Authentic Voiceover vs Natural Voiceover

At first glance, authentic voiceover and natural voiceover might seem to be the same thing, but are they?

“Natural voice over” and “authentic sounding voiceover” are just a couple of the terms used in VO briefings by clients and people looking for a Voiceover for their projects. It’s maybe a little confusing, so I want to unpack my take on it here.

Pondering this, I’ve come to the point where the voiceover style description “natural” to me is now a style. It’s a word that in terms of brand and advertising, is loaded with implications and ideas and brand values. I can almost see the fields of wheat with a soft focus, hazy sunshine on it, can’t you?

In my view, in Voiceover, natural isn’t actually all that natural. It’s about putting across the natural qualities of a product or service. It’s a performance note. It should probably be easy on the ear, maybe a little soft or have a hint of the ethereal about it. The old “millennial float” style of voiceover, that is barely there, effortless (that’s actually not effortless to do by the way).

Natural is more about what it needs to sound like, it’s a direction, it’s a brand value, it’s an idea. A Voiceover performance that is “natural” might be airy, chatty, breezy and have a pace and rhythm that feel like the lines have just occurred to you. There could be some push and pull in the phrasing. This is all part of the natural style.. but it might not be AUTHENTIC!

Again, Authenticity could be a brand value and a style but as far as VO direction goes, it’s more your gritty, real self with fewer of the edges taken off. In theory (!), it’s “easier” as a voiceover to perform as it’s your true authentic self.

As Voiceover Artists we are highly tuned listeners and observers of our own voice and all the nuances of everything we say (blessing or curse?!). Delivering an authentic performance can be overthought and lead to that age old booth cry of frustration “but how would I actually say that in real life”

When I’m delivering authentic, as in “actually me” and I’m self directing, I do this one thing very differently to everything else I record.. I take my headphones off. Why? Because when I’m being authentically myself, out of the booth, I don’t wear headphones. I’m then not distracted by the sound of my own voice and trying to moderate and self direct as I go. If I am being directed, I do need to wear headphones to hear the direction so I’ll dig a big deeper – or maybe ask if I can do a few takes with the headphones off.. don’t be afraid to own the performance space to get the right result for the client – that’s a whole other blog really!

Pondering all of this though, the Voiceover status of “natural vs authentic” reads, feels actually contrary to me for my real life. In my real life, Natural is what you won’t get to see first thing in the morning.. natural is is the colour of hair that grows out of my head (whatever the heck that actually is). Authentic is when I’m up and, dressed and “styled” for the day – showing up as ME. Authentic is blue hair to me – the natural self with a few tweaks to feel more myself.

It’s no wonder this all feels a bit confusing it it?!

What do you think? What’s your take on natural vs authentic in Voiceover?

Clare Reeves is a female UK Voiceover Artist with a voice that is both warm and cool, authentic blue hair and a studio by the sea. Have a listen to a range of Clare’s Commercial VO work here