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Saturday, August 03, 2013

It Pays to Act Naturally in Voice Overs

Many newcomers to voice overs wrongly assume that reading a script means 'putting on a voice'. They often shy away from using their own natural voice, preferring to hide behind an imitation of what they think they should sound like. So why is it so important to be yourself?

A few years ago when I first started coaching beginners, I trained a guy who seemed to have two completely different voices. When I first met him, I was struck by his friendly northern English accent. He sounded down to earth and friendly; his Lancashire tones were rich and reassuring.

But as soon as he got behind the microphone everything changed. His voice suddenly became a cliche of 'voice over man', all cheese and mid-Atlantic; it was less Skelmersdale and more Sacramento. What was going on?

Behind the Mask

In a nutshell, he had a misconception about what voice overs are all about. He was wrong. They have nothing to do with impersonations or mimicry; they have everything to do with owning words and bringing them to life in a genuine way. 

When you perform a voice over it is essential you sound convincing; do not disguise your voice or hide behind a different accent. Clients want to hear YOU reading THEIR words. You have to sound credible and sincere, otherwise the voice over will not work. 

I had a similar experience just the other day when one of my current students was worried that her voice did not sound distinctive enough. She too decided to record a demo with a silly voice (probably to try and sound 'different') and as you might imagine it came across as unconvincing.

The best way to be different is to be yourself.

Stop Acting,  Start Talking

Often there is a membrane of self-consciousness we all need to break through. Even actors find 'acting naturally' difficult or uncomfortable. They can easily sound like Falstaff, Lady Bracknell or a soap character, but ask them to be themselves whilst reading a script and suddenly it becomes a scary prospect.

Do not camouflage your real voice. If you have an accent, let it shine through. Above all learn to become well acquainted with your voice and (dare I say it) love the way it sounds - it is after all an occupational hazard in our business. It is part of who you are. Clients hire voices because of the way they sound (not because they want the voice talent to sound like someone else).  They will hear in your voice something you perhaps do not, or maybe something you are not even aware of.

Whatever script you are reading make it sound like you are talking to one person, and that applies even if it is a commercial. You are not announcing, but chatting to your listener who is standing next to you. 

Above all be yourself - the voice you possess is your greatest asset, it is part of what makes you unique. 

Gary Terzza teaches his clients how to get voice over work and
welcomes new applicants. Email for more details about his VoMasterClass.

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