Core Talents of Voice Over Artists
Join Voice Over Expert Bernard Shaw as he shares the “Core Talents that People Need to Possess as Voice Over Artists”. Bernard hints that the most difficult hurdle for new talent is to simply be their natural selves. Why do people suddenly become someone else when they’re in the booth? Learn how to use your personality to your advantage as a voice over artist and discover a handful of techniques that you can’t do without.
Bernard Shaw, UK, Voiceover Coach, UK voice talent, Creative Edge Audio, Voice Overs, Voice Acting
Transcript of Core Talents of Voice Over Artists
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover 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 your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
This week Voices.com is pleased to present Bernard Shaw.
Bernard Shaw: It’s a popular misbelief that just because you have a beautiful voice, you’re going to be a successful voiceover artist and the answer to that is just because you’ve got two hands, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a concert pianist. It’s fine having a lovely voice but you’ve got to know what you’re doing with it and there are – we’re getting into a difficult area which is why I’m hesitating because there are two schools of thought on what a good voice should be and obviously it depends on the application that it’s going to be put to in the area in which you’re expecting to work. It depends obviously on what your client, the ultimate client wants and if you listen to television, you will hear some apparently (upholding) voices doing commercials.
But I think there are certain basic techniques that a voiceover artist needs to possess whether or not they exhibit them or display them all the time is another matter but they are likely to be called upon. And the big problem that one comes across with training people to be able to do voiceover is actually surprisingly getting them to be their natural selves in that – when I’m working with people, I always have a chat with them for 15 minutes first just to see what they’re like as people or how they use their body, how they use their voice. Then give them a script and it’s as if a different miraculous change has come over them. They suddenly turn out to be entirely different people, using a different voice and a different set of inflections. You then have the battle of getting them back to being exactly as they were but performing the script that you want them too.
The falling inflection seems to be the biggest area of difficulty. For example, whenever you mentioned the name of a product, it’s expected that you would lift the name of the product. So, if you’re thinking of a particular gin which is featured in the scripts that I use a lot when training people at the Artist Center which is Bombay Sapphire. There is an advertising line Bombay Sapphire gin, only better. Now, give that to a potential voiceover artist and inevitably will say, “Bombay Sapphire, gin only better,” which is employing the falling inflections. What you should be able to do because it’s probably going to be required is to lift the second half of the product name so you have, Bombay Sapphire as opposed to Bombay Sapphire gin, only better. People find this extremely hard and I can see now that the CD is going to be stopped and people again re-rushing of to try that for themselves.
When encountering difficulty in getting an inflection to rise, it’s often a good idea to bring various plots of the body into play and it’s a known fact, medical facts (inaudible) is exchanged that speech and gesture come from the same part of the brain. Basically, if you put your hand in the air your voice will go up, if you put your hand down your voice will go down. So, when fighting for the rising inflection it’s worth conducting ones self with the hand often with a pencil held in it’s – to get the rise, so would say, “Bombay” put your hand up in the air, “Sapphire” and surprisingly the voice will have gone up. This works pretty universally. That’s one technique, not always employing falling inflections but being able to use the rising inflection if your director wants it.
Another technique is not eliding words, eliding words is where you run one word, the end of one word into the beginning of another. For example, “Twinings, our English breakfast tea,” where you have on the page, “Our English breakfast tea” two T’s, one at the end of breakfast, one at the beginning of tea. In natural speech we probably will say, “Our English breakfast tea” but for the purposes of a commercial you need to have both consonants there, so one needs to be able to have if required, perfect diction or something approaching it. The reasons are simple. Very often a piece of audio will be edited to fit pitches that may not have been thought of when the audio was being recorded or when not in the head of the person recording the audio. So, you may wish to introduce a pause between the words breakfast and tea. If one of the T’s is missing you’re going to end up with, “Our English breakfast tea”.
