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What's a Voice Over?

It's the art of using the voice to sell, inform or entertain on radio and TV, or through the medium of audio books. Voice actors provide the voice for animated films and television shows, they narrate documentaries and do voice-overs on television and radio commercials. If you love acting and have a unique voice, then this might be the right career for you! 

Our Voice coach Lynda Edwards has supplied voices for a vast range of children's books; her more formal tones will be familiar to many who have endured computerised employee messages on health and safety notices for the workplace:

Heres what she has to say;

"The skill of a character voice over is so singular that even established actors can struggle. A lot of people reckon they can do a funny voice, but it's not enough – you have to bring the script off the page for an audience who can't see you. It's amazing how many famous people want to do it, but don't get offered the part because they are too used to acting with their whole body.
Playing around with character voices gives you so much more scope. Adult female actors are frequently called upon to impersonate small boys because their voices are lighter than their male counterparts and the recruitment of children involves so much additional red tape. With lots of practice, it can become second nature to produce the right sound; I'm an avid collector of character voices!

Cartoons, unsurprisingly, are the highlight of a job that can encompass anything from home cleaning products to instant coffee adverts. Those are hard because if you only drink tea like me, you have to sound excitedly enthused by a product you care nothing about! The trick is to smile while you're talking because that makes your voice sound bright and cheery," she says. "If I know I've got a couple of days of animation work, it feels like a holiday. You're in there with the other actors and the interaction makes the script come alive." 

Lynda goes on to say;

"There are so many good books that have been wrecked by the rights holders not caring to use a genuine English accent on the audio version. I'll often have very successful writers in the US asking me to find characterful English voices. I'm starting something soon in which we'll need a group of St Trinian's types - so girly voices at the ready, as I'm casting about for the right people for that one at the moment."
We believe the secret of success in a competitive market is a strong showreel to demonstrate your range;

"Listen to audio books and practise, practise, practise," Lynda advises. "Take a script and read it with silly voices, because you have to remember to act too. You need lots of ups and downs in your voice and more expression than in straight acting roles since the audience can't see you."
A drama qualification is, she reckons, unnecessary. She believes that her voice workshops can teach you every aspect of voice overs; including her specialist course for voicing computer games;

"That's less voice and more reactions like cries and yelps when you're hit with a brick or knocked off a cliff."
So thoroughly does she embed herself in character voices she tells us that they will often come unbidden after she has left the studio;

"I find, especially if I've been doing a posh voice, that I'll be speaking it for a couple of hours afterwards; my children have grown used to the many different sounds of mum. It takes much more than a great sounding voice to be successful in voice overs. While clear speech is essential, you also need the ability to take someone else's words (the script) and make them sound believable and sincere, as if they were your own. This has more to do with acting ability and timing than voice quality. With proper training this skill can be learned. A strong desire to do this and the ability to persist are essential. Some start up capital would also be necessary to invest in training and a professionally recorded audio book or at least a demo tape. And then to search for auditions, I strongly recommend that you immerse yourself in the global work place. There are some people (male and female) who are born with what I call "the voice of god"... But in my experience, natural talent has very little to do with voiceover success. I've seen people who I thought would never "make it" book jobs. I've also seen those who were naturally talented never get work. In my opinion, what most people call talent is really a combination of desire, preparation, and knowing the inside play! 

Possibly the question I'm asked the most is this;
'How much money can I make in this business?'
The answer is quite a bit. Top voice over talent make six and even seven figure incomes. If you are successful after being auditioned to record a bestselling audio book you might make £10,000 or more in residual payments for just one spot. Commercial contracts pay anywhere from £75-£400 a commercial, depending on market size and whether your commercial runs on TV or radio. While these fees are not astronomical they are certainly good pay for something that's so much fun to do."