The Art of Voice Over 'Natural Speak'

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Or…tips to make it sound like you’re making it up.

The trick to becoming a really successful voice over artist is to give every script you’re handed the right flavour, mood, energy and tempo.  To do that, you need to be able to look at each script as having its own life.

Don’t forget, voice over is not just about your voice! 

 It’s more specifically about who you’re talking to and what it is that you want them to do, so every script, will have been written to deliver a message using language in a particular way.

Your job is to take that scripted – and sometimes heavily stylized language – and convert it into your own, making it sound completely natural and fresh…

…and making us believe that the words are coming straight out of your thoughts; that they’re your words.  Otherwise, it’ll just sound like you’re ‘reading’…and the message just won’t connect with us.

Making a script sound like it’s yours requires you to be across several elements in the script before you begin;

  • What’s the product?
  • Where does that name appear in the script?
  • Are you speaking on behalf of the company, as in ‘At Kmart we…’, or…
  • Are you someone who has discovered some information and are now telling a friend?
  • What’s the concept of the script, as in ‘what are they selling’?
  • Where are the key concept words and phrases?

When you understand the script, then you can begin the voiceover artists real job, ‘the art of persuasive communication’ to get the message across.

Now, there’s one really common rookie mistake, that prevents the message actually getting across, and that is that some people say the word as written, as opposed to the way we say it naturally.

When you’re doing a voice over, you need to understand the way we use language naturally and then convert it on the fly, but it can help to understand a few of the nuances of the Australian accent.  Here are some.

For instance, we rarely pronounce the consonants that fall in the middle of a word.  They’re either silent or they’re soft, especially ‘r’s.  They’re always silent.  It just sounds wrong in natural speak terms to pronounce it.

Words like often, silent ‘t’, forward, silent ‘r’, better, soft ‘t’, almost a ‘d’.

Another example of something I hear that sounds wrong is the use of the words and and for.  Let’s look at and. When we use the word and in conversation, we very rarely say the word in its entirety, that is a n d.  We usually just say the ‘n’.

Try saying and using all the letters, a, n and d, “Today I’m doing this and that”

Clunky isn’t it?

Now say it and just use the ‘n’ part of the word, “Today I’m doing this ‘n’ that”. 

The truth is, we know the word is ‘and’, but we just don’t need to sound it out, because what we’re talking about is not ‘and’, it’s ‘this’ ‘n it’s ‘that’.   Get it?

I will say that the best way to create great naturalistic reads is to be able to mimic the way you speak naturally and apply that to a script.  Being too formal with a script, unless that’s what’s required, will always sound very clunky.

The other trap that the uninitiated can fall into is not pausing between one thought or idea and the next.  Pausing is soooooo important to creating a read that involves and includes those you’re talking to.  It you don’t honour pausing, you will never sound connected.

Don’t forget, the words on the page need to sound like they’re your words.  You actually need to read through the words, carrying the meaning of the message to the person you’re addressing.  Anything else just isn’t going to cut it.

I love to listen to people out there in the world, to the way they use language to create meaning.  Doing that allows me to collect the voices and styles that I’ve used for so many characters over the years.

So enjoy eavesdropping.  It’s one of the great pastimes of human beings.  And do a little bit of analyses on the way.  Happy listening out there!