Find Your Natural Voice
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
“Follow your voice. Don’t try to be someone you are not, your best work will come from what you know”
“Your acting will not be good until it is only yours...You work until finally no one is acting like you”
“Your own identity and self-knowledge are the main sources for any character you may play”
“How do I find my unique sound?”
One of my students
Wow...isn’t that the million dollar question. Many other questions follow after like: Will I only be able to play one character? Will I be pigeonholed into one area of voice work? Will my branding follow suit? What if my voice isn’t ‘on trend’?
All of these are valid questions but I feel it’s putting the cart a bit before the horse...don’t ya think? The journey to finding where your voice ‘fits’ in this industry is as personal as your fingerprint. The first step to finding your unique voice and therefore your unique reads begin with a bit of homework.
First, let’s discuss the voice...your vocal cords...like your anatomy. Our vocal cords oscillate around 100-200 times during casual speech (more for smaller cords). Healthy cords will be open half the time and closed half the time, they will not leak air while closed and they will vibrate symmetrically. Unhealthy cords will be fatigued, hoarse, breathy or cause pain when in use. (If you suspect you have unhealthy cords, contact a doctor as soon as possible). The anatomy we’re born with can have the biggest determining factor on where our sound naturally sits. Don’t judge but make some gentle observations about your anatomy.
Now, let’s talk about where your sound naturally sits. Most of us (raises hand) speak about an octave lower than where our voice is supposed to. This can cause our voice to tire more quickly because we’re forcing the natural voice to do something it doesn’t want to. A quick way to find out where your voice naturally sits is to record yourself reading while bent over. I know, I know...sounds goofy but try this: get a book and a recording device and put it on the floor. Stand up and bend over, press record and read for about two minutes (taking a break...clearly... if you, ya know, get light headed...don’t pass out y’all). Then review the pitch of your voice....not the resonance...that will come later...just the pitch. What did you notice? Higher or lower than you thought? Don’t judge, just take note.
Second, record yourself when you’re having a conversation with someone. (Now...this can get into creeper territory so make sure you get permission from whomever you’re talking). Notice the pitch, the cadence, the accent, the lilt...and make notes. Again...do not judge, just take a note.
OH! And make literal notes. Write down what you hear. Do you sound monotone? Melodic? Childlike? Mature? Robotic? Gruff? Aloof? Sexy? Textured? Smooth? Loud? Quiet? Fast? Slow?
Lastly, send your recordings (of you upside down and your conversation with your friend...just your side...not theres!) to trusted confidants and ask them what they hear. Again, DO NOT judge, just make notes.
What did you hear? What did your friends and/or family hear? List 10 things you enjoy about what you found?
Sure, there are vocal trends in this industry but it all comes down to the read. The more authentic the voice is, the better the read can be heard. And you want to be heard. Be unapologetically you. Folks will pay top dollar for it.