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A Balancing Act

Voice acting can be an equalization of client request and self

When a voice actor receives a script, most often accompanying that are the 'specs' which give insight as to what the client is looking for regarding vocal tone and delivery. These most often are descriptive words that call out certain aspects of a voice or mood that the client would like to achieve. Words such as professional, authentic, personal, calm, confident, pleasant and non-promotional.

Or you might see clear and accommodating in the same spec. (What exactly does an accommodating voice sound like, BTW?) A client can also list what they don't want to hear, such as not too dramatic, affected, funny or questioning/problematic.

Multiple silver balls balancing on boards

Inflated and opposing

Sometimes the list can go on and on, and include a full description of each word. I recently received an audition where just the specs of how the voice should sound was over twice as long as the actual script. And that didn't even include the other usual specs such as genre, usage, length and age range.

And then there is always the list that includes complete opposites, such as formal yet approachable. Or welcoming and epic. I can't recall ever feeling truly welcomed anywhere when it was presented in an epic way. Maybe if I was going on a tour of the Grand Canyon, that might work.

In the same audition they were asking for clear and dreamy. My dreams are never clear, so I'm not really sure what that means.

Own the suggestion

Something that I have heard over and over in my many years of coaching and on-going training, is to Be Yourself. That's great advice, except when it comes to auditioning, how exactly do I do that while trying to follow the specs?

I have also heard the suggestion to ignore the specs, or read them and then toss them out the window and do what you feel is right.

I think that there is a happy medium in there someplace. If an audition allows for it or it seems appropriate, it has been suggested to use one of the words in the specs to steer in one direction and then to take another, perhaps one of the opposite words, and give a second read with that tone.

Bottom line is that when voicing a script, if you don't put enough of yourself into the read, you will come across as sounding disinterested and the words will just fall flat. In order to lift them up off of the page, you have to be engaged with what you are reading and then subsequently voicing. You have to sound as if you are just thinking up the words on the spot.

The only way that I can do that is to take a suggestion and then make it my own. And then let the client make up their own mind as to whether or not they heard from me what they were going for.

Because I can be clear and I can be dreamy. I just can't guarantee that I can be both at the same time...

Debra Elaine is a California-based Voice Actor and Medical Narrator delivering professional voice over from her home studio via ipDTL & Source Connect. Learn more >>


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