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  1. Voiceover is about talking to people isn’t it? Yes but also its it so much more than that. Have you wondered about how a voice sounds and I mean more than just the actual sound you hear but the feelings and intentions behind it. To be a great voiceover how do you convey more than the feeling, impart more than a connection, leave the audience with an experience?

     

    Voiceover Microphone Live

    Simply put learn to listen. Listen to conversations and communications because then you will learn the language hidden within the words. It is easy to do as you can do this on the bus listening to people chatting. From the school children having a chat about what games they played the night before to the early morning shoppers having a gossip, the words are a base level but it is the silence, the pauses, the feelings that underlay each word and phrase that can tell you much more. So how do you listen:

     

    1. Be present: thought this was a mindfulness technique? It is but can be applied here. Breathe, open your ears and mind and listen to the words, the audio patterns, the musicality, the emotions behind the conversations.
    2. Relax: By taking a moment and relaxing, you will feel the intentions carried by words. How many times have you seen from afar a chat that looks loving and interesting only to come up close and hear a full scale argument taking place? Well what did you hear both visually and verbally. Relaxing will enable you to hear and see much more. The language behind the language. 
    3. Listen: Without judgement. You are there to listen to the tones, pitches and musicality and not about who didn’t send an email to what boss on time or not. What are they really saying behind the words? As a voiceover listening will enable you to unpick what makes things stick in peoples heads and what intentions they need to feel connected to in your words so that you can actually speak to them, reaching them. 

     

    And what can you listen to? Everything. The news, adverts, chats waiting in line for your Christmas Black Forest Coffee, the quick noisy chats on the tube or train or anywhere. How we as humans talk to each other is the language that voiceovers need to figure out so that when they voice they can appreciate where to do with the feelings and intentions that layer the words in your next copy. From the simplest collection of words to a full book to voice, the words will have been chosen with an action in mind and as the voice, your role is to deliver your interpretation of those ideas and concepts vocally. Keep listening to keep voicing.

  2. This is a topic that I can talk endlessly about which is just as well my clients provide me with a script as otherwise there would be a lot more to edit. Though the good thing is that I always ensure I take big breathes so the engineer has an easier time editing. Why is knowing what to eat important for a voice actor? I could launch into many nutritional benefits of eating a well balanced diet and eating appropriate portion sizes for your activity levels and lifestyle but that would be a script for another day so instead I will focus on the sound issues surrounding various foods. 

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    In general life is a buffet and go ahead and snack on what you like and what you feel you need. However in a run up to a voice session then be aware of how certain foods and drinks can take a toll on your voice. Here is a list of foods and drinks that have an effect on your vocalisation abilities.

    1. Tea/Coffee - any thing made form caffeine has a drying and diuretic effect which means that you will either need to rush to the toilet or just dry up vocally. Award yourself one of these beauties after a session.
    2. Milk/cream/cheese - Refrain from any dairy consumption the night before a session and on the day itself. Dairy and lactose tends to lead to an increase in phlegm and this build up can clog up those cords leading to more coughing, catching of your voice in those cords and even building it up in your nasal passages where you get that delightful nose trumpet on certain words. Trust me the engineer will remember the voice who took milk in their tea before the session and will be recording a fair few takes more than necessary to avoid that particular issue. Oh and that engineer will usually be me so just saying. 
    3. Crisps - this one is an odd one. Eating them and their yummy greasiness (gosh salt and vinegar McCoys right?!? Bliss) can in many cases cause a whole bunch of mouth noises. What are those? These noises are those icky sounds that are sticky and if in a middle of a word really stand out and are very annyoing. However I have heard in some cases that it can help against those as it gives a covering to the cords and mouth allowing them to carry on. I have heard that opera singers eat crisps for their oilyness. Maybe then it could be the salt having a dehydrating effect in the mouth. Trail and error in this case and knowing your mouth well. 
    4. Apples/Pineapple/kiwis - or anything that causes your mouth to water or simulate those glands. Again to voice mouth noises so apples often help clear that by it seems by making the mouth overflow with saliva which may be. good thing in many cases. Not with all people though so again, try this out and see what works for you. Some say bananas, others apples, others pears. Go on and choose your own fruit salad combo. 
    5. Chocolate - now goodness, chocolate is one of lifes little pleasures. I personally prefer dark chocolate and mostly with some fruit filling but hey, I still mentally live in the 80's advertising world at times and I still see sandy landscapes with random chocolate dotted about. Ahhh very much a different time indeed. So back to chocolate. Again as at times it can have a lot of diary/sugar it can be a little cloying and give you a little too much dry throat or phlegm. Again like that tea, save it for afterwards. 

    There we go, a few things to think about when you eat for a session. Enjoy things obviously but think about it when you have a session. Now, where is that Nutella filled croissant and milky coffee waiting for me? Yum. 

