"Say Hello to My Little Friend!": Voice Acting 101

"Say Hello to My Little Friend!": Voice Acting 101

“I been told I have a great voice, I want to be a voice actor!”

I don’t think I can actually count the amount of times someone has said this to me, immediately followed by “I can do a bunch of impressions too, listen….” (Insert cliché one-liners from celebrities and their various roles). 


Here is the deal, voice acting is both a complicated thing and a simple thing. How can that be? 

Well, yes, it is truly based on acting; acting without any physical support (like how you look, move, etc.), but it is also very straight-forward. You have to read every script as if you actually know what you are talking about…even when you don’t. 

Let’s take a commercial voice over. I break it down into 3 parts:

1. Who am I? 

2. Who am I talking to? 

3. What am I talking about?

As for “Who am I?”, I am talking about your attitude and your personality. Are you a spokesperson, a next-door neighbor, a pal, or a sarcastic guy? (I do this one very well.) 

‘Who am I talking to?” Identity your target market in terms of the demographic (i.e. young, old, male, female, friend, small group, large group, one on one). 

Finally, “What am I talking about?” Look at the script and break it down. Perhaps they are saying that, unlike the competition, this one is easier to use or that tastes better.  Maybe you will loose weight and still enjoy stuffing your face with this burger.

All of these ideas have nothing to do with ‘funny’ voices and impersonations. This is all about credibility and interpretation. If we (the listener) think you know what you are talking about and that the script sounds natural (not some script that was handed to you 15mins before the session), then you are way ahead of the game. It is not about the specifics as much as it is about the overall message. 

Before you run out and make a demo reel filled with funny voices doing random one-liners, find a voice acting coach and work with them to find your “real” voice and learn how to read any script as if you wrote them. Then, if you must, we can listen to your best “Walken”. Though honestly, I know 30 guys that can do it better than you… and I hate hearing them do it as well. 


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