What Makes a Good Voice Actor
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
The number one question every voice actor gets asked is “how did you get started?”. It’s usually answered in the most true but infuriating way which is…”um...well...I’m not quite sure...I took this class and then this other thing happened…”. It’s frustrating. I totally understand.
I like that question because it gets people to start a conversation that is unique as anyone’s personal journey. However, the question I believe any newcomer to this industry needs to ask is: What makes a good voice actor? Hmmm...excellent question, Lena! I’d love to share my thoughts!! (heeheee!!)
1. A VIVID Imagination
A lot of people will tell me how lucky I am that I get to do my job in my pajamas with my hair untidy. And yes, absolutely. BUT try being a general rousing the troops, or instructing a room full of people on how to put in an IV, or a fairy princess in lollipop land in a tiny black room with just a piece of paper in front of you and your bunny slippers? Not so easy. But! If your imagination is as large as it was when you were five years old, and just as playful, you can be anywhere in a matter of seconds.
2. Vocal Stamina and Vocal Curiosity
We all feel we can talk for hours and hours. But...have you ever tried? Pick up and book and read out loud for 30 minutes and see how you feel. Pick up a book and read in a weird voice for an hour and feel how tired your voice is. Most full-time professional voice actors use their voices for hours a day. And yes, we’re not super human, our vox’s get tired. But with the right training, it gets less tired than the average bear and can be used in longer stretches of time.
Now be curious about what your instrument can do. When you read aloud for 30 minutes and stopped to notice what your voice was doing...did you judge your instrument? Get mad for it not wanting to phonate anymore? That’s okay but next time just try to notice what it did, how it sounded and how it felt and then be curious about strategies you can put into your work to make it feel healthier moving forward. Be curious about your voice’s uniqueness and work with its strengths.
3. Cool Under Pressure and Quick on Your Feet
Most of the directed sessions I’ve been in, there’s very little time for messing around and even less for coddling. Everyone is under very tight deadlines and time limits and as a hired professional, you’re expected to deliver. If they aren’t hearing what they want...don’t worry and don’t take it personally. Sessions are serious stuff but it’s still playtime for you. Stay in your creative imagined world and try something else. If that’s not working for them, try again. Keep playing and playing and playing and you will nail it. It’s your job to pump yourself up, not theirs.
4. Be Consistent
This is the one I struggled with the most at the beginning of my career. During long directed sessions, my pitch and pacing would fluctuate and directors would have to remind me where I was. Now, this is perfectly fine...we can’t be robots. However...remember when I said everyone is under tight deadlines and time limits (you are usually getting paid by the hour)...well...if you’re consistent, it’ll help get more done in shorter amounts of time. And the quicker you can get a project done and delivered, the quicker you can get to the next job. Workflow, baby!! So practice your pitch and pacing. (quick tip: I used a metronome)
Practice, practice, practice. Find what you love to read, what you get excited to be involved with and keep at it. What makes a great voice actor is your unique voice. So, get after it.