People come to voice over from a variety of different backgrounds. Some come from the broadcasting world. They bring clear enunciation and solid reading skills. Others come out of on-camera or stage acting. They have and edge when it comes to voice acting, which is a required skill in modern voice over performance. Still more are cartoon or game junkies. And they have an acquired reservoir of of characters stored away in their mind. But what about singing?
Does singing enhance your voice over skills?
Disclosure: I was (am still) a singer. I spent my early years in a band singing rock, pop, country and even oldies. Never tried my hand at broadway or classical. Probably to the relief of many opera fans. So what benefits does singing bring to a voice over talent?
It’s all about the words
A song consists of chords, a melody and lyrics. Some people can hum the tune but would be hard pressed to tell you the lyrics of a song. Like “Hooray for Hollywood. Da da da da da da da da da daaa”.
But for most, the lyrics have the most impact. And they contribute the factors that you will find in voice over copy.
VO copy has a “theme” just like a song
First there is the underlying meaning of the song. Just like a voice over script, there is is a basic theme to every song. You’re not going to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic in a silly voice. So, like a singer, you should discover the fundamental message in your copy and make sure that it is clearly communicated.
Similar to the message, each song has an attitude or “vibe”. You may be angry, or disappointed, or amazed, or confused. This feeling will often color most of the performance. Find the vibe that goes with the theme.
And the words have a sound and a rhythm
Gilbert and Sullivan were famous for exploring the actual sound of the words (Gilbert wrote the words but Sullivan incorporated their sound into his music). “I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral…”
Copy writers use all that stuff that you forgot about from English class. Alteration, onomatopoeia, similies. They don’t consciously incorporate these techniques. But they’ve read Chaucer and Shakespeare and Frost and Angelou. So it’s built in to their writing. “The Subaru Sizzling Summer Sale”
And listen to the meter of this avocado commercial: ” The simply sensational Hass Avocado” — same as “’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house”.
A song fits lyrics to the rhythm of the melody and requires awareness of these cadences: “un-forget-able–That’s what you are”.
The sentences in songs — and in copy — are in phrases
Singers naturally learn to break a sentence into smaller phrases. It gives more impact to each idea contained in a line. And it also allows a big breath before the next phrase. Voice over copy also consists of longer sentences made up of shorter 3,4 or 5 word phrases. Each phrase adds more information to the sentence.
Learn to read the phrases in copy, rather than trying to tear through an entire sentence. You will give a more understandable performance. And you’ll have the luxury of breathing after any of the phrases.
You don’t have to be Luciano Pavarotti
So even if you’re only the diva (or divo?) of your shower, singing will complement your voice over performance in a variety of ways. And if you sing, but haven’t attempted voice over, give VO a try. You probably already have many of the skills required for a quality performance.
And remember: keep talking!