SHUT UP AND LISTEN!
Published December 10, 2009
Wanna know one of the biggest secrets of successful voice talents? They listen to other people.
One of the things that makes a great voice talent is the ability to hear and recreate the little vocal nuances that evoke the emotion the client is looking for. Not mimicry, but rather the discovery and application of those expressions and energy that breathe a unique life into the copy.
Where does one find these?
In real conversations.
It’s become sort of a hobby for me – listening to people’s voices (not that I’m a great voice talent – I’m still in the discovery stage). I listen for voices that capture me. Then I listen for what it is that caught my attention. For example, I have a friend that has a most incredible laugh. But I’ve discovered that what is so attractive is what leads up to that laugh. It’s a sort of a building joy that lets you know he’s about to explode into a laugh. And I’ve noticed that many times when he’s speaking, people around him are already smiling and laughing even before he lets go one of his seismic belly laughs. Even people who don’t know him!
Applying that little nuance to some of my reads can give me an edge of anticipation that my client is looking for.
I have a relative who is the biggest cynic that ever lived. But what is so great about her cynicism is that she is so sarcastic. That edgy resignation is priceless when my client is looking for brash and sarcastic.
See my point? Your client most likely has an attitude in mind for the copy. I’ve never had a client say “Gimme something new; something I’ve never heard before.”
Find out what they’re looking for even before your first read. And listen to the words the client uses. Often they don’t know how to explain what they want so they throw out several words. Words like warm, friendly, powerful but laid back. Or like the instructions I got the other day, “I’m looking for Christmasy”.
Today I had a client who told me he wanted whimsical with a sarcastic edge. Huh?
I took that whacky Aunt of mine and an old farmer neighbor who has the most gentle, charming older voice you’ve ever heard, and put them together. The client took the first take.
We are Voice Actors. We use our voice to create feelings. Feelings are based on experience. It’s those little vocal qualities that remind our listeners of that experience. Our job is to recreate that experience in our listeners.
You are only as good as the experience you create for your listeners. And that means you must find those little vocal techniques that recreate the experience your client is looking for.