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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM OCTOBER 2009
It’s your instrument. You need to understand its abilities and limitations. Once you do, you’ll truly know what you are capable of. Are you interested in learning a whole new way of speaking? If you are, let’s go!
Where does your voice come from? Stomach, head, belly, throat, or chest? Do you have a high-pitched voice? Are you a boomer? Do you have a “noisy” mouth? I can help. All those descriptions come with advantages and limitations.
Here is the key: The relationship between your mouth and the microphone is exactly the same as the relationship between your mouth and the listeners’ ear. You wouldn’t scream into their ear to get your point across, would you? So, don’t scream into the mic either. People will listen to you, just get their attention and speak clearly and warmly.
“Uh, how can I speak “warmly”? Ok, good question. Think of it this way, when you say “I love you” to a significant other, I bet your voice is warm. Am I right? Just imagine you are whispering those three words into that persons’ ear. That’s the power of “warm”. Can you get to “warm”? Read this line out loud: “When I see you under the moonlight, your beauty takes my breath away!” I bet that was awkward. If it was, I think I know why.
You have to be able to get to the place of emotion, mentally in order for you to get physically there. Voice-over work involves a lot of that type of thing. Now, ask yourself: “Am I anywhere close to this type of delivery?” Perhaps you are and if that’s the case, keep working at it. If you’re not, then you really need to work at it….NOW!
For me, this is an art form. Start paying attention to the voices on commercials that you hear. Really listen to what the person is saying, not with words, but with inflection. Try this exercise: “I really want a slice of that pizza.” Read that as a sentence. Now, where was the emphasis? If you can’t find it, try reading the sentence several times and each time you do, emphasize a different word. “I really want a slice of that pizza”. “I REALLY want a slice of that pizza…” and so on. Notice how the structure changes?
My general tone is “friendly, everyday guy”. I can create characters ranging from a friendly old man to a cartoon character. I can make up voices for different occasions too.
Now I have a distinct sound and it has taken years of practice and patience. It’s not an easy thing to do. I started with a voice that was coming from the back of my throat, and I’ve worked hard to get it down into my chest. How did I do that? Practice.
If your voice is located in your head then you need to develop your lower register through practice. If your voice is located in your belly, you’ll REALLY need to develop a higher register through practice. But the most important part of this is that you need to vary your delivery to keep peoples attention. You’ve no doubt heard Ben Stein, “My eyes were dry” in the monotone delivery? He does that voice and it makes him money, but I wouldn’t want to be exposed to it for too long. Richard Simmons is someone who would also cause me to find a weapon if I had to listen to him too long. Love the enthusiasm, but add that to his delivery and POW…waaay over the top.
The two instances I just mentioned are very unique voices, Gilbert Gottfried is another.
So, how do you know where you are in vocal development and just as important, content development? Find someone who will walk you through all the stages of development. You should find a person who will develop a baseline of your voice as it is, and then help to create exercises to work on your areas of weakness.
You can get some great feedback from an independent source. You can’t count on your wife, brother or girlfriend to be able to help you develop your own sound. They’ll always tell you your voice sounds ok.
I’ve been broadcasting for over 30 years. I’ve read a lot of commercial copy, and have worked with some incredible coaches. They have been instrumental in my career. They have been guideposts in my development. You should have one too.
If you want, you can contact me at www.behindthemic.biz
I’d love to hear you!
Dave Winsor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.