It’s time for our second installment in helping you ‘Get The Edge’ on your voiceover business, with our series of weekly articles supplied by the amazingly talented staff at Edge Studio. Last week we kicked off this month’s topic, ‘Performance Tips’, with great advice on when and how to know if you’re the right talent for the job. This week’s tip will help you learn how to tailor the articulation of your read to the formality of the script.
Thanks again to David Goldberg, and his staff, for supplying these weekly tips. Edge Studio is well known as the premier studio for voiceover education and community, providing years of knowledge and insight, and tons of free stuff.
by: Edge Studio Staff
Mumbling. It’s common; we all do it every now and then. In fact, some words sound natural only when slurred, such as, “Ya’ know?” With voice over, it all comes down to intention and direction. In this article, you’ll learn when to mumble, where not to, and how to control it in the booth.
Every conversation requires a different level of articulation, a level we often choose automatically. Depending upon who we’re speaking to, we adjust our colloquialisms — sometimes we speak formally (enunciate words clearly), and other times we speak informally (we relax our jaws and, well, mumble). The voice-over artist’s job is to determine how formally or informally the script should be pronounced, and then deliver the script accordingly. If certain words are over-enunciated or, likewise, too sloppy, the listener will typically find the recording unnatural and unlikeable.
A good rule of thumb? Pronounce words as they are spoken in genuine conversation and then tailor your articulation to match the formality of the script.
For example, the word “mountain” is pronounced without the “t” in most forms of standard English. Certain regionalisms, however, pronounce the “t,” as heard from speakers hailing from the Midwest and the United Kingdom. Both pronunciations of “mountain” are colloquially correct, but one may be more desirable to a particular demographic group of listeners.
How do you know which is correct? Well, if you’re reading an informal commercial, such as, “Up here in the mountains, we love Coors Beer,” the “t” most likely should not be pronounced.
Yet if reading a formal documentary, such as, “The Clifford Mountain range stands over 4,700 feet high,” then the “t’ should be pronounced.
Now comes the difficult part — controlling your voice while thinking about what you’re reading, etc.. You have to find the “fine line” between mumbling and over-articulating, while still pleasing the ears of your listeners.
And it is a fine line. By articulating just a bit unnaturally, you can appear constricted, or too deliberate. This winds up sounding “affected,” which most people reject. Including producers. It’s easy to learn how to control your articulation correctly for voice over. To begin, listen carefully to professional voice-overs — notice when they’re mumbling. (It can slip right by you, because it sounds so natural that it doesn’t stand out). Also note when they’re articulating clearly, without sounding affected. Then, practice articulation exercises. Practice reading aloud, while simultaneously feeling your mouth form the sounds that you’re speaking. Physically feel your mouth make the different sounds of each word. At first, you will sound affected — but with a little practice, you’ll be able to do this without thinking — and then it will sound conversational.
Begin with formal scripts, such as:
In this AT&T new employee training video, we’ll discuss the Technical Service Center, and how advanced technology provides quality service. Our patented, highly sophisticated EXPERT System is an application of artificial intelligence that can diagnose troubles and recommend solutions, based on historical maintenance data. This set of software programs can identify a problem and, whenever possible, remotely clear the alarm. If dispatch of a technician is required, all the information from the EXPERT System is available, so that the right technician with the right training and the right parts is dispatched. The trouble can then be repaired on the first visit, minimizing any disruption to your system.
Then move to difficult tongue twisters:
Which wrist watches are Swiss wrist watches?
In summary, your goal is to be able to read colloquially or formally on command without sounding affected. Whichever is appropriate to the occasion, when it feels natural to you, you’ll sound natural to others.