Think of a distinctive voice. Morgan Freeman perhaps comes to mind. His soothing voice is immediately recognizable, and he can sell, narrate, announce or inspire. His is the voice of God and the President. He has guided you through traffic, taken you on an Academy Award-winning journey through the universe, and even once brought a Lego character to life.
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This post was updated in May 2021
Why is a great voice actor important?
The right voice can help you reach your audience effectively, building a connection and helping you lead your listeners on a beautiful (maybe even award-winning) journey.
However, the wrong voice can be as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard, quickly causing the people you wish to woo to switch off.
If you’re needing to get voice over work done and are bewildered by the different voice actor types out there, this is a quick guide to help you get started.
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What is voice acting?
Voice actors are performers who read and interpret words to complement films, video games, commercials and more. There are many different types of voice actors, and in this article, we will elaborate further as well as give you some advice on how to find the best voice actor type for you.
Today with the large amount of media that requires voiceover, voice acting is gaining recognition as a legitimate art form as well as a proper career path.
The first ever voice recorded was the weather in 1900, by Reginald Fessenden. But many believe that it was Walt Disney who created the first ever voiceover – for Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie in 1928.
These two examples serve to show how diverse voice work can be, even back in the early days.
Fast forward to modern times, animations are fertile ground for voice actors today. In fact, plenty of A-list Hollywood artists have lent their voices to bringing iconic cartoon characters to life.
But voice is required for other things as well, from the mundane (announcements in public places, on-hold messages on the telephones), to the functional (radio announcements, informational and training videos), to the artistic (films, audiobooks, commercials), to the unexpected (toys that talk when you press a button).
Generally speaking, voice actors can be broken down into these types:
Actors – these voice actors perform in animated movies, trailers, television cartoons, radio or audio dramas, video games, puppet shows and dub for foreign language films.
Narrators – these are the voices you’ll hear in audiobooks, documentaries, podcasts and various types of videos: training, corporate, medical, educational and so on.
Announcers – these are the voices featured in live television or radio broadcasts like award shows, talk shows, promo, sporting and other live events.
Artists – these kinds of performers are versatile. They can perform any of the above as well as provide voice for toys, direct telephone prompts, or even the GPS.
Most importantly, bear in mind that not all voice acting is the same!
In fact, different types of voice over styles will require different sets of skills.
And while some people, like Morgan Freeman, are all-rounders and are justly famous for it, they are few. Most voice actors will find niches according to their strengths and specialise in them.
So, with all the different voice actor types out there, how do you pick the best for you?
It’s quite a tricky thing, when you think about it, to choose the exact right voice actor for your brand. If you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming. Check out these tips to choose the best voice actor for you:
1. Consider your brand
If you’re creating a commercial, you could start by thinking of the values embodied by your brand. Think of the emotions you want to evoke. For example, you’re in education. You’d probably want your audience to feel inspired and assured. If you’re selling women’s clothes, you’ll want the type of voice actor who can sound bubbly, perky, and happy.
2. Consider your audience
Who are you targeting? If you’re talking to a sophisticated audience, they may prefer an elegant voice with well-enunciated words. You might want to consider voice talents with a refined accent. If you’re creating a product for children, you’ll want someone who is bright, bouncy and expressive. A versatile actor who likes to perform character voices might be a great asset here.
3. Consider your medium
The kind of work you are doing influences the voice actor type you’ll be looking for. Some voice talents have a traditional presenter’s voice that work well on corporate videos or infomercials. Some can use their voices in expressive ways to create drama and character. Therefore, they may be put to better use with work that is more narrative-driven.
4. Consider demographics
Accents are an important thing to consider, particularly for international work – the wrong dialect or accent could be jarring, disengaging your audience within seconds. Ideally, consider investing in a voice actor who is a native speaker, because they will get the tone and vocabulary right in a way that you may not even be aware of. Inflexions don’t always translate across vernaculars. Think of Wagner Moura, a Brazilian who played Pablo Escobar on Netflix’s show Narcos. He acted with great gravitas and international viewers thought he nailed the role. Yet, native Colombians knew instantly that he was not actually from Colombia, due to his accent.
Also consider gender – sometimes a male voice actor works better and sometimes a female voice is preferred. For example, if you’re speaking to young girls then you would surely want a friendly female voice instead of a deep authoritative male voice. Age matters as well. Sometimes you will want something young and energetic, and at other times, a more mature sound works better.
5. Versatility counts
Some voice actors count versatility amongst their skills and this could come in handy if you’re looking to cast multiple characters. If one person excels at providing several distinct voices, then you’d be saving a lot of time, energy and money. That said, bear in mind that the skills and techniques needed for different types of voice acting vary quite a bit. Therefore, if you find a performer whose portfolio consists mostly of animation, they might not be the correct fit for narrating a somber historical audiobook.
6. Demos matter
All professional voice actors should be able to provide you with a good range of high-quality demos that show off their talents and skills. Take a look at their previous work and imagine them reading your script. Does the voice match? It’s also good to listen to a variety of different actors before you make your choice. If you’re working with a production agency, that’s even better. Get them to send over a list of possible talents who match your criteria.
7. Get a second opinion
It never hurts to get a second opinion. You might love a particular voice actor, however, your audience may not share your sentiments. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask people from the target demographic to listen to your voice samples to see if they like it. If you’re an agency working for clients, you’d also want to get their approval of the talent you’ve chosen. That way, everyone is on the same page and the production process will go smoother.
8. The little things
Does the actor sound credible? Pay attention to see if the voice is unique and easily distinguishable. Is the pitch and tone easy on the ear? Bear in mind that certain target audiences like older people, may not be able to hear higher pitch ranges.
What’s their rhythm like – are they calm and measured, or is there a tendency to rush? Is there a good reading flow? Is the pronunciation good and the delivery confident?
Also, no matter what the voice actor type, there are certain non-voice qualities you should be looking out for like stamina and patience. If your actor has no experience with long recordings, they may not have the stamina to read out entire instructional manuals. If you or your client is fickle or picky, the actor may be stuck in the studio for a long time doing take after take of the same line. They must have the patience and fortitude to see the job through.
8. Ask around
Getting a talent agency on board could make your work easier.
In conclusion, the main voice actor types are announcers, narrators, actors and artists. As with any talent search, to find the best voice actor for you, you must first know your product, brand and target audience really well before also taking into account production logistics, budgets and all the other little finishing details that make a piece of creative work a masterpiece.
Once you know those things, you can then confidently take the appropriate steps to find someone professional for your project. Good luck!
Ready to start? Quote instantly with unny Studio today, and we’ll help you find just the right artist!