Voice Acting

The Voice of God

“In a world…”

You might recognize that sort of phrasing and associate it with what some in our industry refer to as the Voice of God.
What defines “The Voice of God” when spoken of in voice over terminology?
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at what the stereotypical sound is, why it became so popular and how the voice type, or rather the “sound,” may have got its name.

Language as a Tool

The use of language as a form of expression, the spoken word specifically, has played a role in our human existence since the very beginning. In our earliest days we were gifted with language skills and capabilities superior to those of any other beings. We also have the ability to choose which words to use and how we employ those words.
The fact that we are able to speak is amazing in itself, but what makes us truly unique is that we can use our voices to communicate a message verbally in a number of ways using complex language skills, phrasing and tone.

Classifying the Voice

When it comes to the voice, there are many ways to classify and describe it, whether by pitch, range, resonance, or other vocal qualities.
Common vocal classifications are soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone and bass.
While they primarily describe vocal range, we also at times identify with and use archetypes when describing a voice. No doubt you’ve heard of the “soccer mom,” the “surfer dude” or the “announcer.”
One vocal archetype that never seems to go out of style is the Voice of God.

The Voice of God

Typically, this vocal delivery is associated with the baritone of a movie trailer voice talent. The most universally known performer who possessed this iconic delivery, and arguably developed it, was the late great Don LaFontaine. If you don’t know his name, you know his voice. Don specialized in trailer and promo for decades and passed away on September 1, 2008.
To put a face to the name and the voice, take a look at this YouTube video featuring the GEICO commercial Don LaFontaine took part in.

Characteristics of the Voice of God

In voice over terms, a male voice talent performing this delivery generally is a baritone whose voice is:
๏ Audible to the ear
๏ Powerful
๏ Authoritative
๏ Bears a gravelly tone
๏ Commands attention
These qualities, while relevant to artistic direction aimed at achieving a particular vocal delivery that books movie trailer reads, are not fully consistent with what is known about how God chooses to speak, His voice being described as inaudible to the ear and heard in your heart as a still small voice, a silent whisper.

We Each Have Our Own Voice: So Did Don

Some people joked that God wanted Don to give His voice back, but from what I can see, God gave Don his own unique voice, as we are all given a unique voice, and enabled Don to use it to the best of his ability.
Don was and still is a beloved figure in our industry. He was immensely talented, generous and successful.
I can’t help but wonder if perhaps people thought that the qualities Don’s voice and his delivery possessed were similar to how they perceived or hoped God’s voice to be like?

What Do You Think?

This topic so far as I know has not yet been discussed, at least from this angle. Do you have any ideas or comments you’d like to share?
Looking forward to hearing from you,

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  • Avatar for Herb Merriweather
    Herb Merriweather
    July 20, 2010, 8:59 am

    …an interesting topic to be sure! In scripture, the Voice of God is conversely described as sounding “…loud…as of a trumpet…” (Rev 1:10)
    and “…a still small voice…” (1 Kings 19:12). However, I think the current perception and “style” of the so-called voice of God is a Hollywood construct…mainly because deep and resonant sounds a lot more dramatic than still and small.
    Lately, many interpretations of the ‘Voice of God haved moved to a more accessible ( I won’t say conversational) tone…not quite so deep and fearful, but with a softening (not much) in the delivery.
    I tend to think that God speaks to us in the voice that is most likely to get our attention…

  • Avatar for Phillip Ramirez
    Phillip Ramirez
    July 20, 2010, 9:26 am

    An interesting article on something that to a lot of people is a deeply personal choice. It’d be interesting to see what others have to say. Now, however, is my two-cents to spend!
    We often hear the voice of God exactly as you list. There have been, however, several that deviated from the “norm.” One of high note is that of Jehovah in “The Ten Commandments.” This was voiced by none other than Moses himself, Charlton Heston (according to him)… one of three rumored to have done the voice. Rich and authoritative, but gentle and not gravelly. Pay particular attention to the voice during the delivery of the commandments.
    One of my favorite intonations was, yet again, connected to the story of Moses (the burning bush seems to be the audition script). This was a version done for TNT with Ben Kingsley as Moses. There, we have a truly gentle voice.
    Does personal believe have a role in choosing how to voice a character? I’m sure that it must, for these two versions stand out to me in a sea of others “God Voices.”
    What does anyone else think? Would your spiritual choice subtly affect your voice interpretations?