    After session voiceover food

  3. Like most things in life, each voiceover booth or  recording studio is very different. Some are big and plush with several fans, tables, lights and room to manoeuvre in. Others are squashed dark, cramped and hard to even place the script in a good eye line of the microphone and you. Like scripts, booths come in all shapes and sizes but there is always one constant. They all share one need. The avoidance of all extraneous noise. I will write about a more studio specification aspect from a visiting voice point of view but for now this post is covering how you can avoid being the cause of that noise.

    Reducing any other noise other than your own voice can be hard. The technicians and mass reduce a lot of noise though I have been in some super plush fancy studios with walls thicker than most game back story bibles and we still have to stop and wait for the tube to shuffle past under our feet. Many many meters under our feet. But what else can cause noise? Clothes! 

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    What you wear is highly important in the booth. The recording studio is a workplace and like all workplace cultures there are unwritten rules. So I have written them so you can see what you need to consider when in the booth. 

    1. Clothes - yes please wear some unless you are either in a naturist booth (never encountered that) or it is your own time and studio and you are happy to enjoy recording au natural. In extreme hot weather many voice over artists are apt to employ this clothing custom. 
    2. What type of clothes - please avoid any clothes that cause squeaks or general noise. That leather jacket you imagine yourself as Tom Cruise in…leave it off or outside. That amazing jumper that ripples with static electricity whenever you reach out for your glass of water? Take that off. That off the shoulder top that has its own grating fabric sound whenever you air your armpits? Take it off. Wait but it might get cold. See point number 4. 
    3. Shoes - Well the more the merrier. Or rather, think about your shoes and if they squeak when you walk or move in them. Are you more comfortable in trainers/boots/flip flops etc? Maybe going barefoot is easier for you. Maybe having warm feet helps you to be grounded. Whatever your shoe choice, ensure that you feel good wearing them. 
    4. Scarves - I am a big fan of a wrap, shawl or scarf. Many studios can be quite cool to start with and keeping warm especially during long form narration. Then as with layers, scaves can be added or subtracted as and when you need them. I love a silk scarf as it keeps me warm and clever tight wrapping ensures it doesn’t brush agains the cans or come loose and drape over me or the micripphone. 
    5. Jewllery - Who doesn’t love a bit of Pat Butcher bling? But in the booth any dangling accessories are a no no. Even rings can jangle together as you waft your hand conducting your own voice so take note and keep jewellery to a minium. You can always take it off and pop it back on after the session and head into Soho for a well deserved drink. 
    6. Hair - hair up or down? I really depends on how you feel and like to work but there is also an important consideration. Where will you put your cans? A high top knot bun is all very well but it could mean you moving your cans head band to work around it. Same with a high or low ponytail. I personally favour a mid pony tail held in place with a scrunch (yes yes the 80s part of me will never die away). 

    Whatever your look, ensure that you are able to loosen your body and feel the words. As your physicality informs your voice and vice versa then wear what you prefer but take note of how that will work in the recording studio. Wear, work, witter on. 

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  4. “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” 

    Lorraine Ansell Voice over Artist

    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.

    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.

    Voice recording in progress

  5. I love this question. Lots of people ask me this question and I ask them “What do you mean?” Other than answering a question with a question (which amuses me), I do so to ensure I have got the right end of the stick. In the majority of cases what the question setter is actually asking is what more skills or techniques should they learn, develop, try their hand at. And as a rather chatty voice actor (well you know that already about me) I usually launch into a long and varied often tangential discussion about how as an actor it is your life, duty and responsibility to in fact do everything. However this is hardly what the person expects to hear but rather I have realised that I can simply break this right down to the nuts and bolts of what turns a voice into a VOICE. I stand by the whole “everything” concept though but perhaps it is too vague so a longer answer follows. Keep up!

     Recording in studio

    The simpler answer is that an actor is a watcher and a channeller. This is one of my favourite games to play. I watch people and I always have done. I love watching how they dress, walk and talk and then playing a mini mastermind challenge with myself about who they are. What do they like to watch? Do they drink tea or coffee? Black/white/lemon/sugar or a smoothie in the morning? Do they have a pet? Are they a dog/cat/nothing person? Where do they buy their groceries from? And from those simple questions I enjoy delving into harder questions such as do they enjoy their job? If they could be anything what would that be? How has their heart been broken? What has been their greatest joy? I imagine how their voice would sound like from all of my deductions. Call me Shirley Holmes as it really is observation at the highest order. Then I file this person away into my mental character palace (I have palaces in various locations much like the filing system in Jurassic Park only mentally and with much fluffier dinosaurs). There they sit, awaiting their turn like much loved and cared for old toys. They come out as and when I decide and then I channel. I put them on as you would a coat and I become them right down to the way they breathe, blink and bark (metaphorically obviously). They they come alive and take flight, lifting the copy off the sheet or screen when they/me speak and talk for them, with them. The guiding question for this is how - how would this character read this and for whom? 

