partner.
Each time we use our voice in a different situation, we’re using techniques that come completely naturally to us.
Most of the time, we don’t even analyse what we’re doing or how we’re using our voice.
But the reality is, you can use the very same techniques when you’re working in voiceover!
In voiceover the big difference is that you’re in a booth, in front of a microphone.
You’re delivering a message, or a story, through written word, on behalf of an advertiser or client.
To take the things we do naturally with our voice, and apply them to voiceover required some analyses and a great deal of imagination.
I get demos and voice samples sent to me all the time, and there’s one common mistake those new to the game are making.
The reads all sound too much alike!
The reason they all sound the same or too similar, is that the reads are delivered at the same pace, using the same rhythms and the same volume.
Using samples like this to demo your work just tells the listener that you:
- don’t have a great knowledge of the technical aspects of voiceover, or
- that you’re not very versatile.
Versatility is crucially important in voice acting.
Despite what you may think, you don’t need to rely on accents or character voices to create versatility.
You can actually achieve a demo that makes you sounds versatile by simply varying your volume.
In some cases, you can sound like a completely different person!
Imagine being known as a voice actor who can deliver variety and show versatility?
If you know voice actors who are already described this way, you’ll know that they are always booking work.
I want to look at the variety of ways this can be achieved.
Firstly, the choices you make about volume, pitch, and tone is absolutely about the script.
All the clues will be in the words on the page, or the specs (or brief) supplied by the client.
And of course, your job is to take those words and make them connect with the listening audience.
The key word here is ‘audience’. When you first look at your script you must be clear who your audience is:
- is it a large or small audience,
- is it one single person, or
- is your audience captive – that is, they need to watch a screen as they listen to a voice.
A captive audience is often just watching a computer screen, so the volume you would use is definitely in the more intimate area.
For material such as this to work, use the same volume you would if you were talking directly to a friend.
What if your audience half-listening? Where are they hearing the material? Is it via radio, TV, internet, or in-store?
Knowing the medium that work is to be played on, is important, not just for invoicing, it’s important for understanding how to position yourself in terms of volume.
Here are some techniques to create voiceover magic with your next script.
Sometimes, you’ll hear ads on air that are very ‘energised’.
The reader is making whatever the story is, sound compelling and exciting!
This is still a very common way of attracting the ear of the market but if you listen to many of these very ‘energised’ reads, you’ll notice that it’s not volume that’s high.
The voice actor uses what I call ‘contained excitement’, where the volume is actually pulled back but the person reading is bursting with excitement.
The digital medium doesn’t like ‘loud’ and often you need to experiment a little to find just the right level.
Practice using different levels of volume, from feeling as though the read is coming from your head (or throat) to a read that you feel is being delivered from your chest voice.
Then experiment with varying your volume in each of these positions – really listen to how volume is changing the way your voice actually sounds.
Environment will change the way you use volume, so when you look at the script, if you’re in a kitchen, or a bar or a store, or outside at the park, this will affect your volume level. Imagination really comes into this one.
If you’re in a kitchen talking to a friend about a new brand of milk, you’ll need very little volume – I’d call this ‘intimate’ level.
Sometimes all you need do is imagine you’re just talking to an ear.
If your script requires you to be talking with a friend in a bar about needing to solve a business problem, your projection may be a little louder, as though you need to rise above some background noise.
If you’re reading a stylised, rather poetic read for a new line of fragrance, then your volume may be just above a whisper.
When you work close to the microphone, and hardly use any volume, you’ll notice that you’ll be using your chest voice. This is where your resonant voices sits and sometimes working like this can create a beautiful, warm vocal sound.
Using just these three different ways to apply different volume to a script will give you three distinctly different reads.
Voiceover takes practice and experimentation. The more familiar you are with all the technical aspects and possibilities of how to use volume in your reads, the more versatile you’ll sound.
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.