Often when asked to do a voiceover or on camera audition, I get “specs,” or an idea of what the client is looking for. Obviously the character, the product and the copy itself also influence the read; a Mom in a grocery store, for example, would sound different than a corporate spokesperson.
Many specs ask that voices be real and conversational…like you’re talking to your best friend. A recent request was a challenging “approachable and authoritative.” Another wanted a voice that was unpolished and wouldn’t be described as professional.
Sometimes they name a celebrity that has the tone they’re looking for, other times they send an MP3 sample of a voice they like (which makes me wonder why they don’t just book that person. Maybe they used her before and want someone new, maybe she’s not available…) Each VO talent has to decide how much of the referenced name’s or sample’s sound to incorporate into her voice, while also keeping in mind the specific words detailing the nuances of the specs.
VO teachers and other industry professionals say my natural sound can be too articulate, too professional, too announcery. This can be great for narration, especially when the copy is very technical. A client said they booked me for a medical narration because I was the only person they heard who could make boring stuff sound interesting. But sometimes I have to work to sound real.
How do I know if I’m achieving the requested sound, if I’m meeting the client’s needs? More and more we’re asked to audition from home, without any direction. So if the job is big enough, I go to a very experienced audio engineer. He coaches me and offers feedback on various takes until he’s impressed. Because it’s not what I hear that matters, it’s what the talent buyer hears.
The upsides: I receive direction and production–he has a lot more experience and equipment than I do and also edits the takes–yielding confidence that I’m submitting an amazing audition. The downsides: travel time to and from his studio, adjusting my schedule to fit his, paying for help when there’s no guarantee of booking the job.
It’s very interesting to see or hear a commercial I auditioned for but didn’t get. I try to analyze what they liked about the voice they chose, but I’m not sure I extract any information I can use in the future.
Will two coaching sessions in the past week pay off? Time will tell…
Morgan Mandel says
I hope your sessions pay off, Ruth. If they do, please let me know what commercials you'll be on.
Good luck, Ruth!