Man swinging into a blue skyHow well do you know your voice?

Knowing your voice is very important for a number of reasons, especially when you are using it professionally as a tool to get work.
Are the character roles or voice ages you’re auditioning for or performing believable?
In today’s VOX Daily, we’re going to talk a bit about sounding authentic and real when doing character voices.

A Kid With a Mortgage

Are you an adult who is voicing children or teen voices for auditions but aren’t booking those gigs? Maybe it’s because you sound like a kid with a mortgage!

Now, I didn’t make that phrase up (kid with a mortgage) and must give credit to the great Pat Fraley. We must not forget about the teenager with a mortgage as they exist, too 🙂
I’m sure you’ve heard auditions or demos where talent are performing voice ages that are now outside of sphere of ability. As time passes, our voices change… and sometimes we aren’t the most objective person when it comes to discerning this truth.

This doesn’t just have to do with a younger age that a person is trying to perform. This can apply to someone trying to do older voice ages outside of abilities or anything else for that matter including accents, language skills, technical ability and so on.

What Can You Do?

If you know that your voice has changed and you are no longer able to do certain reads believably, consider passing on the audition and referring someone else who can do what you know you cannot. As is the theme, this also applies to accents, timbre, voice type and so on.
Many voice talent do this. Just the other day, Ralph Hass passed on an audition that called for a Cajun voice and decided to send the opportunity to Herb Merriweather instead.

In a recent interview with Andy Boyns (you can hear it here), Herb shared that not only was Ralph man enough to say “I can’t do it,” he’s also cool enough to say, “but I think I know who can.” So Ralph sent this along to Herb who auditioned for the producer and got the job.

As pros like Ralph Hass know, auditioning for something outside of your abilities is a waste of your time, the client’s time and also gives the client a poor impression of your talent. In that regard, be selective and only audition for work that you are confident you’ll book. Should the opportunity arise to refer a fellow voice talent, pay it forward and present the opportunity to someone who you know can do the job.

Any Comments?

Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
© Laan


  1. This was a timely article. Having just started out as a voice over actor, I am running into voice-age problems. I do not try to voice children’s voices and usually go for the auditions where the client indicates a desire for a “middle aged” voice. My problem, however, may be that I do not sound older. At least, that’s what I have been told. I have also been told that I don’t look my age. My response is usually “this is what 59 looks/sounds like”. On November 24th, I will be 60. So, because I turn 60, am I supposed to sound decrepit? Tell me…what is “middle-aged” supposed to sound like? I know that I don’t sound like a teen ager. What am I supposed to do?

  2. Remember that there are no rules, only notions. Vanessa Marshall, my colleague and friend, does many voices of kids “with a mortgage” for animation projects. Richard Horvitz voiced Billy in the Cartoon Network animated series of a late, “Bill and Mandy,” and his brilliant performance was a far cry from a realistic child. They fulfill the style of the project at hand. We are in a trend for real kids or those that sound real, but in the cracks, and depending on the style and genre, there’s room for kids with a mortgage. Ginny McSwain encourages performers to start with their “core voice” and extent it into character choices. That’s what is happening in the fall of 2010. The real skill is to have a notion of what’s coming around the calendar corner.

  3. Great advice, Pat! There is room for all kinds of voices for roles, you’re absolutely right. I appreciate you adding to the conversation. We all learn something new each and every day 🙂
    Best wishes,

  4. What I discovered as I got older and my voice changed, is that there were things I could do to embrace the change. There are many gnarly, humorous, sensitive, unforgettable characters who DON’T sound like ‘teens with a mortgage’…vocal experimentation and character exploration are imperative when seeking your ‘brand’ or ‘signature’ voice.
    As an important side note–Hollywood VO great John Taylor just recently kicked the cigarette habit. My estimation is that not only is he feeling better (and saving cash) but he has regained some vocal range/depth with increased lung capacity! When I quit 15 years ago, I experienced much of the same. Those of us who are serious about any kind of vocal career may want to consider those factors

  5. I usually steer clear of character auditions. However, I recently wrapped up a corporate training voice over, and the client asked if I could record a few lines for another project they had. They wanted me to be a distraught old woman.
    I almost passed, but decide to give it a stab, telling him that if it didn’t work, they didn’t have to pay me for it. They loved it and I got a little something extra in my paycheck.
    I also have the same issue as Darla. Although I am nearing 50, I feel like my voice is somewhere between ‘young adult and middle age’.

  6. I try for mostly middle age and older voices, but I will try for a young adult job if its described as a young man and not a teen or something like that. Sometimes, If I truly believe a particular project might sound good with an older voice, I will do it and then see if I can interest them in that voice. After all… I might be the only one doing it that way!


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