How To Grow Your Voice Acting Skills, Part 1: Imagination

voice actingIn a recent blog titled, Voice-Over Auditions: How To Stand Out As A Voice Talent, I talked about how actors are changing the landscape of voice-overs by bringing their voice acting skills to their craft.

Actors are meeting the needs of an ever changing advertising industry, one that is scrambling to keep the attention of a more sophisticated audience.  Simply put, listeners no longer want to be sold something. Instead, they want to be entertained by an interesting human being who they can relate to.

Good actors know how to make any commercial relatable by turning the copy into a story with a believable character. It’s exciting to identify, flesh out, then relate to a character in a story. Character development is a skill which grows and evolves over time, which is why even the greatest actors never get tired of acting!

But, how do you make an interesting story out of a very straight forward commercial, say for toilet paper? Now this requires lots of imagination.

Most of the time, we need to create a story where there seems to be none. This is why imagination is a key ingredient for voice acting.

When we were kids on the playground, we constantly created characters out of nothing. We believed we were the cowboy, princess, or wizard without any reservations. Our imaginations were wild and free and allowed us to create characters, circumstances, and relationships without limit!

One of the most important ways we can grow as voice actors is to cultivate our imaginations. Society, stress, and adult responsibilities have stifled our imagination, but it’s still there! It’s begging to come out and play!

There are plenty of ways in which you can grow your imagination. Try doing the following:

  1. Decrease the amount of multitasking you do on a day to day basis. Doing more than one thing at a time is death to the actor. Practice being in the present moment. Meditate.
  2. Sharpen your observation skills. Practice just sitting in a park or busy street and people watching without checking your phone or Facebook. Try to imagine who these people are and what kind of lives they lead. This practice provides wonderful material for your voice-over characters!
  3. Find a place that stimulates your senses. That could mean getting out in nature, going to a museum, or visiting a zoo. These places provide images that feed your imagination.
  4. Take an improv workshop! This is a great way to get in touch with the child you used to be, to be more playful, and to take risks.

One of the greatest acting coaches of all time, Stella Adler, believed imagination was everything. Below is an exercise she used in her classes to help her acting students develop their imaginations:

Imagine you’re walking along a country road. See absolutely everything in precise detail:

“How long is your shadow?… How green is the grass?… Are there cows?… Tell me three or four things that make the cows logical and real…You’ve imagined it. Therefore it exists.”  – Stella Adler.

In future blogs, we’ll be looking at more ways to create stories and characters in our commercial copy. Plus, we’ll explore honing in and clarifying who we are and what we bring to the copy. It’s a skill that makes us stand out from the rest!

Stay tuned for a blog coming soon on what vocal styles are trending in voice-over!

And don’t forget to check out our VO Pro Membership and the Such A Voice blog for more voice acting tips. 

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About the Author

Nancy Wilson is a producer and coach at Such A Voice. She is a busy voice actor and environmental writer, as well as a member of the SAG/AFTRA Radio Plays committee.








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