Why do you need a voice talent test, and what to look for? Any mention of a test raises the eyebrows, both among those that are job candidates, as well as those that are conducting a test. After all, it all sounds complicated… and expensive.
But in this age where the need to use somebody’s voice, from various telephone services to announcers and voice actors, getting a voice that exactly fits the needs can become a game-changing factor. That is where a quality voice talent test comes in as a key element of making the right choice.
A good voice talent test, conducted directly, or through a presented demo, depends on a number of factors:
- The type and quality of the presented voice
- The quality of the recording session or a demo
- The specific needs of a client
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It all starts with the voice itself
In the world of recorded or live audio, a voice talent is becoming a buzz word. The need for voice talent according to TopTalentsInc. seem to be growing, and can include the following categories:
- Announcers who would introduce “ segments of live television or radio broadcasts such as; award shows, talk shows, continuity, promo, and sporting events.”
- Narrators, who specialize in “audiobooks, documentaries, explainer videos, educational videos, business videos, medical videos and act as audio tour guides.”
- Voice Actors who usually perform “in animated movies, TV cartoons, radio dramas, ADR, video games, puppet shows and in foreign language dubbing.”
- Voice actors in general, that can perform in any of the above categories, but also be used for telephone prompts (VR), call centers, website voice needs, GPS voice or any PR or advertising service.
Quality of voice in a voice talent test
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines voice quality as “that component of SPEECH which gives the primary distinction to a given speaker’s VOICE when pitch and loudness are excluded. It involves both phonatory and resonatory characteristics. Some of the descriptions of voice quality are harshness, breathiness, and nasality.”To clarify things, phonatory refers to the way a voice produces sound, while resonatory refers to the timbre and intensity of a voice.
First is the resonance of a voice, which is defined as “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Reverberation is important, as, at its root, voice is a series of vocal-cord vibrations. If a voice resonates in a throat, it will sound muffled, gravely (bass-sounding). When it resonates in nasal passages, it will sound “nasally” (the treble element). Ideally, a voice should resonate primarily in the mouth, balancing bass and treble.
Relaxation. A candidate that does his test tense, her/his throat will become tight. With a tight throat, vocal cords get taut and vibrate with different quality–“like when you push up hard against something and your muscles become strained.”
Good rhythm is an essential part of a great voice. A tested voice should sound smooth, not choppy. One of the best ways to sound smooth is by extending vowel sounds and sliding words together. Grant gives an example – when you say “bus stop,” it should sound more like “busstop.” Grant says that sliding sounds and words together is more pleasing to the ear than a choppy, staccato sound pattern.
Pacing is critical to add depth and dimension to a voice. The speaker should use short sentences–not long, complex sentences. Candidate speaking in long, complex sentences, tends to cram more words into one breath.
Reading, demos and recording sessions
Along with voice quality, for voice over tests in general, two other elements have essential importance. One is the quality of the reading exhibited by a candidate and the other is the quality of the recording. The same applies to a direct audition recording as to a demo presented by a potential candidate.
The quality of the reading or the read is the manner in which a candidate interacts with the text – whether she/he is picking up on “tonal shifts in the script such as sarcasm, afterthoughts, humor, etc.” Is the candidate coming across as an actor “pretending” to feel that way? Does she/he place emphasis where it has the most impact and helps reinforce the overall message of the script? All these are the elements that also depend on the needs of the potential customer.
Direct auditions/recordings in practically all cases are conducted by a professional production/recording team. The conditions in those are in most cases of the best quality and suited for the needs of the session.
In these days of where applicants can come from practically anywhere, candidate recorded demos are more widespread. At the same time, they can be of quite varying quality. The use of good recording techniques and services is a must because when a demo falls below an audio-quality threshold it is almost immediately discarded. “They simply won’t sound good in the project, even if the read is good.”
Voice talent test should suit the needs of the client
All the general requirements needed for a quality voice talent test, are key when the test is conducted by a talent agency which then further proposes a prospective candidate to a customer or customers.
Voice quality, reading, and quality recording will be crucial for a final decision.
When a specific client is conducting the voice talent test, in the end, it all comes down to their unique needs. Whether he needs a voice actor, announcer, narrator or a voice for commercial telephone calls will be the final deciding factor whether a prospective candidate actually passes the test.