Have you ever been watching a movie or TV program or heard a commercial, a radio show, a podcast, eLearning or other voiceovers and thought that you recognised the voice? Well, it’s no surprise. Just as actors take on different roles and singers sing different songs, good voice over artists can apply their voice to a variety of different voiceovers.
Take the case of June Foray. She was an American voiceover artist who made her name in cartoons. While you might be too young to know the characters, she was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Jokey Smurf. She worked in well-known productions such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons and The Flintstones.
Her career didn’t stop when cartoons lost their gloss, however. She was working well into her 90s, including a reprisal of her voice-over role as Rocky in a Rocky and Bullwinkle short film.
How was June Foray – and so many other voiceover artists that have followed in her footsteps – been so successful? You might be surprised that it’s less to do with her voice and more with her heart.
In an interview for ‘I Know That Voice’ documentary movie, June Foray was asked what advice she passed on to potential voiceover artists. Her simple reply: “You can teach them techniques of getting closer or whispering, but it comes from the heart.”
Successful voiceover artists make emotional connections.
To be a successful voiceover artist, technique is important, but the key is to make emotional connections with your audience. It can also be said that to do this, you first need to make an emotional connection with your characters. If you can connect with your character and then connect with your audience and make them feel something, you’ll be well on your way to being a successful voiceover artist.
What is that something that you want the audience to feel? This is going to depend on the voiceover that you’re doing. In some cases, this might come easy. For example, if you’re recording a voiceover for a commercial for COVID vaccinations and you use a tone that conveys warmth and empathy rather than one that is cold and robotic, you’ll have more of a connection. Likewise, if you are tasked with narrating the voiceover for an animal documentary, projecting a sense of caring about animals will help you connect with your audience.
However, what if you don’t have a connection? This is where your acting skills, imagination, and visualisation need to come to the fore. Talk to the client about the voiceover brief. Should your character sound happy, sad, excited, alarmed, knowledgeable, scared, or other emotions?
Really get inside your character. Like a good actor, this is where the difference between the good voiceover actors and the great ones is often seen.
It’s also about knowing how to read and ‘get inside’ a script. Using correct inflections, phrasing and colour to bring a script to life are skills that a good voiceover talent develops over time. There’s no such thing as overnight success!
What about the voice?
Does a voiceover artist need a great voice? Not necessarily. Obviously, fluency, tone, pace and the ability to use your voice clearly are important, but a great voice isn’t a necessity.
As well-known voiceover artist Jess Harnell says, also in the ‘I Know That Voice’ documentary movie, “A lot of people think that voiceover is about doing funny voices. It’s totally not. Voice over is about creating characters.”