Recognizing Your Talent

Voice acting, voice-over, narration, dubbing, and translation share one thing in common: the art of communication. The spoken word is one of the most powerful, persuasive, and distinctly human tools we have for telling stories and sharing ideas.

What is talent? Is it something that comes naturally, or can it be cultivated? There is some degree of natural talent to performing voice-overs. Perhaps it's your ability to convincingly sound like a child or a senior, perfectly mimic a foreign accent, or roar like lion. Maybe your voice is naturally soothing or booming, or you've been creating characters with your voice to entertain your friends for years.

Activity

Whether or not you've recognized your natural vocal talents, you do need to cultivate them. One of the best ways to develop your talent as a voice-over professional is to take acting classes, but it doesn't stop there. There are simple things you can do on your own to help develop your talent.

  • Read a children's book out loud and create a different voice for each character.
  • Read articles from newspapers, magazines, and blogs changing your tone from informative to conversational.
  • Mimic the voice-overs you hear while listening to radio or television commercials.
  • Watch television shows with foreign accents and practice imitating them.
  • Imitate characters in animated movies or cartoons.
  • Record yourself while doing any of the above.

Recording your voice and listening to the playback will give you a good sense of where you need improvement and the areas where you excel. You may surprise yourself!

The playback can reveal a lot. For instance, while performing you may discover you have a tendency to speak lower than you normally would in day-to-day speech. When you listen to how that sounds you might find that it sounds off; contrived compared to your natural register. Alternatively, you may find that the lower register sounds good depending on the role that you're applying the voice to.

THE 5 ROLES
KNOWING THE CHARACTER TYPES
In general, there are five different character roles you can perform as a voice talent to get your client's message across in a direct and effective way. Depending on your professional background you may find some of these roles to be a more natural for you than others. Let's explore them in detail.
 

The Instructor

When teaching someone what to do in, for example, a corporate training video or children's game, the voice-over best suited for this kind of project is a straightforward, educated, and instructional voice. The role of this particular voice talent is to teach or provide information to fulfill a specific goal or purpose. Anyone who has had the opportunity to run a class, guide presentations, or has managed a team of professionals will likely find this role comfortable.

The Real Person

Projects requiring a more casual approach often benefit from relatable, genuine voice-overs. These are referred to as "Real Person" voice-overs, commonly known as the "regular guy" or the "girl next door." The character is homegrown, sensible, and friendly with a touch of familiarity and provides a more intimate interpretation of the script that instills trust. This role probably seems like it should suit everyone, but it is harder than one might think to read a script and sound like you're having a regular conversation with a friend or loved one. Former radio personalities tend to need help in this area because they've practiced so long at changing the timbre of their voices to sound like a radio announcer. Real people just don't talk like that!

The Spokesperson

A Spokesperson can be on camera or off camera depending on the medium you are using. The role of a spokesperson is generally played by a confident, charismatic person able to promote a cause, product, or service with ease and authority. A voice-over of this nature needs to be driven, optimistic and assured. If you've ever been in sales, those traits probably sound familiar. Many people who gravitate to voice-overs from sales positions tend to feel right at home in this role.

The Narrator

Storytelling is where the Narrator is most at home. Omniscient, unbiased, courteous and honest, a narrator's job is to provide an audio landscape for a listener, briefing them on background information, posing questions, and providing solutions as they guide their audience through a program or documentary. Narrators can be male or female, and the most important factors are that they can communicate clearly and engagingly. If people hang on your every word while listening to you tell a story then this is likely your comfort zone.

The Announcer

The Announcer, often heard live at events, on commercials, promos or introducing segments for podcasts, is a product of the broadcast age, most celebrated at its height in the Golden Age of Radio and early television broadcasts. Announcers can introduce an idea and assertively make a call for action at the conclusion of a commercial advertisement or short video. If you were in radio broadcasting and you're now pursuing a career in voice-over then you may find this voice-over character fits you like a glove.

Key Takeaway: Practice trying on these different character roles while doing the activities we gave you earlier in this section. You'll discover so much about yourself in the process and develop a method of acting that will help you become a better voice-over performer.

Next Up: If you want to be in the game you have to learn how it's played! We'll discuss why studying with a professional voice-over coach now is critical to your long-term success.

 
THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO VOICE ACTING