I get asked this question a lot as a busy voiceover artist. From my recording studio over many years I have taken time to work out what vocal work outs and techniques work for me. Today I shall break a few of them down.
Anatomy of my voice
It has taken me years of experience both as an actor, director and producer to fully understand where my voice works best and in what genre of voice over work. I have worked with voice coaches and well as singing coaches and experts to work out how to exercise my voice. I have picked up a few books and this is one I am revisiting. This is a great book about the voice and is a coherant guide.
My top voice techniques
1. Breathing - it seems obvious but we often forget to breathe fully and out slowly and deeply. This breathing training works really well and yes practice makes perfect but I love it as it allows me to reduce stress and anxiety as well as voicing long complicated e-learning paragraphs or long narrative dialogue.
2. Lip Trills - or horse lips, depending on how you prefer to call this technique. This relaxes and wakes up the lips which is how we articulate letters and words. I find them a challenge but works well to emphasise the breathe support we often here in the voice world.
3. SOVT - straw - this is a straw that you blow into either in air but I prefer in a water bottle. This helps me with a back pressure which helps strengthen my vocal cords and exercises my support. I have found that the pressure really helps with head voice and opening up my sinuses. Win win all round
Your voice is unique and amazing. It really is. It is a tool, an instrument and a way to communicate with others. And like any other instrument care needs to be applied. But what sort of care do voiceover artists need to be mindful of? Well check out my top 5 vocal care tips.
Top Five Voiceover Tips
Chatting away all day in the booth can be exhausting and I like to prepare by having a good sleep, good diet and good fun. But let's get down to it. These are my top five tips for caring for your voice.
1. Exercise - both generally corporally and then specifically your mouth, larynx and tongue. Exercising is a great way to keep in over all good shape and mental health which is why I dance, do cardio and strength classes and do daily mouth warm ups with my SOVT straw.
2. Practise - yes practise makes perfect. So whether it is an accent for an anime character or a song for an audition, make your training count and work towards your goal. It does take practise and effort and time.
3. Hydrate - talking is hard, thirsty work and spending hours in the booth or not means you will expel water vapour. Your layrnx like your monstera plant loves to keep moisture and regulate itself so keep drinking, eating lush food and enjoy your water!
4. Research - take the time to find out about what you and your voice can do and can't do. Take time to know what you like to do and want to do. There are over 20 genres of voiceover so which ones do you want to work on. Read, talk, ask questions to find out.
5. Be your best- simple as. Whether it is an audition, a chat, an email, a job in the recording studio, simply be your best. And remember that we are human and not machines so some days we will be smashing it all over the place and others, we'll be in bed watching TV. Both are fine, we need both to be who we are.
What skills do I need for voiceover work?
There are lots from acting to knowing how to edit audio. These can all be learnt from courses online or asking others for help and resources. But voice work is more than skill and talent. Being a voice actor is knowing yourself, knowing your capbilities, knowing your own voice and work. By knowing this, you know who you are and how unique your are.
And always remember to make it fun, voice jobs are great when you make that mind set change.
Let's face it, 2020 has been that buzz on the voiceover sound chain that well, none of us could figure out the source. As with every year there have been positives though very much coated so densly that it has been a struggle to unearth them all. For this final post of the year, I'm going to take a look at a few voiceover trends that I saw and what I hope for next year.
How did VoiceOver change in 2020?
I remember how we all worried about the Millenium bug about 20 years ago and how that would affect everything from banking systems to university records. This year however it was an all together different bug we all worried about. There have been many facets this year and we have all faced them with (insert your most used emotion here). Times have been hard for many industries and in particular for the creative arts. My heart has broken many times as shows either in theatres or TV have been cancelled or postponed. This year really hit hard. Many friends and colleagues lost jobs, lost survival jobs. A show I was invovled in was postponed and we hope that the show will go back on. While I could spend hours commenting on many aspects of the year instead I am going to concentrate on how I saw the voiceover world ebb and flow in the current of COVID-19.
