Vocal Shape-shifting with Pat Fraley


    Ever heard of “Vocal shape-shifting”? Pat Fraley shares some tips on how to bring the uniqueness of you out in a variety of reads including storytelling methods for commercials, narration, and audiobooks.

    Transcript of Vocal Shape-Shifting

    Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors, and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
    This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Pat Fraley.
    Hi, this is Pat Fraley with a brief lesson on vocal shape shifting. What the heck is vocal shape shifting? You haven’t heard of it? Well, perhaps it’s because I made it up. I’ll get to a specific lesson on it in a bit.
    Generally, it’s a method which is very handy when approaching narration; one-person radio spot of TV spot or an audition book narration. It’s on my mind as I prepare for teaching the TV and Radio Commercial Masters event in San Francisco coming up. Voice over performers need solid technique, methods, and mind sets as they go about constructing their choices for auditions and performance.
    Sure, there are performers who are naturally talented, specifically with storytelling skills, and they do pretty well just winging it. But that’s not the case for 90% of my students, even gifted ones who I’ve taught.
    Shape shifting is just one technique or method, but it’s a very handy one. Actually, the concept of vocal shape shifting is something I coined based on a comment which Paul Rubin, a stellar audiobook producer made while I was teaching with him in New York.
    He was speaking of reading fiction and made the observation that the narrator in a book is a character and the character’s dialogue or narrator’s dialogue is their texts. He mentioned the narrator glides from aligning him or herself with one character in a book to another with ease, either their intellectual state or emotional state.
    It’s a kind of shape shifting. I always had the notion that a narrator, even an announcer in a commercial was kind of a reporter with some personality, but not a whole lot. I’ll give you an example of this later, but for now, I want to dig deeper into this. It turns out all the time I spent in acting school about freeing inhibitions was addressing the ability to be able to get [0:02:44] at expressing inner emotion and particularly with the voice.
    The reason it took me nearly 40 years to get this is because I personally didn’t need all those lessons about being uninhibited. I needed lessons on how to get inhibited as I was surrounded by very wild and wily people and great storytellers.
    But for most people, they benefit from this freeing up and gain storytelling skills. It strikes me that this clear flow of emotions from the way one feels to the character, narrator, or announcer’s lines is fundamental to excellence and the way in voice over we express our personal style. In other words, this vocal shape shifting is really an important skill.
    Now for my example, here’s a couple of lines from say a detective novel. First, a reader without any shape shifting. In other words, I’m not going to let my narrator emotionally align with either one of the characters he’s reading about. Here goes: She walked into the office and she was gorgeous. From the moment she saw him sitting behind the desk, she disliked him.
    Now, I’m going to read the same passage and shape shift. On the first sentence, the narrator is going to align himself with the man sitting behind the desk. On the second sentence, I’m going to shift to the woman’s emotions. She walked into the office and she was gorgeous. From the moment she saw him sitting behind the desk, she disliked him. Did you get it?
    Now here’s the interesting part. It’s very subjective on my part as a performer who I shift to at any point. That’s one way how a performer’s style and uniqueness is revealed. I could have very well shifted in the opposite way that being aligning myself with the woman on the first line then shifting to the man’s emotions on the second like this. She walked into the office and she was gorgeous. From the moment she saw him sitting behind the desk, she disliked him.
    Cool huh? Did you hear the difference? Do you vocally shape shift? Challenge yourself to define how you shape shift on your next project or audition, and know that this works for commercials and other voice over applications, even a character voice.
    Know this, you won’t be hearing casting people or directors talking about your shape shifting, and if you bring it up, they’ll probably stare at you like a frozen steer. What you will hear, and I’ve heard about this, is how they hear your uniqueness and how you’re different than other voice over performers. Well, having this concept in mind may help you deliver what we all want; a little piece of you.
    If you find this of interest and would like to get more training on how to bring your personal style out in your performance, know that I’m coming to San Francisco, Saturday, May 2nd, to once again teach with my friend and stellar instructor, John Erlandson.
    We’ll be presenting the Radio and TV Commercial Masters event in teaching advance skills and delivering excellence from the booth. For more information on how to enroll, just go to my website PatFraley.com, and go to the Learn page. And thanks for listening.
    Thanks for listening.
    Thanks for listening.
    Thanks for listening. Stop me before I shape shift again. Stop me.
    To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first-time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTune’s podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career online, go to Voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.

    Links from today’s show:

    Pat Fraley
    Pat Fraley Free Lessons

    Pat teaches across the US. As he mentioned, a masters class was held in San Francisco previously. For more information and to find out when other Pat Fraley weekend workshops are, visit his website PatFraley.com

    Your Instructor this week:

    Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley

    Patrick FraleyPatrick Fraley has created voices for over 4,000 characters, placing him among the top ten performers of all time to be cast in animation. He has produced dozens of award-winning audiobooks, such as, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Very Easy Death, and The Light in The Piazza. Pat produced and performed all 100 voices on the award winning audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which People Magazine hailed as, “The best yet of this evergreen.” Patrick teaches events, workshops, and seminars on various aspects of voice over across the country, and has created a variety of instructional books and CDs, all available at PatFraley.com. He is a member of The Voice and Speech Trainers of America, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Professional Acting from Cornell University.

    Any comments for Pat? Add a comment below!

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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. Voice shape-shifting? I’ve done it many times, just didn’t know what to call it! Thanks Pat and voices.com for the info!

    2. I do that at home when I am practicing, and I didn’t even know it! Heck, I may be a newbie, but I am learning…great podcast…thanks.

    3. I enjoyed this podcast regarding vocal shape-shifting. Isn’t this the same as using a variation of pace, pitch and power? I use this technique frequently when doing public reading from The Bible and Bible-based publications in my local congregation. I’ve been a public speaker for many years, but, a newbie to voice acting. I appreciated the tips offered in the podcast.

    4. I liked this a lot. You don’t have to over think what is the appropriate pace, pitch, and power – you channel the perspective and the voice comes out organically. As a analogy – we know how to dress appropriately for events, socializing, or activities. We don’t think “How many buttons should my shirt have? How high should my heels be?” We know what the right voice should sound like – choose the voice wisely instead of choosing how the wrong (or less appropriate) should sound. It’s all about making choices and go with it.
      It’s interesting to bring this approach to non-character reads as well. Even with a dry corporate script, if you look at (or imagine if it’s not available) the storyboard the perspective keeps changing. If it’s a wide shot of the factory, that will dictate a shape shift different from narrating about a single featured worker and their human interest profile. Thanks Voices.com and Pat!

    5. pat, thank you – i love the idea of vocal shape-shifting! very helpful. a question for you, though: when recording say, a commercial spot, wouldn’t one need to align with a particular side and stick with it for the entire read? i can see how shifting your alignment between different characters within an audiobook or other spot with multiple characters and a narrator would make sense, but would you recommend shifting within single narrator type spots?
      thanks in advance,


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