Teenage girl gesturing, peace signsDo you use your hands to help direct the flow of your phrasing while voice acting?

Many talent make use of their hands when recording. Getting your entire body involved can be necessary to get the perfect read or characterization.
Learn more about who is using their hands and why in today’s VOX Daily.

Movement in Voice Acting

If you watch trained voice actors working behind the mic, you’re more likely to see some kind of hand movement or physicality seeping into their reads. Movement, in most cases, actually helps the talent to deliver the phrase in the manner they are trying to achieve.
Promo talent George DelHoyo is a great example. George firmly believes that he couldn’t do what he does without his hands, relating “I always say it’s not my voice I worry about, it’s my arms because without my arms, I can’t speak any of it.”

Personally, I also find it easier to speak when movement is employed, particularly when using my right hand (which also happens to be my writing hand) to structure my phrasing and almost conduct myself in a musical sense when creating the arc of a phrase.

What Some Voice Pros Are Saying

As per usual, I took a spin on Facebook to learn more about what our community has to say. Many commented and told me that using their hands made them feel as though it was easier to deliver “real person” reads.

Sounding “Real”

Mike McGonegal commented via Facebook on the topic of using hands when voice acting. He relates that he uses his hands “All the time. If you want to sound natural – you have to. How many folks do you know in real life that always have their hands jammed into their pockets?”
While the hands can make you sound more natural, you can also use your hands to sound more assertive or punchy. Robin Wolf says that she uses her hands as a way to help her accentuate words or phrases. JC Baron shared that using his hands helps him to enunciate the words clearly.

Herb Merriweather also uses his hands when voice acting, saying “I’m usually pretty active behind the mic, especially when doing characters that demand it and I also punctuate with my hands when reading other stuff that’s not quite so…well…animated…!”

Debbie Grattan concurred, stating “Yes, of course. When we’re asked to be ‘natural and conversational’ in our delivery, it stands to reason that we would record the same way we do in a a conversation, always using gestures to emphasis certain points, count down the reasons why, etc. Just have to be careful about hitting the mic while doing it!”

Leo Gonzalez shared, “I use my hands all the time. It helps give me a visual on how a character might be acting during that moment or even just help put me into a certain mood. For example, clenching my fists to feel a little angrier or stronger with a delivery.”
As many of you can relate from an ethnic point of view, sometimes there is no way to NOT use your hands!! Linda Bevilacqua cites her Italian heritage as the catalyst for using her hands when voicing.

Letting Loose Without Microphone Abuse

Ralph Hass also finds that moving his hands is essential to voice acting. “It is another way of freeing yourself up, letting loose. This is acting after all. Just like not wearing your headphones, which I have also started doing.”

Paul Hawkins notes the following, “I move my hands a lot while doing voice overs. It helps to not only relax me vocally but its a lot of fun to act like your a rag doll in a tornado.”
Some voice talent, like Cyrene Jagger, take an even more minimalist approach and remove their footwear, even socks in effort to liberate their toes. Fingers flexing, toes wiggling free of the constraints of cotton!

B.z. the Voice says that he uses his hands when voice acting “All day, everyday. Feet too. Punching, kicking, clawing, you name it.” Morgan Barnhart also chimed in to say that voice acting is really a whole body experience. She writes, “I like to get into it as much as possible with my whole body! I feel it helps the experience feel more realistic and it definitely helps the performance.”

Eric Espinosa relates that one of his hands holds the coffee cup while the other moves about dramatically. Speaking of technology, be sure that your gesturing doesn’t negatively effect the recording or the equipment around you. Brian Whitaker notes that sometimes he bumps the mic as he waves his hands around.

Remember, only you can prevent microphone abuse!
Not to be forgotten, don’t neglect the walls of your studio. Amanda Sellers mentioned, “Oh yes! I hit the walls of the sound booth by accident all the time!”
Careful my friends… you don’t want to hurt yourselves!

Your Hands and How They Affect Your Read

Dan Deslaurier is a teacher and often finds ways to bring voice acting into the classroom. He says, “I am so much more conscious of using my hands for emphasis and articulation since I became a teacher of young children–and I just naturally bring that with me when I step behind the mic. If you’re not sure what I mean, spend some time talking with your young child, grandchild, niece, nephew or a child close to you, and watch their hands as they try to get their ideas across to you!

On a similar educational note, Arlene Kahn offered up an experience she had studying with Norm Woodell. She writes, “I took a workshop with Norm Woodell several years ago and he did a little experiment with the participants. He had them read some copy with their hands at their sides and then with their hands over their head. Hands over their head opened up the voice and there was a definite difference. I always use my hands. It frees up the body and the way I gesticulate can help create the character and attitude.”

Pablo Hernandez is another person who uses their hands to add flair to their voice acting. He writes, “I always use my hands, it’s a great way to add more power to the read. Although sometimes I use my hands so much, that it looks like sign-over instead of voice-over. Using your hands when voicing a script, is an absolute MUST DO rule.”

Isaac Sandoval comes at this from radio, revealing “I have mirrored doors so sometimes when people walk by, they think I’m the one in the DJ booth having all the fun! Especially when I do local spots for theme parks and get really wacky.”

Last but not least, Kris Roberson shared an interesting observation after he had just finished conducting a webinar. He found himself gesturing and pointing to things on the screen. Kris writes, “I had to remember to move the cursor to the areas of importance rather than just my finger! Maybe I need a touch screen computer. That way when I point the computer points there too!”

How About You?

Do you rely on your hands to help you express yourself when voice acting? Share your stories!
Best wishes,
©iStockphoto.com/Tom Fullum

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks so much for this article. I really enjoyed reading it. I also want to add that using my hands also helps me to make a deeper voice, which is especially useful when doing hard-sell or emotionally charged reads. Not to mention that it helps me to inject some adredaline to the overall sound of the recording.
    Greetings from Puerto Rico,
    Pablo Hernandez

  2. Constantly use my hands when I talk… Elementary teacher used to get on to me for it… I’m not relaxed with the whole standing straight/arms at the sides thing…

  3. I love this! I definitely use my hands, especially when I’m doing a role that requires more energy and excitement. And I find myself being far more animated doing tutorials while ‘addressing the invisible audience’. I love the comment about footwear – I do most of my reads barefoot, and it does help you “ground” yourself in front of the mic in a weird way!

  4. Great article. I have to admit, also as a hip hop lyricist, the hands probably play the most important role in expression, second only to the rhyme itself. Watch any rapper in action and see how much total upper body, let alone hand, movement there is. It’s bananas!

  5. As I always say, “Voice-Over is a whole body experience!” If you only use your voice, you won’t give a very dynamic read!

  6. I’m quite new, so I try everything! Yes, soon found gesture enhances expression, though it feels eccentric at first with nobody to see it. I find standing suits emotional stuff, seated better for more measured, reassuring tones. Chair needs to be good too, otherwise discomfort is audible, and if you do move a lot, nothing must creak – chair, floor, headphone wires, knee joints! On one of your videos I saw a successful young lady VO hand-holding her condenser mike – that’s technically a bit alarming, but evidently liberating.
    Howard Ellison

  7. Just yesterday I was in a recording session for a Blue Cross Blue Shield spot, and the scenario was that I had to ask a question in a town hall meeting. When I raised my hand, as if to be called on, it changed the sound of my read and brought genuine authenticity to my question!


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