Want to get work in Voiceover? Creating Characterful Reads

So, you want to work in voiceover?

You love doing character voices. You have an uncanny ability for mimicking others.  And you have a good voice, a good vocabulary and a love of words and language.

I need to tell you though, that character work in voiceover can mean several different things.  It’s not all cartoon voices or accents.

Often, the reads are simply ‘characterful’

That is, the voice artist understands the message and delivers it authentically to its intended audience with the right attitude or feeling.

And that’s what I want to talk about in this blog.

If you listen to commercial platforms – television, radio or online – and analyse what you’re hearing in any given commercial break, you’ll mostly hear recognisable local accents.

What you won’t be able to determine is just how much ‘character’, via attitude and feeling has been added to this read, without the voice actor actually changing the sound of their own voice.

The best way to create characterful reads when you work in voiceover is to create different ‘personas’ that sound authentic, rather than different ‘voices’ that sound cartoony, and unnatural.

I need to add here, that you need to make your choices more about the ‘message’ in the script than the sound of your voice.

So let’s talk about personas

Creating Personas for Characterful Voiceovers

In voiceover, ‘personas’ are simply extensions of you. They can represent different parts of your personality, the curious one, the all-knowing one, the one who’s concerned, or the excited one who’s just discovered the best place to buy great workout gear.

Perhaps the messenger in the script is that of a caring health professional, perhaps a young man searching for the right car, a woman who has found the best University to study at, or the retired couple, just about to take off on a journey.

Good voice actors know how to create characterful reads.  That is, they look at the script, determine who the message is intended for, and whose shoes they need to jump into to make this read really work.

When you first look at your script, these are the things in order that you need to know:

  • What is the product or idea that you’re talking about?
  • Where are the key words and phrases that are about what it’s about?
  • What problem does this product or idea solve?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • What are you trying to convince them of?

What you need to do now is to make a study of how different your voice can sound given different sets of circumstances.

Practice Techniques

Test it by trying this.

Find a simple script with a simple message. Then apply some different personas to the read.  Be specific.

Without changing your voice as you would for a cartoon voice, you’ll need to adjust your natural speaking voice in one, or all, of these three ways.  Pitch. Tone. Age.   

You can then look at pace, energy and volume, to help round out the authenticity of the read.

Make firm decisions and make sure you’re consistent with that persona across the whole read.

Increasing your repertoire of characterful voices will help your versatility.

It will also be an aid to decision-making when your either in the studio, or working remotely with a producer.

When you’ve successfully worked to build your understanding of characterful reads, it’ll be time to create some great samples that you can send to those you’ve worked with, or include on your voice demos.

When you do this well, you’ll grow relationships in the industry and increase your work.  And we all want that.

Happy voiceovering!!!