Now, a skilled editor will obviously be able to take the T of one word and stick it on to the end of the one that hasn’t got one, but why should they have to do this? If they find in the editing of your voice that they have to do 50 or 60 such edits, then okay, they’ll keep you for the job they booked for you but they probably won’t ask you back and one of the big areas of focus which you much address is what is your motivation when doing a job. Your sole motivation when doing any voiceover job is very simply to get asked back to do another one. It’s a matter of pleasing the client and being able to display perfect diction if that’s what they require and a cheerful and sunny disposition when speaking about their product.
Another area of expertise for the voiceover artist is timing. It’s a myth, I think, that often does the rounds that a particular voiceover artist is able to read a script in 29 seconds and if asked, he can then read it in 29 and a half seconds and if asked further he can read it in 29 and three quarter seconds, I’ve never actually come across anybody who is possessed of this skill. But talking to time roughly is a skill that is required of voiceover artists. It’s imagined that the skill is in getting 75 words into 30 seconds. Very often interestingly the difficult bit is getting five words into 30 seconds, often making the script stretch to fix the available time can be more difficult than just cramming in extra words.
In the first case, if you’re needing to talk to time, one of the tricks is never to think in terms of speed. If you’re working on a 30-second commercial which is we know is 29 and a half seconds in reality and you find that having read the script in the desired manner, it’s taking 35 seconds. There are two things that you can do, one is to throw yourself on the mercy of the editor, who can make it fit the 30 seconds because computer programs nowadays can do that at the press of a button or employing the editor’s skill, he can cut the breaths, cut out the gaps between words and make it fit and that’s a perfectly acceptable technique nowadays. It’s not considered that you’re an incompetent voiceover artist if you do need to be edited afterwards.
The other thing is to find a motivation for taking time off the length of the read. For example, just doing it faster is not a good motivation. Being more excited, being – reading it with a greatest sense of urgency or a greatest sense of desperation will probably give you the time that you need. On the other end of the scale, if you have client who has paid for a 30-second commercial and only wants 15 words to be said throughout that period, that’s one word every two seconds. You may need to be able to make things a bit longer than they naturally should be at which point you discover the power of the pause. There are three basic techniques to doing a good commercial read and they all begin with P and they are pitch, pace, and pause and the greatest of these is pause. As Beethoven said, “It’s not the notes, it’s the gaps in between them that make the music,” and it’s the same with words. The use of a significant pause can actually make people pay attention to your message. However, pauses have to have something that carries on between the two joining words, so you again come back to the rising inflection so that if you go up just before you do the pause, people will listen because you haven’t switched them off as (it were).
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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Links from today’s show:
Your Instructor this week:
Voice Over Expert Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw has been working with Voiceover artists since 1980 and has produce over 1,600 ‘Demo tapes’ making him one of the most experienced voice directors in the world. He is also a freelance audio producer with credits as diverse as ‘Tweenies’, ‘An Evening With Peter Ustinov’ and ‘The Nations Favourite children’s Poems’. His book ‘Voiceovers a Practical Guide’ published by Routledge has become a standard work on both sides of the Atlantic. He runs Voiceover and Radio acting classes at the Actors Centres in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Newcastle.
About Creative Edge Audio
Launched in England in 2006 by two actors and a producer, Creative Edge Audio is the world’s first monthly audio magazine for Professional Actors. This unique series contains exclusive interviews and mini master classes with established industry experts and key decision makers of the British acting profession including: ‘Lord of the Rings’ casting director John Hubbard, Actor Sir Derek Jacobi and former artistic director of the National Theatre Sir Richard Eyre. They all speak openly and honestly about careers, casting, marketing, the craft of acting and voice over.
Creative Edge Audio was designed to help established and aspiring Professionals gain the Creative Edge. Its reputation in England quickly grew and was soon dubbed by the British Press as:
“The missing link in the Acting Industry.” creative week 2006
Until recently Creative Edge Audio was only available to subscribers on a month-to-month basis. However the series was so successful as a monthly subscription that it was decided to reprint the entire 12 episodes.
Series one of Creative edge audio is now available to buy as a complete set of 12 CDs.
Free previews of the entire series can be heard at: