James Alburger and Penny AbshireJust what is the psychology of voice over?
Something to do with left brain and right brain…?
To find out, check out James Alburger and Penny Abshire’s lecture presented at VOICE 2007!

So, just what does psychology have to do with voice over?
James and Penny pointed out early on in their lecture that as a voice talent, you are responsible for delivering a specific message to a specific audience.
When you’re in front of your microphone, you are responsible for communicating, motivating, informing, educating, inspiring, and last but not least, selling.
Most importantly, throughout this entire process, it is still important to remember that you are performing!
When you record a voice over or message, the intent is to connect emotionally with your audience and build trust. You are creating an “illusion of reality” in the minds of your listeners through the use of compelling characters in interesting relationships.
OK, so that’s what you need to do as a performer and professional voice talent. But, what does that have to do with the big psychological picture?
Penny and James spent some time on how your brain works and why this is relevant to your success as a voice talent.
You have two ways of thinking:
• Judgmental Thinking
• Critical Thinking
Judgmental Thinking is not conducive to succeeding in voice over. It’s all about talking down to yourself – that doesn’t ever help now, does it?
Critical Thinking helps you to identify the areas you may need to improve upon and then move ahead to become a better voice over professional.
I won’t get into too much detail (there was a lot here folks and I recommend that you look into the DVD of the conference or books by James Alburger), but for homework, I’ll assign you to look up the terms Broca and Wernicke. These are areas of your brain and both play significant roles in how you produce speech and interpret auditory information.
These gems also help to block unnecessary info and prevent sensory overload.
Now, on to the idea of Left Brain and Right Brain.
If you are a typical Left Brain thinker, you are driven by logical and linear thinking; you’re likely very good at math and word problems, fixing things and navigating around.
If you’re a Right Brain thinker (I know I can relate to this one), you are potentially a performer, more creative and also less linear regarding thought patterns. So, even if your grandfather was a mathematical genius, but your right hemisphere of your brain is dominant, those traits may just pass you by!
As a voice talent, you need to use both sides of your brain to fully succeed in your endeavors. Both hemispheres of your brain need to work together.
Don’t sacrifice one for the other or it will certainly show in your performance. You need to find an ideal balance between the two that you are comfortable with as a professional in the field of voice over.
Some key points to take away when performing:
• Add drama whenever it is appropriate
• Find emotional hooks in the script
• Stay in the moment of the story you are telling
• See and understand the big picture of the story
• Listen and respond
• Discover the subtext of the story
• Keep spontaneity in your reads
Actress Shirley MacLaine was once asked by James Lipton how she defined acting, to which she replied “It’s all about listening and forgetting who you are.”
Some key points to internalize for Effective Communicating:
• Interrupt – Get their attention
• Engage – Keep them listening
• Educate – Give them the info they need to know
• Offer – Give the listener an opportunity to take action
As mentioned above, there were many interesting aspects of James and Penny’s presentation that I have chosen not to reveal here.
To learn more about these techniques and the Seven Core Elements of Voice Over in James’ book The Art of Voice Acting.
Disclaimer: Several key points and topics in this post were drawn from excerpts from “The Art of Voice Acting” as published in the VOICE 2007 workbook. Copyright James R. Alburger – all rights reserved.

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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 blog serves an audience what wants to grow in their careers as professional voice users, and more specifically, voice actors. Stephanie was recently listed 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. Well…
    As a producer and trainer, it would seem to me that you need both sides of your brain to do just about anything.
    Beyond that, there are certainly some very distinct aspects to any art form.
    There is, of course, the highly regarded and obvious “creative” side… and then there is the regularly forgotten and misunderstood “business” side.
    Most voice actors understand and regularly apply effort to the creative aspects of our field. Regardless of any particular approach, the whole process comes down to pleasing the client. Today, more often than not, that means delivering a sincere and believable read. When it comes to effective delivery, beyond whatever side of your brain you are using, interact with your copy creatively and apply the direction you are given. Producers count on their voice actors to apply creativity to the copy and they also rely on your ability to effectively apply direction.
    The business side of our field is, unfortunately, an afterthought for many.
    Since voice acting is indeed a business, a great place to start or to re-start building success in our field is by creating an actual business plan.
    Simply purchase a notebook, go in about 15 pages or so, and write down a goal. For a beginner, it could be something like “I want to be doing professional voice overs in the next 9 months”.
    Then, starting on the first page of the notebook, begin to create a set of steps that you will take to achieve your goal.
    Keep in mind it is very difficult to achieve a goal you haven’t set!
    Regardless of where you pull any of your creative or business ability from…
    It takes a WHOLE brain to be a voice actor
    (no comment on the type of brain though, lol)