People who possess an appealing speaking voice have undoubtedly been told by others many times that should do voiceovers, as if they think that all you need is a good voice. Well, that is far from the case. OK it is helpful to have a good voice to start with but, just like a screen actor, there is more to acting than a pretty face. Think about it, a screen actor has actually got more on his side to help people to believe in his character - he has all of the visual elements, make-up, wardrobe, scenery and lighting to mention just a few. The voice actor however has none of these on his side; he has to rely entirely on his voice to convince listeners that he is playing a role, and not himself.
So just how do voice actors go about making their voice fit the character - take the example of an audio book, where the speaker may have to convey a multitude of different characters in same breath almost - not so easy.
The first thing you have to do is categorize the type of learning capabilities you have. People learn through kinaesthetic (or tactile), visual and aural experience and you may not even realize which form makes learning easier for you. Kinaesthetic learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the learner using their body in order to express a thought, an idea or an understanding of a particular concept. Kinaesthetic and tactile learning styles refer to activities such as running and knitting. Kinaesthetic learning has also been described as the human's body's ability to express itself through movement and dance.
Visual learning is a learning style in which ideas, concepts, data and other information are associated with images and techniques. Visual learners also prosper when shown graphs, graphic organizers such as webs, concept maps and idea maps, plots, and illustrations, which are some of the techniques used in visual learning to enhance thinking and learning skills.
Aural learning is a learning style in which a person learns through listening. They may struggle to understand a chapter they've read, but then experience a full understanding as they listen to the class lecture. An auditory learner may benefit by using the speech recognition tool available on many PCs. Aural learners may have a knack for ascertaining the true meaning of someone's words by listening to audible signals like changes in tone. When memorizing a phone number, an aural learner will say it out loud and then remember how it sounded to recall it.
Let's look at an example; our voice actor has a new role that he has to characterise - the subject is a young male surfer. Our actor hasn't received the full description yet, so using one's imagination is paramount. So we imagine our surfer to be in his mid-teens, 15 or 16 years old. He is muscular, tall and physically well-built, and stands with a concave posture. It is important to be able to visualise this, as our actor will also adopt this stance.
Although it won't be seen, it will help the actor to get in character; will affect his breathing, and also the way his voice will sound. More characteristics; our surfer is tanned as you would expect and has sun-bleached hair. He is self-confident, but at the same time much of this could be bravado, as his youth still makes him vulnerable. His voice is changing, he tries to ensure it always sounds deep and manly, but at times it inadvertently cracks and momentarily sounds like a child. As you can see we are putting a lot into our character, more than you may have imagined for someone just to be portrayed in sound.
Here our voice actor is using kinaesthetic and visual learning styles to help to visualise the surfer and bring him to life. Adopting the posture, assuming the juvenile self-importance tinged with vulnerability, even imagining his visual appearance, all help our actor to get the desired result. To make clear how important this is - our voice actor in this case could actually be a 30 year old woman!
It is important for voice actors to be able to plays roles of their opposite sex, but we will look more closely at that in another article, not here and now. For a voice actor his voice is like an instrument that must be able to handle a wide vocal range, as well as accents, and the portrayal of age.
So, we can see how the voice actor takes on physical and visual elements of our character to breathe life into it, using his kinaesthetic and visual learning styles to visualize him, understand him, and therefore be able to memorize him, to get into character when required to do so.
As you can see, details are very important in character building, and the best way to be able to visualize certain traits, idiosyncrasies, and behavior patterns is to observe the people around you. How they behave in certain situations, and how they react with other people, a limitless source of inspiration around you wherever you go. As well as stage or screen actors, for voice actors it is also extremely important to watch people in daily life, to be able to bring some of these features into your character. One small detail can make a huge difference, a lisp, a stutter, that can make a character memorable to the actor and not least to the audience as well.
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