“I know words. I have the best words!” This ever-famous controversial quote by Donald Trump has been impersonated by the likes of countless many. Many gifted American entertainers know just how to do impressions uncannily when it comes to President Trump. Mimicries that contribute to top laughs are Trevor Noah who does The Daily Show, and Seth Myers in A Closer Look amongst others.

Vocal impressions are a useful tool, especially for audio ads. They include sound effects that can make your ad more interesting. Celebrity impressions can spice up your audio ad to make them more engaging and funny. On top of teaching you how to do impressions, we will discuss the good the bad and the evil of vocal impressions.

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This article was updated on March 2021

What is a Vocal Impression?

In short, doing a vocal impression can also be described as imitating, impersonating, or voice cloning. Such can be of the sounds and mannerisms of people, objects or animals. This article will focus on mainly the sound aspect rather than physical mannerisms. Today in the entertainment realm, the most popular form of vocal impression is the mimicry of famous celebrities or politicians. They are usually done in the form of a song or speech.

The Good

Studies have shown that it’s not uncommon to dislike the sound of our own voice. But what are the benefits of learning how to do impressions and why are they becoming a popular skill these days?

Psychological Brand Affinity

There are two main psychological backed by science when it comes to the applications of vocal impressions. The first being that people are usually more receptive to familiar voices. Familiar voices tend to be more easily understood. That said, with the media magnifying the sound waves of famous celebrities and politicians, they become familiar to us. A journal has also proven that we do not need to consciously recognize the identity of the voice in order for them to be intelligible. This is one of the reasons why hiring celebrities to endorse a brand can be so effective for marketing.

Impressions can also be effective in creating atmospheric sound effects. For example, including meows for a feline food ad. A study showed that more emotions are evoked when sounds of high familiarity and interest are played. The second reason, therefore, has to do with our emotions. Forbes has hailed emotional marketing to be a lucrative strategy. It has been proven to make a brand 8.4 times more trustworthy and 7.1 times more likely to lead to a conversion. This is because we often relate to the audio characteristics of a familiar voice with memory or an emotional perspective.

Love for Humour

BBC claims that comedy simply makes us better people. In recent years, doing impressions of worldwide politicians have stolen the limelight especially in New York. Absurdly exaggerating the vocal characteristics including tone, accent, pronunciation and hand gestures adds a touch of satire. They are part of what has made shows like Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Myers and Saturday Night Live very popular. Even The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon makes use of impressions on his program.

What makes watching impressions so popular and addictive? It probably starts with the audience’s familiarity with the character. Content that mock the character’s personal life, decisions, and famous quotes add to the humor.

Reviving Fallen Stars

Did you know that a good Elvis impersonator can earn a hefty amount of $4,000 to $5,000 a week? Elvis is ranked the second-highest-paid dead celebrity after Michael Jackson. This is based on last year’s Forbes list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities for 2020. The spirit of the king of rock and roll is kept alive in Las Vegas today by such impersonators. Needless to say, there have been famously successful Michael Jackson impersonators too. Aside from being able to contort one’s voice, the body language, mannerisms, and visual resemblance play a part as well.

how to do impressions for voice actors

The Bad

Ever seen stand up comedians wipe out on stage? Vocal impersonation is pretty much a hit or miss, and missing can annoy your audience or leave them scratching their heads.  If you don’t know how to do a vocal impression with resemblance, chances are you will come across awkward, drunk or perhaps even mentally off! Not knowing how to correctly do impressions can also cause more physical harm than good.

Throat Problems & How to Avoid Them

Playing something or someone else is no doubt a valuable skill set. But it’s taxing and unnatural compared to the way we usually speak. As such, it can cause your throat to hurt. That comes especially with certain techniques such as vocal frying. A vocal fry creates a drawling dry scrape in the lowest pitch available. It can be used in singing and speaking. Regularly doing this especially almost to a shout can cause damage to one’s vocal cords. That is unless you learn how to do it the right way with trained vocal coaches.

Generally, doing impressions for long periods might cause your voice to become hoarse. The vocal cords are forced together which in the long term cause irritation and swelling. Eventually, they might get so swollen that the rest of the vocal cords are unable to close properly. Your voice is a valuable asset so make sure you know when to take a break and how to take care of your throat. Drinking hot tea with lots of honey helps. When not doing impressions, hold normal conversations like you normally would or read-aloud for a couple of minutes to cool down.

The Evil

With all good comes evil. Not all vocal impressions are done to bring laughter and entertainment to the world. It is thus important to understand the legalities behind using the skill, especially if you are looking to incorporate them into your ads for marketing reasons.

Illegal Impersonation

Just near the end of 2019, cyber crooks managed to very closely impersonate the CEO’s voice of an energy company. This led to a successful wire transfer of $243k. The identity fraud was pulled off successfully due to the accurate impersonation of the CEO’s slight German accent in addition to the great resemblance in his voice pattern.

Incidences like these are not unprecedented. A report has, in fact, found an increase of voice fraud by 350% in just 4 years. It is thus important to understand what applications are deemed legal and where to draw the line should you decide to use them.

Legalities of Impersonations

You are free to do vocal impressions of animals and sounds. However, it is important to know where the legal boundaries lie when incorporating public figure impressions in your marketing strategy. Here are some frequently asked questions answered before you start your journey on learning how to do impressions.