The voiceover first quarter was strong
In the first quarter, voice over trends seemed to be following the usual pattern. Back to work and projects with industries working with their creative agencies to push forward. So far, so normal. Productions had a normal pace to them maybe even a slight swagger as we carried on as usual. I found that bookings were the same and projects and productions with longer outlooks still looked good. Voices that were popular including youthfulurban voices full of millenial promise. I particularly like the cadence and musicality of this voice and that almost throw away ending of sentances.
"We'll get back to you in a few weeks"
That was the first real inkling of change. The emails and phonecalls were starting to sound familiar with this phrase and then....Then we all went into lockdown and that was when the emails, phones, messages stopped. It was quieter than a long pause in the voiceover recording booth waiting on direction and notes, nervously looking at their copy.
Here while clients went quiet and we all scratched our heads a bit, actors and creatives went into pre-production overdrive. Many of them turned to the jolly art that is voiceover work in hopes of getting work. I took many calls from voices (new and old) looking for advice, reassurance and maybe a bit of a hug. At that point all from afar.
And then, slowly the tide turned. Clients sprung back to life as we realised this was no "two week" or "month long" break. This was now our, (pausing for dramatic effect), the new normal in unprecedented times. Yes, many of us have repeated that phrase a few times in the home studio. And now, the voices chosen were for more public announcements and they were usually male, older, with a strong air of authority. Taking their cue from Mark Strong's vocal gravitas, adverts became more about staying safe than playing. So in the UK marketplace, campaigns in times of crisis seem to go for this character of voice.
Christmas at sea
As the summer crept by, work picked up and those shelved projects were dusted off and off we went again. I found myself with a few jobs coming in, truthfully far less than the usual jobs at this time of year but still grateful that my clients were still trading. And as we heading to Christmas, jobs and copy while tinged with a safe messaging were more upbeat. The "family" of voices came into play much more with diversity being key and with advert copy trying to bring hope into things. The usual Christmas adverts focused on family and the voices I heard were wonderfully diverse. This mix I feel, will continue well into 2021.
2021 voice over artist hopes
My personal wish is that our wonderful creative industry picks up and runs with it (all from our home studios of course). Or even from a studio further afield once tier levels even out. I hope to direct more voiceover projects, ensuring copy is tight and delivered well. As ever the e-learning trends remain strong simply because more people are working from home and zooming in and out of meeting is tiring. Maybe more audio based training will mean less fatigue. I hope that diverse voices remain a key factor. And I hope that more production companies realise that need for audio as a way of connecting us all together when we still remain very much enable to connect physically.
I look forward to working with creative clients globally, with dedicated and fun voices and with copy that makes me think about things more.
“I like it. Kinda. Usually!” This is the phrase that captures the essence of attracting the millennial ear. It is one that I am hearing more and more these days. This new trend is appearing in all sorts of audio productions but mainly in commercials and corporate voiceover productions. Voiceovers by their very nature are no stranger to trends and over the decades we have seen the move from big bold advertising announcements proclaiming the benefits of a brand, product and service to the witty/sassy mood of the nineties to the sharpness of the naughties and finally now to a distracted, yeah whatever type trend. This new trend is what the most amazing Nancy Wolfson has dubbed the “Millennial Float”
Over the past year and certainly in the past month I have been in many sessions where the end client has sought something less “sales-y” – it is hard at times to decipher what clients want but suffice to say that by sales-y they are usually not wanting to impress the sales patter tone onto the audience. It also means they don’t want an announcer style voice. Now we have long been used to offering an authentic voice and the melodies and volumes that go along with that.
Millenial Voice Trends
However the trend seems to be a call for a voice that is quite flat, with little or no colour and rather “meh”. It also calls for a slight vocal fry to add to the laid back nature of this voice. I am unsure as to where it first started to trend but I am finding more and more clients asking for this laid back approach to voicing. Voiceover follows the trends and I am inferring that this is what clients feel that their target audiences (usually the young that have access to disposable income) are speaking and so identify with. i.e. the millennials – the terms refers to people born between 1981 – 1996.
A great voice actor is one that can appreciate a change in trend and voice what the client is after. Changing the intention is certainly a challenge and I have found it hard work. Why is this? After decades of studying and working, voicing with a bright pleasant and welcoming intention it becomes somehow ingrained and the norm. Now all this has to be unlearnt and the performance must reflect what is happening in the real world. The trend is to be up, but pensive and then well if you want style to it and so I am sure we will find this approach in many audio productions and voiceover recordings as we head towards 2020 and beyond.