  • Avatar for IAN WRIGHT
    July 20, 2010, 9:52 am

    She sang ” I am woman, hear me roar”. Perhaps our own Helen Reddy had assistance from above with her 70’s anthem, pointing out that women too have a lot to contribute. Whether God is a he or she, there’s always voice over room for the gifted. Amen from Oz.

  • Avatar for Steve Benfield
    Steve Benfield
    July 20, 2010, 11:20 am

    Voice of God …. 2 words Bill Mitchell ….

  • Avatar for Darla Middlebrook
    Darla Middlebrook
    July 20, 2010, 11:52 am

    I guess now we have to try to open the industry (and the public) to the idea of “the voice of (a) Goddess”. There must be some “standard” that we should aim for which would help to epitomize a voice type that would be the female version of “the voice of God”. I suppose that within our male dominated society, this will be a long time in coming. So far, I have noticed, the closest that we have is various voices of “Mother Nature”. These range from sultry to annoyingly nasal (Mother Nature’s “little gift” comes immediately to mind).
    Darla Middlebrook

  • Avatar for Bill Harriman
    Bill Harriman
    July 20, 2010, 11:53 am

    I particularly enjoyed this commentary, and I do share your insights on Don LaFontaine. Like you, I had to chuckle over the comments made by voiceover artist Ashton Smith: “When you die, the voice you hear in Heaven is not Don’s. It’s God trying to sound like Don”
    I am finding, though, that there is a subtle but definite trend away from voices like Don’s in more and more network promos…more kid-like with less of a masculine voice. My guess is that the advertisers are finding the testosterone-charged authoritative voice to be a big turnoff to the younger generations. It is as if the womens’ voices are getting deeper, and male voices becoming more boyish.
    Just my two-cent’s worth.

  • Avatar for Cal Koat
    Cal Koat
    July 20, 2010, 11:56 am

    If God really did give Don his voice, I’m sure he wouldn’t have him use it to plug ‘Dude … Where’s My Car?’.

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    July 20, 2010, 3:11 pm

    Hi everyone,
    Thank you for commenting!
    @ Herb: Great to see there is another Bible scholar on the case 🙂 Thank you for adding your insight and sources.
    @ Phillip: Interesting thoughts! The voice of God (as in what is written in the Bible) does present as gentle in most cases but can also as Herb pointed out be as loud as trumpets. Actors interpret what they feel to be the right direction when reading the Scripture as you’ve indicated. Conveying the Word through your voice is challenging and humbling. One can also look to the full cast Bible recordings that have been published in recent years as well as solo recordings. Bob Souer has narrated the Bible in its entirety (all 774,000 words) and it might be neat to see how he delivered certain verses.
    @ Ian, Steve and Darla: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am glad you commented and joined the conversation.
    @ Bill: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and additional insight! Perhaps there is a trend in that direction. Everything is cyclical so to speak and that could very well be the case.
    @ Cal: I wholeheartedly agree. As it says in Isaiah 55:8 “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” ~~ If God had let Don borrow His voice, it wouldn’t have been for the purposes of promoting movies such as the one you mentioned. I’m grateful that you hit on that very important point.

  • Avatar for Steve Young
    Steve Young
    July 21, 2010, 6:15 pm

    Interesting subject! I was selected out of MANY to narrate the entire King James Bible because I was told I had the “Voice of God” That is deep and resonate as if it were God speaking. I believe that the Icons of our industry with voices that will always be recognizable should truly have that label…

  • Avatar for Philip Banks
    Philip Banks
    July 21, 2010, 6:27 pm

    Bit of light relief in the context of Stephanie’s article.
    Earlier today I called a VO friend in the US for a brief chat. Mid-conversation she stopped.
    “Just a minute my daughter wants to talk to you” I’ve never met or spoken to her daughter before who is in her late teens.
    “Hello. How are you?” I asked.
    “Wow! It really IS like talking to God!” she replied.