Is it legal to use a voice actor to impersonate a celebrity in my audio ad?

Technically, it is not legal to use a celebrity’s voice to deceive the public into thinking it’s genuine. It is considered identity fraud, especially in the use of commercial gain. This is because the celebrity himself or herself did not agree to work or represent your brand and thus the opinions cannot be trusted.

Can I use impressions for audio ads in the form of a parody?

The answer to this really depends on the country you are using the ad in. Top jurisdictions with liberal freedom of speech include the US, Poland, and Spain. Countries ranked low on the scale include Senegal, Jordan, and Pakistan. For full information on each country, you can refer to this page. Bear in mind that even mid-range countries such as the United Arab Emirates, China, and Singapore have specific laws that apply especially to political views.

Generally speaking, it might be permitted in the US if you use a comedic approach. But that goes with building the ad on an obvious context that you are using a celebrity impersonator.

If you are determined on using a vocal impersonation of a public figure for commercial broadcast, it is always best to consult with a legal representative. Such measures can prevent a loss of time, money and future legal implications in the creation of your audio ad.

Your Guide on How to Do Impressions Uncannily

Now that we’re done with the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the technique of how to do impressions. To make this easier, we’ll talk you through the steps.

Step 1: Listening Intently

The first step to successful impressions is to know your “character”. This goes whether you are impersonating a fictional character such as a businessman from Berlin, or a public figure or celebrity in the media. To start, have a notepad and pen ready. Playback multiple clips of your character and listen. Start off with observing single words, then progress slowly to phrases. Note down what you observe on the following:


  • What accent does your character speak in?
  • Do some research on where your character is from, and how the accent sounds like. For example, if your character speaks German, he or she might speak in a particular dialect depending on the region. (You can learn more about German speech here)
  • Note down the obvious characteristics of the accent. For example, have you ever heard a French voiceover or a French Canadian voice over? In those languages they don’t pronounce the letter “h”, so “herbs” is pronounced “erbs”.
  • Does the letter “r” require a roll of the tongue like the Spanish, Italians, Russians, and Arabic? Or is it pronounced with a back-of-the-throat “h” as the French do?


  • Are they pronounced long or short?
  • Is the letter “a” pronounced as “ay” or “ah”?
  • Is the letter “e” pronounced as “ye” or “eh”?


  • Which syllable is the emphasis placed on?
  • How hard do the consonants sound?


  • Is the speech spoken forcefully or gently?
  • Are there varying tones in a sentence? Or does your character speak in a calm monotone?
  • Note down the highs and lows to discover the tonal patterns.

Voice Quality

  • Note down how would you describe the voice? You can get a list of descriptive vocabulary from this article.
  • How is the voice pitch, smoothness, and age of the voice?
  • Is the voice light and airy or accent-heavy?
  • For example, Morgan Freeman’s voice has been described as authoritative, smooth, deep and grandfather like.

Breaks and Pauses

  • How fast does your character speak?
  • Where does he or she apply pauses in speech?
  • How long are the pauses?

Other Qualities

  • Are there other descriptive qualities on the character’s voice mannerisms?
  • Is the speech slurry and droning or refined and sharp?

Step 2: Imitating the Voice

Now that you’ve jotted down all these qualities, make sure you mark them on your script. Such include when to apply breaks in the speech and circling syllables and letters that sound different from your normal way of speaking.

The key is practice, practice and more practice. Learning how to do impressions is like learning how to sing with the piano. Let the character’s voice be the piano when guiding your sound pitches. Try to sync your own voice pitch to match his or hers. Don’t forget to take breaks in between so as not to strain your vocal cords.

how to do impression for voice overs

Step 3: Recording Your Impersonation

There is a reason why most of us cringe at the sound of hearing our voice on a recording. This is because our voice reverberates in our skull and tend to sound louder and deeper than it really is. It is thus important to record your voice so you know how you really sound to others.

Playback your own voice recording alongside the character’s speech to compare the resemblance. Make adjustments to your own vocal impression such as lowering or raising the pitch to match his or hers. Record and repeat again until you are satisfied with your impression.

Step 4: Getting Opinion

Everyone has a different ear. It is important to listen to some comments before officially broadcasting your impression. Play or practice your vocal impression in front of friends and family and see what they have to say. If the same comments keep surfacing, it’s probably a good idea to take them into account.

Outsourcing Vocal Impressions

We all own a different range of vocal pitch. As such, it might sometimes be impossible to match the tone of the character we wish to portray. Learning how to do impression also takes time, practice and interest. Sometimes it is just simply not worth the effort when you have other business goals to focus on. In times like these, outsourcing your vocal impression to a reliable voice actor might come in handy.

Looking to produce a full ad that contains animal, sound or personality mimicry? Platforms like Bunny Studio, trusted by reputable companies like Dell, Airbnb and The Home Depot offer quality voice recording for audio ads or voice overs. At a reasonable rate, you can also pick from a wide range of languages and accents.

Submit a project with Bunny Studio today to get your very own vocal impression!

In Short

Knowing how to do impressions isn’t a talent. It is a skill that can be picked up with a substantial amount of detailed research, listening, and practice. Anyone can learn the skill, especially if you have a keen ear. It is, however, important to note the limitations of using impressions for commercial gain purposes. Keep to these tips and you’re all set to play pretend!