In voiceover legend there goes a tale of the voiceover artist who can effortlessly slip from 1 to 100 characters in 120 seconds. He is also said to live in a cave (pretty good for building a well treated and isolated sound booth) and to have scared off the hungry Lion that wanted to eat him by pretending to be a Silverback Gorilla with his voice alone.
While this may be the stuff of legend, non-actors marvel at how a voiceover can slip so easily between characters and accents. All with the one voice and body.
Yes, it is possible. And there are secrets behind it.
So, what’s the magic sauce? The tricks of the trade, like in Magic illusions?
Have you ever been fascinated how the office manager has a tight, high sound because of all that facial tension in their jaw and posture? Or why some Londoners have a very gravely / throaty sound?
Sound placement, pitch and facial positioning and physicality are some of the tools that are used to suddenly and quickly shift from accent and character to another.
It’s the difference between Standard British with the back of the tongue in a low position, compared to Standard Australian with the back of the tongue high up touching the soft palate. Myriad different ways the same anatomy produces different sounds all over the world, not just the UK.
If I was to smile across my whole face and body, it would produce a different sound than if I was to tighten my jaw and physically hold my body. This is why human observation and study is an important task for voice actors.
So next time you meet a voice artist, they may just be observing how you speak and hold yourself, so that down the line you become the inspiration for a character in an animation or game.
In honour of the cave voiceover man here is 20 characters in 60 seconds; What different pitch, sound placement and facial and physical placements do you think they have?
If you like, please share.
Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers