Clarifying a Character Voice


    Ever wondered what it takes to really craft a character? In this educational podcast, Pat Fraley shows you how to adjust the sound of a character voice with the thinking and feeling of a character for the most evocative effect.
    25 years ago Pat’s audio set, “Creating Character Voices,” was published. His system of creating characters, how to gain the skill of breaking the character voice down to its basic elements, and how to develop the thinking and feeling of a character had really been central to his performance career and many who he has been blessed to guide over the years.

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    Transcript of Clarifying a Character Voice

    Julia-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors, and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover 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, is pleased to present Pat Fraley.
    Pat Fraley: As I have mentioned, you know, we have explored the form of a character, that’s the sound of the voice, and we split and gone to the content, that’s the thinking and feeling or development, but there’s a connection. In fact, the word morph is the word for form in Greek, it is the connection. Ideally, in art and craft, the content is manifested in the form. Do you get me there? We split them apart to study them, but they’re one thing.
    And so when I do my vicious Molgaard how he feels inside is coming out in a perfect way to sound. There’s a connection. You know, Eddie Graffiti — Eddie Graffiti could be a sleaze bag like this. You know, he could be like, but this is perfect for him, this is… It’s rather like Sean Connery said, we’re all responsible for our faces. And what he meant by that is you know you see people that have certain lines and they have a certain no lips [0:01:43] [Indiscernible]. They’re responsible because they’ve lived a life and they’ve really etched their own face. The content has created the form.
    So, this concept of them being connected is what you do — you know, as you go through development, you’ve got to remember, what’s the perfect way of presenting this character? Maybe I’m using the wrong voice or it’s more like mine, what’s the perfect way. And one way of addressing this is with clarifying the elements on page 6. Let me just read this. Here’s an exercise that double checks the sound of your choices. The content of your character is made up of your character’s thinking, feeling, emotions, and agenda or condition, right. These aspects are manifested in the form of your character, which is the character’s voice. Are you getting the message out clearly? This is the question. Is it the perfect way of presenting the inside or can you make adjustments? The objective of this is to make a character more clear. Jill, what starter would you like to work on?
    Jill: I have one that that I was going to do that I don’t have a last name for her because she is an impersonation of —
    Pat Fraley: Don’t tell us. Don’t tell us for this time.
    Jill: Okay.
    Pat Fraley: Because we’ll start hearing it over and over again. Just do her for me a little bit.
    Jill: Okay. I’ll do my key phrase. Shall we, do you need your ma here?
    Pat Fraley: [Laughs] Okay. All right good. Okay, now let’s catalogue the elements. Go ahead and talk to me as that character.
    Jill: Well, I’ll tell you a little bit about — I love holidays.
    Pat Fraley: Pitch is higher.
    Jill: Okay.
    Pat Fraley: Any pitch characteristic beyond your own voice?
    Jill: Yeah, raspier.
    Pat Fraley: Okay. The tempo, is it faster or slower than you?
    Jill: Probably about the same.
    Pat Fraley: Okay, good. And now the rhythm, let’s see if we can hit on a rhythm.
    Jill: I like to put decorations up and people just don’t like that. They just don’t appreciate it.
    Pat Fraley: Dat-dat-da, yeah. Dat-dat-da is coming every so often. And when you start with a starter, it’s repeated too frequently for, you know, realism. But sometimes at the beginning, you can establish a rhythm, you know, like dat-dat-da. I always in a do it like that rather than try to come up with a term for it, but whatever that is, that seems to be coming through. Other times when you do a starter, there’s no rhythm and it’s later that you discover it because the rhythm comes out of the thinking and feeling of the character. To begin with, it might not be there. Okay, how about placement?
    Jill: I have in the house these plastic chairs and cushions, I had a whole room. It is —
    Pat Fraley: It sounds like it’s real nasal, but it’s kind of up, up, up. It’s nasal, but it’s kind of up in the middle, or back of throat, you know? Kind of on the hard palate. How’s that feel? Does that feel right to you?
    Jill: Yeah.
    Pat Fraley: Okay. Good. And how about mouth work?
    Jill: Can I go back to my catch phrase one time?
    Pat Fraley: Oh, absolutely. Start there.
    Jill: Because I’m losing one part of it.
    Pat Fraley: Okay.
    Jill: Shall we, do you need your ma here? [0:04:30] [Phonetic] See I’m losing one —
    Pat Fraley: Okay go back.
    Jill: — part of it.
    Pat Fraley: Okay do a New York, more New York with that character.
    Jill: And I guess it would be more nasally in this —
    Pat Fraley: No, don’t change that. It was fine. Where it is fine. Now do a more New York, do your catch phrase and make it more New Yorky because that’s what it was see. Now, I hear it back, you’re right. Shall we — go ahead.
    Jill: Shall we, do you need your ma here? [0:04:53] [Phonetic]
    Pat Fraley: Oh, good. That’s really good. Now, that’s evocative because it’s so egregious, it’s so strident. Now, what we’re doing is whatever that’s caused by probably placement, make her strident, annoying.
    Jill: She’s a little louder and naturally she does have this room where you couldn’t actually go inside. It was all white and I have plastic all over the chairs but no —
    Pat Fraley: Okay.
    Jill: — one is actually allowed in there.
    Pat Fraley: Okay. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken one of the most dynamic parts of her and we’re putting it forward. We’re in a mix. We’ve got six pots and we’re putting that pot up. I think that’s placement and then also we might move up the New York because I hear that lurking, don’t you? Yeah. Rather that rural, that’s where she went because she drifted because we’re drifting because it’s a starter. So you see how her inside, her condition of being annoying I guess you’d say is ramped and we hear it in the voice. That’s how she’s — it’s all we have to present, right? So you’re making sure you’re presenting your character the best possible way with a mix of elements.
    It’s also a very good double check and of course if you do more exercises on the thinking then you’re in better shape to do that without losing it.
    Julia-Ann Dean: To learn more about the special guest featured in this podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory or by visiting To start your voiceover career online, go to and register for a voice talent membership today.

    Links from today’s show:

    Pat Fraley
    Pat Fraley Free Lessons

    Your Instructor this week:

    Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley
    pat-fraley-smiling.jpgPatrick Fraley has been producing and performing audiobooks for 20 years, and is a multiple Audie Award nominee and winner. His instruction and demo direction has guided more performers into audiobook narration deals than anyone in the history of the audiobook industry. Last year, Pat’s students made 157 book deals (28 of them were first-time). He has been teaching vocal performance for 38 years.

    Pat teaches across the US. For more information and to find out when other Pat Fraley weekend workshops are, visit his website

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of 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®.



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