If you’re hoping to carve out a career in the competitive voice over industry, one of the most important things you need to do is decide how to market your voice and what kind of voice over work you think you would be particularly good at. Some people are blessed with natural versatility and can get to grips with pretty much any voice over brief they’re presented with, whether that’s corporate video, hard sell radio, character animation or talking books. These people are the envy of most people in the voice over world, because the majority of us mere mortals will be particularly good at a few things, but not necessarily at everything.
The first thing to do is to consider the natural tone of your voice. Of course you will learn to play with your range and use either the higher or lower register of your voice as you get more experienced but by and large you will book most voice over jobs based on what you sound like naturally. If you’re a female artist with a nice, bright, bubbly voice then if you’re recording a commercial voice over demo, you should consider ads that suit your natural tones. Perhaps things like shampoo, baby products, feminine hygiene (someone has to do them), food stuffs like yoghurt, milk, breakfast cereal or anything that might fall into the ‘Mum next door category’ where a friendly, empathetic delivery is paramount. If you’re voice is naturally deeper then play to this strength, consider recording ads for more sensual products like chocolate, luxury coffee, jewellery, perfume or jazz or blues albums! Similarly choose your narrative reads wisely. A naturally bubbly voice may not be the best choice to narrate a documentary about Jack the Ripper, while a sensual voice will sound decidedly odd narrating the goings on at Monkey World!
The next thing to think about is delivery. Are you a Hard-sell Harry or do you work better with more subtle scripts? Some of the most well loved voices on the radio have great difficulty getting to grips with the DFS-style hard sell ad. It’s surprisingly tricky to get right, and if you don’t hit the right note there is a real danger that you start to sound a little demented with an extra helping of cheese! If subtle and understated is more your style then avoid these types of ads completely as they won’t do your voice over reel any favours at all.
The secret to understanding your voice is practice. Get your hands on as many different voice over scripts as you can and do lots of different practice reads. If you have an iPhone this is ideal as the voice recorder gives good quality MP3s and you’ll be able to hear what you’re doing right and where you might be going wrong. If you have a friend in the voice over business as well, then get some constructive feedback from them and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll improve.