In voice over does funny equal money?
A subscriber writes:
“I have a strange voice I can do. It sounds like one of the munchkins or chipmunks. Everyone has been telling me for years to check into this kind of thing, but to be honest, I was too afraid of rejection and embarrassment. Can my funny voice really make me money?”
I get asked this question all the time by people who can do funny little voices- of animals, children, you name it!The ability to make and sustain weird voices, imitations and sounds means you have good vocal control, a good ear and a creative mind.
But being able to do a few funny voices is not enough for a successful voiceover career. The actors you hear doing funny voices in animation and cartoons have taken years to hone and perfect their craft. They can do not one, but hundreds of voices on command.
When an actor is signed to voice a cartoon, he or she is usually responsible for doing at least 3 of the different voices on the show. These voices are believable, they are unique, they can be sustained throughout an entire recording session, and they sound consistent from one recording session to the next.
Being able to do these funny voices means have raw talent, but now you need to shape them into something marketable.
Here are my guidelines
- DON’T COMMIT VOICE THEFT: THE VOICE MUST BE UNIQUELY YOURS
Occasionally there will be a casting call for a voice match, like the recent casting call for the new voice of the AFLAC Duck when the original voice, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, was fired, but this is very rare. In general, it’s best to Create your own original voices based on the voices of people you know.
- IF YOU DO IMPRESSIONS OF FAMOUS PEOPLE, CONSIDER A CAREER IN STAND UP COMEDY OR MORNING RADIO
You rarely hear exact impressions of famous people in commercials because of the risk of being sued. But if you are doing impressions as a stand-up comedian or in parody for radio shows, anything goes! Bad celebrity impressions are often the seeds of some great original character voices, so if your imitation of Arnold draws groans, take heart!
- A CHARACTER MUST HAVE A HEART, A SOUL AND AN ATTITUDE
There’s got to be a life behind that funny voice. In acting, we call this character development. Give your characters a family, a life, a job, a reason for being. Without character development, your funny voices will sound hollow, fake and juvenile.
- LOG YOUR CHARACTERS ON A VOICE RECORDER
This will prevent you from losing the voice in the future. During the production of the Harry Potter audio books, actor Jim Dale logged 150 different voices!
- PLAY YOUR VOICE LIKE AN INSTRUMENT
Use all the vocal elements: pitch, tone, inflection, tempo, rhythm, placement and dialect to enhance your characters. For great character voices, you can and should do much more than simply raising or lowering your pitch.
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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company,
a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world
how to become successful voice over actors.