Everything You Need To Do Voiceovers, and One Thing You Don’t.


  1. Well you need a mouth.  That’s how the sound gets out.  You should have good control of it and it shouldn’t make any unnecessary noises like lip flaps, pops and whistles.

  2. You need an ear.  And the ear should enjoy listening to other voices.  A musical ear helps because all sentences have a melody and different melodies or inflections convey different meaning.

  3. You need lungs.  Big lungs, that take deep quiet diaphragmatic breaths. Often when beginners read scripts they take noisy little breaths during sentences that sound unnatural.  When a person is committed to what they are saying, they take very few breaths.

  4. You need a heart.  Emotion is what makes a voiceover believable.  It’s what compels people to listen to you and care about what you are saying, and then give to a charity or buy a new car, or whatever you are asking them to do.

  5. You need arms.  When we speak from the heart, our whole body is engaged.  We gesture, and the moving of our arms physically affects our voice, and then affects the listener.

  6. You need to rewire yourself. When we read, the eyes take in the words, the brain processes them and they go straight to the mouth, bypassing your gut, and your heart.  You need to learn to see the words, send them down through the body and back up to the mouth.

  7. You need rhythm.  Many people speed up and slow down when they read, or have little unnatural surges.  “Smooth it out” is a very common voiceover suggestion.

  8. You need a life. Have you noticed how most young people end their sentences on an upward inflection, like a question?  Like I’m so sure you have?  It’s because they don’t know the answers to life’s questions yet.  They have no gravitas.  Listen to someone who’s been through a deep life changing experience and you hear it.  Your life changes your voice.  It gives it depth, and variety.

  9. You need to forget elementary school. The act of reading aloud in front of a class was full of tension. We developed stilted mannerisms, sing song inflections and monotone pitches because we were so nervous.

  10. You need an education, and the more knowledge of the inside and outside worlds, the better.  That is especially true for narration and technical reads. You never know what subject you will be asked to speak about with authority.

  11. You need to be an actor, especially for dialog and story telling VO’s.  However it’s different, and perhaps harder than being a stage actor, because you can’t memorize your lines, nobody can see you, and you have to stand in one place.

  12. You need to have a screw loose, especially for character and cartoon voices.  A script may call for you to come up with the voice of a Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert or a glass of milk or a water skiing possum.  There are many components to a character voice; such as voice placement, (head, chest, nose,) vocal tone (smooth, gravelly, guttural) mouth work (lisps, slurs, drawls) plus accents, rhythm and tempo.

  13. You need stamina.  For long-form reads such as audiobooks, you may be expected to read 3 to 4 hours a day without losing energy or focus. And you need to sound the same at the end of the day as you do at the beginning of the next day.

  14. You need lessons, and lots of practice, on a microphone. Learning voice-acting is like learning to play a musical instrument.  Listening back to yourself can be the best teacher. And it’s a tough business. There are about as many fully employed voice-actors as there are wide receivers in the NFL.

  15. You need to not say “I’m Sorry” when you make a mistake during a recording.  It takes you out of character, because it’s not your character who is sorry.  (Doing voiceovers at Zone Recording Studio means never having to say you’re sorry.)

  16. (This part intentionally left blank to remind us of the value of silence and the importance of spaces between words.)

  17. The one thing you don’t need to do voiceover is a great big “voicey” voice. Many of the auditions you will get ask for a strong, natural, confident voice, but not announcery.

Check out this video of Blair giving some helpful tips on Voiceovers!

At Zone Recording studio of Cotati, California, we offer voiceover workshops and private lessons. We also produce voiceover demos so you can get an agent and get to work.

If you’re looking to record audio for a CD, commercial, interview, audio book and much more, then call Zone Recording Studio at (800) 372-3305 or email blair@zonerecording.com. Contact us today at www.zonerecording.com

It’s great to dream, but make an appointment.

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