I attached an MP3 of the demo that the great Paul Frees had his agent send out in the 1970's. You can hear that his "voice" is recognizable in almost every character. There are tricks of the trade, mic technique, voice placement, vocal tics and layers of accents that can be added. Ultimately these ad texture to a great performance.
Vocal trickery will only go so far, and doesn't help make a character more believable.
The foundation is ACTING. There are plenty of good mimics who can vocally axproximate another person's voice print. The line Milton Berle stole was "This business is all about sincerity.....once you learn how to fake THAT, you've got it made" The actors who consistently work are the ones who can be believable. So start with everything BUT voice when tackling a read. If your acting, physicality, sense of scene, timing and attitude are in place, you'll be surprised how little you have to stray from your natural voice to create a compelling performance.

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I think John is totally right on with this.The hallmarks of bad VO are a talent trying to be someone they're not. Few people seem to accept the voice they've been given, their signature sound, not realizing that its also their "money voice." Comic Gilbert Gotfried accepted his weird quirky sound and made a fortune in animation. Newbies get it wrong and have it all upside down trying to approach voice-over from the outside in, rather than the inside out. Its like the voiceover equivalent of a bad toupee or 'ahem' fake boobs. Thanks for the Paul Frees, John.
Thanks for posting John. I really enjoyed listening to Paul's work...being too announcer-y is a real challenge for me, (lotta years in radio) and I'm always searching for audio from big voice guys to learn from.
John...thank you kindly for the Frees Demo...Ive never heard it. I love Paul in "Freeberg's United States of America PT 1.
To add to your point on acting...the other common problem in VO work is "headphones"
I took mine off 16 years ago, and my believability expolded. If you can get away with it..take off the cans and watch what happens to your read. All of the sudden I found myself saying the one thing I never thought would come out of my mouth..."Im not in this to hear myself talk"
Love this thread..great points abound.
Thanks again.
Look in the mirror and start making faces. I mean to the extreme! Then start talking with each new face. You'd be surprised at how many new voices are born this way!
I heartily agree that Paul Frees was incredibly talented, but if this demo was his all in one demo, I'd be quick to point out that it should have been split up into character voices, straight voice of God stuff and commercials.
As one demo this was 3 times too long. His character stuff shined but was at the end of this demo.
Anyway just remember to keep your demos separated into categories and please try to keep them about a minute and a half tops.
Lani - John said it was the 70's - remember your first demo? Mine was on reel to reel - don't rememer how long it was, but it was longer than a minute. Then we went to cassettes and I could break it up into TWO demos - I picked commercial and corporate for my two sides.
Thank you John for that post. I couldn't agree more. Oftentimes when folks attempt character work they focus soley on making a voice-- but that voice is shallow, sophomoric, and wooden.

As for me, well, I actually hate the sound of my voice but I love to act. So here I am.... go figure! I guess that's why I prefer character work; I get to be someone else.

Susan, it's funny you mention Gilbert Godfried because while speaking with Lani (as I was lamenting over my whiny-ass, nasaly, soft "R's", Cindy Brady lisping voice) she too mentioned him. Hmmmm.... do you think adding those keywords will get me more work?

Please, say it ain't so JS! Synth voices? Nooooooo!!!!!!!!
Means a lot coming from you Jeff...muchos thankyous
I always ask my clients and students when recording in my studio if headphones are a usual thing for them or...and then I listen. Often, I take the phones away. More natural, less self conscious. I often have students just "talk to me" or even share a lunch with them just talking at the table. This is their real voice, their voiceprint. I also say their name..."Your name is Susan, yes?" And let them respond. This is their "optimum voice, natural one." I do not recommend too many acting lessons or courses. It makes people too 'theatrical or stagey." There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule, less is more. Real people reads? Your supermarket is your greatest acting coach. Listen to the world around you, the nagging mother, the angry wife, the whining child. That's real. And John...thank you for sharing your amazing talent. Cyberhugs. Bettye Zoller
My webinar the evening of May 3 sponsored by Voiceoverxtra and John Florian concerns this topic. Go to the http://ww.voiceoverxtra.com site and see more. And enrolling for $44.95 allows download of the complete audio afterwards. I will discuss improving your voice (I am degreed through doctoral study in voice speech science and therapy as well as a voice coach) and finding your potential voices and voice characterizations through manipulation of the vocal dimensions. Most people are using only a tiny part of their voice potential. Most do not even know how the voice is produced or how to care for it! FYI: I'm presenting a workshop in Philadelphia at the Voice Foundation Symposium on this topic too with attendees including leading speech scientists and I'll provide a report to you all here when it's over. I'm so excited to be part of it.

As an actor friend said, "People always think actors have to be good liars. I thing actors have to be good at telling truths."

Amazing clip


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