A great voice over has the power to completely transform a video or audio book. Thanks to their speaking skills and acting talents, voiceovers are able to conjure moods, evoke sadness or happy memories, bring characters to life and capture the audience in an almost spellbinding way.
There are no limits for voiceovers with unique gifts, and with so many types of VO work to choose from in this industry you won’t fail to find a genre you don’t enjoy. So do you have voice over talent that’s worth celebrating? Keep reading to see if you have what it takes.
Here I’ve put together a list of qualities every great voice over artist should have to succeed in the industry.
A good narrator or storyteller must be able to capture the audience. To do this, you have to enjoy speaking confidently and letting your creative side run wild. It will be obvious to the audience if the narrator is not enjoying themselves because what they are listening to will come across a little lifeless.
Great voice overs can hold the audience under a spell, taking them on an emotional journey through the highs and lows of the tale. This is where the VO’s creative side comes out too. You should be able to capture the essence of every character by adding your own inflections to the way that they speak. If you are unable to imagine what a character may sound like, then you will struggle to bring that character to life.
2. Good articulation
There is a fine art to articulating a script perfectly. If a VO under-articulates their words they can sound tired and the performance may appear quite dull. On the other hand, over-articulation of words can sound unnatural, over-rehearsed and generally not believable.
Good narration calls for finding a balance between the two and adapting the style to suit the script. After all, a character in an audiobook may not require the same articulation as the voice over for an instructional corporate video.
Much like an actor who rehearses their lines for a play, a professional VO will spend time reading and re-reading their script to ensure they understand what is required of them and what sounds best to fit the story.
3. Intuitive pacing
A good voice actor knows how to pace the dialogue to suit the script. For example, they may use subtle pauses for added realism, or they may speed up the dialogue for intense action scenes.
In an audio book little pauses and breaths can add a human touch to the character, or perhaps extra intensity to a descriptive scene. Alternatively, in a corporate video for instance, the steady speed and slight pauses give the listener time to take in what they have just heard.
A natural pacing ability can help the VOA immerse their audience in the story while making the characters sound more realistic. A VO that has this talent will know the best times to use these pauses and will know not to over do it. The listener should never be aware of these subtle stops because it should sound natural and be in keeping with the pace.
4. Knowing the best time to use an accent
Firstly, it’s not necessary for VO’s to have 20 different accents in their repertoire, but it can help if you can deliver 2-3 different believable accents when required. But again, this isn’t essential because everyone has an accent of his or her own.
Good voice actors know when a character or voice over role is suited to them and have the ability to take their accent out of the narration and deliver a more neutral diction when required.
Some voice over work, such as audio book and film narration, can take several days to complete. One of the pressures voice actors have to work with is fatigue or waning concentration, and how this can take its toll on the actor’s voice.
Being able to provide consistent voice over throughout an entire book or film is a much-admired quality of a VOA. Try listening to a recording of yourself reading a book out loud from cover to cover to see if you have the stamina to produce a consistent performance.
Do you have what it takes?
If you have the above qualities and enjoy bringing characters to life through speech, or you particularly enjoy acting and reading aloud, then voice-over work may be for you.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many different styles of voice acting and productions to get into. If you are interested in creating voice over work, but don’t know which area is right for you, then here are a few ways to try and find your own sound.
1. Practice—Read out loud and then read out loud some more. You can never practice too much. Find your favourite books and perform them as if you were producing an audio book. If there are characters, think about their identity and how they might sound. Have a go at creating accents for them and what the pace of their dialogue might be.
2. Listen—If you’re interested in this industry then you may already be aware of the amount of voice-over work we here on a daily basis. If not, pay close attention to adverts and online videos and listen to the voice over to get a better idea of how they sound. Listen to the pacing, the articulation and subtle nuances. Click for some of my examples
3. Record—If you are keen to get into the industry, it may be worth investing in some quality recording equipment. These days, quality recording equipment is readily available at affordable prices. Start with the basic equipment and practice recording various productions, whether its explainer videos or audio books, then play them back to see how you sound.