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What does a voice over artist do all day? Part 14.

Part 14?! This is the longest I've stuck at something since the superglue incident of '94.

I'm enjoying reflecting on the work I've done and hope that it's providing some decent insight into the sorts of things voice over artists get up to.

I've said many times that a lot of voice over work flies under the radar. When somebody I know says "where can I hear your voice?", quite often I'm stumped. Ummmm, phone the jewellery repair shop in Sunderland... but make sure it's after hours.

A huge radar dish seen across a field

Photo by m3design on Unsplash

Chances are, unless you're involved with the project or I tell you I've done it, you might never hear me. Bizarrely, that goes for me too. There are a lot of voice over jobs I've worked on that I'll never hear / see in their finished form.

This week had a fair amount of that kind of work. The first was a really well scripted, short e-learning voice over piece. Of course, a lot of digital learning content is paid for, so unless I enrol on this course, I won't see the video. I did learn a bit about SPSS though, should I ever feel the need to use it.

The next was a voice over for radio. A commercial for a small station up north (for me that's past the top of the M25). It's not on DAB yet so it's broadcasting old school on FM which means I'd need to take a very long drive to tune in and then I don't know what times the ad will go out. I was really intrigued to hear this one too - it was for a ladies night and I had to pull out my most attractive voice.

I've just had a thought that in this episodic blog, I'm not sure I've ever said anything about getting the right tone of voice for a job. I just say "yeah I used this sort of voice". (There are some voiceover tips you can read here but I'll be a bit more specific below).

I use memories. Or memories that are as closely linked to the script as possible. And if I don't have a close memory, I find the emotion in the script and find a different memory that had the same emotion. Make sense? Ok, well....

Photos of various ages and subject scattered haphazardly across a surface

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

...for example. The brief for the ladies night script was for an upbeat and excited tone - after all, it was to try and entice people to go and have a good night out. To get the excitement I go back around 7 or 8 years to a small bar in Manchester. At the time I was in a band and we were waiting to step onto the stage. The place was packed and I had a great rush of adrenaline and anticipation. It's not an exact match, but the emotion and feeling is the same.

For things like the SPSS script, where it's a form of "teaching", I think back to when I had to train new staff on a data entry system when I used to work in an office. Informative but natural and friendly.

You get the idea. It's quite a fun thing to try - and even more fun if you think of a totally inappropriate (not in a rude way!) memory to get in the zone. Remember that time you saw England score the winning goal at the World Cup (no, fair point), the joy... the elation... and then read the script for the funeral parlour...

A neon sign spelling the word "laugh"

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Voice over artists deal with these sorts of things in different ways. How I do it isn't supposed to be like a set of instructions, it's just how it works for me. I know other VOs who simply go for completely imaginary scenarios to get into their zones. Neither is right or wrong, just go with what feels most comfortable and gives the best results.

I use memories because they are real and that makes me more authentic.

There was a fun script I got to mess around with this week. It was an explainer video for an explainer video company.


I really can't wait to see this one (if it appears in the public domain). I was asked to take inspiration from American local TV commercials - fast, loud, brash, exciting, lots of words in a short time - and then to reign it in a bit. It's nice to have a challenge like that. DO IT THIS WAY... BUT NOT QUITE. And if that challenge wasn't enough, it was for science based explainer animations; so lots of long words like... science... and...umm... other ones.

I've spoken about appropriate voices before and on first look at the script it didn't suggest American ads (don't forget the importance of context in voice work!), so it was nice to apply a voice that without the visuals probably wouldn't have felt quite right.

My favourite job this week and one that I DID get to see (the day after no less) was for long standing client Polyspice Games. We do a team meeting each week (I do other audio type things for them, if you were wondering why I'm in a team!) over Discord and the boss always introduces me with something like "and now it's time for Mr. Sexy Voice..." or "I've been waiting all week to hear his dulcet tones..."

So when I was asked to do a voice-over for a lottery style prize draw for them, I tried really REALLY hard to think of how I could do it in a sultry manner.

But it wasn't to be. The script was really light, natural and the voice had to reflect that. A very in-joke would have been completely lost on the competition entrants! ANYWAY, I really enjoyed it because it was so natural and had touches of humour that I could work with.

It just felt very "me". Because of that, on a personal note and subjectively, of course, I feel this is one of the best voice over pieces I've done.

At the start of my VOs journey, being natural behind the mic is something I really struggled with. It might sound strange but I was much more at home doing different types of read at the beginning. I found the more I grew into my new career and the more my confidence grew, the more the real me started to appear. Now, if a read calls for being natural, it comes... well... naturally.

Go back to "What does a voice over artist do all day? Part 13."

Skip forward to "What does a voice over artist do all day? Part 15."

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Martin Whiskin voiceover artist talking into a Rode NT1-a microphone
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