What’s In a Voice?

In my explorations of the voiceover world, I’ve discovered that when you ask the question:

How important is a good voice to being a good voiceover artist?

The answers are surprisingly all over the map. At one end of the spectrum, some say you must have a “good” voice before you can do anything. However, it is often left undefined what a “good” voice really is.

It is a good question, wouldn’t you say? When people think of a good voice, they think of movie trailer announcers or radio DJs. However, if you listen carefully to radio, TV commercials and other media with voice work in it (if you want to be a voice actor, you should!), you’ll find that the world of voice acting is much more than “IN A WORLD…” and “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!”

So what does it mean to have a “good” voice? Well, that depends on what you want to use it for. My voice, for example, is very deep and can even be somewhat gravelly if I want it to be. I have a great voice for doing narrations, audiobooks, and commercials requiring  a nice, warm and friendly “fatherly” voice, or a voice of authority. I’m not as suitable for doing a “young” voice- you won’t hear me as the young groom-to-be on a jeweler’s radio spot, but you might hear me as the jeweler.

Voices are all over the map, and the market for them is similarly all over the map. You don’t need the stereotypical “good” voice to be a voice actor. You must have a sound that would be desirable for some reason or another, and depending on your voice you might find that the number of opportunities to use it are wider or narrower. But the voice is only half of the picture.

The other half of voice acting

Is “acting”. It’s right there in the title: Voice Acting. You’ve gotta be able to act. That means create a character, make it believable, read a script (cold) and take direction. Voice actors have it harder than traditional screen or stage actors in every possible respect. They have exactly one tool to get their message across with- their voice. You can’t be seen in a radio ad or a web site voiceover, and that means you must be capable of carrying emotion, character and whatever else the job needs just with using your voice.

That’s not easy, and I believe it is why so many people think they can do voice acting and then discover they really can’t.

About taking direction- I emphasized that point for a reason. You really do have to be able to take direction- from the producer, the sound guys, whoever is in charge of the project. You’re not in charge. A voice artist is hired to make a specific product, and part of producing that product is to let people tell you what they want and make it happen.

It’s absolutely critical in this business that you check your ego at the door, because if you think you know better what something should sound like than the person who’s paying you, you’re going to learn very quickly how wrong you are.


So, if you’ve got a good voice, great! It’s not enough. If you’re a good actor, great- it’s not enough. But if you can look at yourself honestly and say that you have those skills, that’s a good start. But it’s also crucial to keep training both halves; your voice and your acting ability. I’m taking acting classes and working with a voice coach as I can afford it, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is. Native talent and ability will get you absolutely nowhere on their own.


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