Why Voiceover Artists are “all ears”

Voiceover Artists are known to be talkers. Bit of a no brainer I suppose. We literally get paid to make noise, to say things and to sound good.

As I popped into the Voiceover Studio this morning to have a bit of a tidy up before starting on my recordings, I was admiring my small collection of Minnie Mouse “ears” acquired via several Disneyland trips over the years.

I’d never really thought about why I made the slightly off beat decision to keep my mouse ears in the booth until that point… I have a few other weird and wonderful objects in there too.. more on those another time! But this morning it dawned on me, that as a Voiceover, as well as the talking, I am “all ears”. Listening is a HUGE part of the voiceover job.

Listening to the brief

When a client tells you what they are looking for out of the project, as a voiceover artist, I’m listening hard. Of course I’m listening to what they want the voiceover to sound like, but there’s more than just a description of a sound that I’m after. I’m listening for all the clues about what they are trying to achieve with the content. Who the content is aimed at, who that brand is. All of these clues are important.

If I know the answers to these questions, I’m able to work to activate the response they need from the audience. Professional VOs know that they have the power to influence. BIG TIME. Finding out as much as possible about the aims and audience enables me to engage that precise audience where they are right now and to get them to take action. Often without the audience knowing this is happening..

Listening to the Music

Sometimes in directed voiceover sessions, especially for radio commercials, the producer will offer to play a snippet of the music that is being used in the ad.

Experienced Voiceover Artists find this useful. Listening to the music immediately gives us additional information about the brand, the pace, the vocal style and what the end client is trying to achieve with the commercial. This is about the general feel and it’s also about the way you deliver individual lines.

Producers will expect Voiceover Artists to adapt their performances based on a music track so as VOs, we need to be able to instantly “read” the music and decode and translate what it means for our performances.

Listening to the Voiceover Director / Voiceover Producer in a live session

This sounds obvious – they tell you what to do and you do it. But our listening powers as VO artists should go further. If listening “between the lines” is a thing, this is where it happens. Sometimes they are after a particular result and really know how to get that result from the voice actor. Sometimes, a voice director may know what they want to achieve but perhaps the direction you’re receiving isn’t quite going to deliver that.

Ultimately we need that director to be happy. Listen between the lines and work out if offering to try something else would be appropriate or helpful. The opportunity to try something completely different with the read may open up new ideas for the performance. Perhaps the director knows what they want from you but can’t quite articulate it.

Of course, it isn’t our place to steam roller our views and ideas into a session. Listen to the vibe about what’s the right thing to do to make the session successful, to be considered helpful and not disruptive before you offer a crazy option!

Listen to yourself

A great deal of my Voiceover work is self directed. This may sound easy but it’s a whole other skill. Since I started working behind microphones, back in radio, I’ve always listened to myself objectively.. whether that’s my performance as a presenter or as a voiceover artist. What could be better, what worked, how did the way I said that line feel, what effect did that create etc etc

Self direction is about listening to your own performance and being able to step outside it and listen as a director. If this is a new concept to you, I know it sounds a bit bonkers.

I would argue that listening to yourself and successful self direction is one of the top, key skills in Voiceover.

Listening to the sound

It’s not only the client, director, the music or the sound of your own voice you’re listening to. As if this wasn’t quite enough! You’re also listening as a Voiceover Artist to the sound of the recording, the sound of your studio, the sound of your microphone technique. Is your recording the best it can be in a technical way? Do you know how to improve the sound of your studio? There’s lots of information online. But please remember, it’s not all about expensive microphones. At worst, an expensive microphone and a low standard of voiceover booth could result in a beautifully recorded terrible room!

Listening as you edit

If you’ve self directed a session then chances are you’re going to need to listen to everything before you send the best of the best to the client. Did you listen to the client to find out what they need you to deliver? A raw wav file? Maybe a full cleaned, edited and debreathed mp3 at 48 24? Good! So it’s now your task to listen through to make sure your words are correct, that you remove any mistakes and anything else (!) that you need to. Before you send it over to the client.

Listen to the response

Hopefully you will then receive a lovely thank you for your work. If he client does come back with any feedback which results in you needing to make an amendment – listen and work out if this is in scope for what you agreed to supply and what they need. Then you can go from there.

Thanks for reading – let me know what you think! I’m ALL EARS.

Feel free to have a listen to my reels while you’re here as well.. pop over to the services section of my site. Do get in touch for a chat about your voiceover needs.