The Skill of Variation in Voice Over

Two simple ways to create variation in voice over reads

I’ve had a long career as a voice over actor and work across all area of the industry.

It wasn’t always that way – I started out with one voice and one style.

But as I’ve become more experienced, I’ve understood more about what I was doing and what was required of me. And that’s how I taught myself to create variation in voice over reads.

I learned that versatility is the key to longevity in voice over.

Let’s look at what versatility actually means in voice over terms. 

I hear a lot of demos that present samples that are very sam-ey!

Where the reads are all at the same:

  • pace,
  • volume,
  • energy level, and
  • the same rhythms are applied to the script.

This is not going to build you a career as a voice artist.

Your job is to convert someone else’s written word into spoken word that sounds like your own.  To do that, you need to understand the language in the script and what it’s doing.

And it’s always doing something different, for a different reason or purpose.

First up, it’s crucial that you know what you’re good at and would be likely to be booked for. 

This knowledge is essential, because those casting you want to be able to listen to your samples and trust that you know how to deliver what you’re good at.

If you haven’t already worked out, what your ‘disembodied’ voice style is (that’s your signature style or voice type) then find scripts, or better still work with a coach who can find you scripts, that are the best possible example of that style.

Let’s talk about a couple of ways to create variation in voice over reads.

1 Understand the message 

Each script is different and requires you to take a deep, analytical look at the message. The advertisers need is your most important consideration.

Once you know what that is, you need to pay attention to:

  • who you’re talking to,
  • what it is you want them to do, or
  • how you want them to respond to the message you’re delivering.

This is where you’ll need to know that variations in pace (from one sentence, or part of a sentence to another) is what makes the read interesting, engaging and easy to understand. 

Once you’ve worked out what’s important, you can slow down through those phrases. 

Anything that’s not essentially about the message, add some pace to!

This takes practice, as it’s about finding a rhythm and a flow that is easy to listen to – so it connects with the listener.


2 Understanding microphone technique

The microphone is an amazing piece of equipment.  The more you know about how to use it to create your read, the more versatile you’ll sound.

Beware of being too loud – the digital medium doesn’t like loud voices. 

If you have a naturally big voice, you’ll need to make sure your volume is pulled right back.

No matter what your voice is like though, working at low volume does actually help your voice acting.

It takes a lot of energy to project, but when you use less energy, you’re able to insert emotion, attitude and nuance to words and phrases.

Experiment with volume and really listen for these two things…

1 At what volume does your voice sound its best?

For some reads, creating intimacy or sounding like you’re talking to just one person is what’s required.

And for some voice actors, that may mean speaking just above a whisper.

When you look at the script, adjust your volume with consideration to who is going to be hearing the message. Is it for:

  • radio,
  • an event,
  • a convention,
  • in-store,
  • on-hold, or
  • to he heard by the listener from a computer screen?

Always work out how and where your voice will be heard – this will help you to achieve the right volume.

2 When you speak into the mic, which position sounds best?

Figure out:

  • if you need to work across the microphone to avoid plosives on ‘p’s’ and ‘b’s’?
  • how far you should be from the mic?

Test all these things and find your ‘sweet spot’ by recording and listening back to your choices.

You need to become expert in ‘hearing’ all aspects of your voice performance.

Being a voice actor is never just about reading a bunch of words.  Voice over is a skill and to work regularly as a voice actor, you need to be skilled in many different ways.

Knowing how to create variation in voiceover reads is one of the best ways to grow your career.

Happy voiceovering!