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    Another simplest answer is to experience life. “Do what makes you happy” is a great phrase for this. I feel that to deliver the best lines that are authentic to the role and character and the content experiencing many things will develop you as a person. What do you enjoy most? Apart from working on audio projects and speaking on panels as well as voicing, I love dance, music, photography, art, food, travel and pets. Sound a tad like a dating profile list but in essence this is more a life profile list. I adore all forms of dance and have tried my hand at many of them. I get to them watch and explore other characters in areas I would never have considered. I love slinking off to a museum or two such as the Tate Modern and losing myself in colour and finding myself in different worlds. Taking such flights of fancy enable me to reach new places that always help my roles when I record in the booth. Food is such a gift as well and having lived in several countries I always wonder how food can be such a cultural thing and can be such a character influencer. I ask all of these questions as I wonder around this world simply to become better, to learn and grow and be. Being a voice is a wonderful thing and whether its a character in an audio drama or video game or talking to patients for medical videos, each and every experience enriches my performance. What does a voiceover artist become? They become everything! 

  6. A lot of voiceover success is about the audition. This means recording samples or demos for clients. As clients can make a selection from a demo being pitch perfect is important here. For any actor or voice talent the audition and commitment and professionalism towards it is just as important if not more than the actual job. 

    This has been revealed to me more so this past December on two separate occasions. In December 2018 I was chatting with a producer friend and they sent me an audition as a voice had dropped out from the production. As soon as I got the script I read it all the way through, I couldn’t put it down. The story and narrative had gripped me and I saw in my head how the characters had come to life. I loved the character I was asked to play. However it was totally against my acting type. I love a challenge but voicing a character that was very much the opposite of my voice was a stretch. However, within 24 hours I had sent my audition back. I had even ad-libbed a bit and adding some extra shade and light to the character. I told the producer it was against my type but I loved the character but knew that it was their choice. They loved it. So far so good. 

    Recording Studio 

    They promised to let me know a week later. The week went by and then they sent me an email. They couldn’t let me know because mine was the only audition that they received. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Many of my voice talent colleagues ask about jobs and auditions and how to get them etc. However despite passing on a few auditions the result seems to be the same. Hardly anyone submits the auditions. You can’t be part of the game if you don't even step up to play. 

     

    So while my slightly confused producer could give me the role, the fun part of the game is that everyone takes part, an open goal is interesting but hardly a challenge. And also do you not want to take part in this after all those conversations and networking? It seems that no, not everyone does. Voice work takes hard work and yes talent is needed but also professionalism and wanting to do the job. If you don't even submit the audition then you can’t even be considered for a juicy acting role. 

     Another story I heard was that a voice was asked to submit an audition to a long form narration. They submitted poor audio quality and asked to submit again. This time another audio issue came to light. The producers were confused as they wanted to work with this voice and had heard their work so were eager to start a project with them. But the audio was unusable so sadly that voice wasn’t taken on. Lesson here is to really pay attention. Please take time to listen to your audio, play it back and see if that works and follows the audio guidelines for each client. 

    In fact, the whole point is to acknowledge and accept that the audition is the job and the job is the sparkly cherry on an amazing cake that is you!

     

  7. After so many years working in the creative fields there are a few things that always jump out to me, marking out a good voiceover to a great voiceover. Having created copy, voiced a fair few audio projects, directed voices with context and recorded them and engineered their sessions I have seen first hand what makes a great voice talent. With almost two decades of experience, I've heard a thing or two. And all it takes is one word.

    In fact, this simple word, elevates something ok to something sublime. There are many skills to develop as a voiceover. Acting, accounting, marketing are among a looooong list. These and many more will help you develop as a talent, develop you as a person and help with you being you. After all that is what a client wants, you, your voice, your take, your version. 

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    But there is something else that takes you from ok to great. What is it? What exactly is that magical word? Intention.

    I record many voices and the ones that really and truly stand out to me are those that understand intention and carry through with authenticity. They are channeling the intention of the words, their meaning, the brand/product or service. But what does that actually mean? It means to take a step back, really read the words and understand the subtleties at play behind them. No copy is ever written just to pad space, especially if it is for advertising. Even three simple words will have been thought about and as if captured from the air and pinned to paper, they will have been chosen on purpose. Many words and combinations of them may have been grasped, proposed and mulled over but despite this, the words on the page in front of you are the winning words.

    And as that is the case, what do you do about that? You read and become cognisant about what they mean. Then make clear your intention for those words. Make that intention clear and authentic. Are the words relaxed for a relaxed read? Then the intent you have is to be relaxed. Are the words witty or playful or wry? Then the intention will reflect that. Of course there are times when you can Volte face and do the opposite but that in itself is an intention. Figure out what the intention is or ask if you have people present and commit to that intention. 

    By committing to that intention, you also commit to an authenticity. Being truthful to the words and giving them the power of authenticity means that the audience hears that. The power it creates for the brand or product you are voicing then takes the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. To become a voice is easy, to excel requires effort, passion and intention. Time to talk with intention. 

     

    Lorraine Ansell Voiceovers