Same instrument, different way of using it! Learn how to go from singing to speaking.
This morning, I had a meeting with John Nolan from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at UWO for the faculty’s alumni publication, Ensemble. We talked about music and Voices.com, but also got into a very interesting discussion about how singers can cross-over to voice acting and performing voice-overs.
Many voice talent start their careers in music, particularly as classically trained singers. During tireless years of training a voice for singing, a bounty of skills are developed including vocal stamina, projection, breathing capabilities, phrasing, tone, inflection, elasticity, rhythm, sight-reading, posture, diction, interpretation, and characterization.
The voice is an instrument, just like a flute, a guitar, or a drum – however, the voice is a very special instrument, for reasons I’ll now reveal.
The most dramatic difference between the voice and other instruments from the string, brass, woodwind, and percussion families is that the voice is able to communicate using speech, that is to say, language. Whether it be a vocalise sung on vowels, an oratorio by Handel, a wordy patter song by Gilbert and Sullivan, or a pop medley, language is incorporated into the piece, something which even the most convincing instrumental performance cannot convey.
The written word is at the very core of a song composed for a vocalist just as copy is at the core of a script written for voice-over talent. The voice is also organic, that is to say, your voice is a living, breathing instrument, able to phonate (utter speech sounds) as well as function melodically like an instrument, relating one pitch to another. The voice is the most versatile of all instruments and is also the only instrument that is a part of your physical self, making it portable and convenient.
Now, you might be thinking that just because someone has developed their instrument and embodies all of these traits doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a great talent for voice-overs. The answers may surprise you. A singer, in many areas, has several practical advantages that help them transition from a career in music to a career in voice-over. With all of the technical aspects out of the way (regarding vocal technique), all that’s left is interpretation of the copy, performance, and a means to record their voice.
Their unique vocal education, vigilant care of their instrument, and ‘polished’ sound are another set of benefits when getting started. Their voice is already pleasing to the ear, it’s just a matter of speaking rather than singing. That being said, the voice-over talent does not live on Easy Street, and a singer shouldn’t expect that making the leap from song to speech will bring automatic success. As in any career, research and private instruction are necessary to fully grasp the magnitude of the profession as well as to learn what is expected of them in this new arena.
Do I record at home or go to the studio down the street? What do I charge? Should I be in the union or not? Do I need an agent? What’s the demand like for jingle singers who can also compose? The same questions enter the minds of any aspiring talent new to the industry. In that way, singers are on a level playing field with colleagues who left professions in other fields such as science, visual arts, journalism, or law.
Have any of you come from a musical background? Leave a comment and share how your musical expertise has benefited you in your voice-over career.