How to Master Voiceover Character Skills

As a voice actor, you will often be required to get into character before you perform a voice over read.


This can involve immersing yourself in the mindset of a fictional character with no real-world equivalent, or perhaps an individual with characteristics or experiences that are entirely different from your own.


You may even be the first person to ever voice such a character, which means that your ability to interpret what the producers are looking for will be key toward nailing the job.


When you get the opportunity to voice acting exercises a new character, begin by learning as much as you can about them through their dialogue in the script and their relationships with other characters. Try to understand your character’s motivation in a given scene. Which details in the script can you use to bring this character to life? Once you can answer these questions, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the mind of your character.


Let’s dig deeper into these six techniques that will help prepare you to take on the voice and persona of a new character.

1.Building Your Voiceover Character Skills

Whenever you are out and about keep your ears open to the conversations of others around you. This doesn’t mean you have to snoop on other people’s conversations, but when you’re in a restaurant, on a bus, on a train, in a bar or on the street, one of the most useful things you can do is to listen to the sounds that other people make.


Listen to the pitch of other voices, listen to the age and quality. Listen to their accents or dialects and listen and observe any defects that are present.Everyone has a distinctive voice.For example, male voice actors tend to have deeper voices File all of your observations away for future use.


Similarly, when you are listening to the radio, watching TV or at the movies you should be actively engaged in analysing the way people speak.


The reason you have to do this is that there is quite simply no other way to build up your bank of voices.


2.Using The PAAD Rule To Develop Character Voices

One of the best ways to create a character on the fly is to remember what I have dubbed The Rule Of PAAD.


P – Pitch

A – Age

A – Accent

D – Defect

Any character voice can be created by using variations on each of these four elements.


If I’m creating a voice for an aged Texan character for instance, I might use a high-pitched, thin vocal quality, old-aged voice characteristics, a Texas accent and a lisp.


The beauty of the rule of PAAD is that you can change one or more of these elements at a time and create a totally different sounding character. Take away the lisp from my Texan, or give him a lower pitch, and he’s a totally different guy!

3.  Putting Your Voiceover Character Skills Into Practice

Listening, learning, practicing and doing is the sequence that you need to engage with on a regular, ongoing basis. Doing some voice acting exercises is perhaps the most essential. Once you have identified voices that you think you might be able to recreate you should practice, practice, practice during any down time in your studio.


Then, when you are called upon to create a character on a production from scratch, you will have a selection of voices and sounds in your vocal arsenal, that you can recreate with ease.


Ask any character actor worth his or her salt how they practice their craft and this is what they will tell you.


Hank Azaria, one of the finest character actors of his generation and the voice of multiple characters in The Simpsons, would say that his many genius creations came from everyday observations of people who he met. Mo the bartender in The Simpsons is nothing more than a bad, gravelly impression of Al Pacino according to Hank.


So keep your eyes open when you’re out and start building your bank of character voices.

4.  Guided Visualisation

To create authentic sounding, real characters you need to not only adopt the physical characteristics of your character during your performance, you also need to employ what I call, Guided Visualisation.


In guided visualisation, you become the character – not just physically but in your head as well.


This is why it is important when you are out and about and engaging with life, that you not only listen to the sounds of others around you but, as with all good actors, you need to observe the physical behaviour of others too.


By doing this you will help yourself to visualise your character during your performance.


Adding ‘humanisation‘ to your delivery will also add authenticity and believability to your performance. Humanisation refers to the noises and sounds that real people make in real conversations. The place-holders, the umm’s, the aahh’s, the ticks, the glitches, the breathing. All of these things add an extra dimension to your character creation.

5.Getting Physical To Help You Get Into Character

When it comes to creating believable characters, I cannot stress enough the importance of physicality in your performance – both in your body and face. Good character actors, even when working in sound only, will create and become their character physically. If you don’t do this you will never get believability and authenticity into the sound of your character.


Some character actors I know even go as far as using props during their performance.I have often been found in sound booths with my head inside a waste bin (or trash can if you are reading this in the US!). I know it sounds ridiculous, but holding certain items in your hands or wearing a certain coat or hat, holding a stick or standing on something, can help your performance sound more realistic and believable.


Holding a walking stick or, in the case of playing an older, person physically hunching my back so that my upper body is almost at 90 degrees to the floor helps me sound older.

6.Understanding Silence and Pauses

Additionally, pausing and silence are important. Real people in conversation will frequently pause, while searching for the next appropriate word. Some of them stammer or change a word that they were going to say halfway through a sentence or phrase. This is another part of humanisation and an extra weapon in your character armoury. Use it where you can.


Thank you for your reading.Good Luck!

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