A common conversation in the voice acting biz revolves around the concept of “finding your signature sound.” Oftentimes, this concept is met with absolute, sheer panic, as in: “Oh no! I don’t know what my signature sound is and I better find it RIGHT THIS SECOND!” Hopefully, this blog post won’t illicit that kind of reaction, but instead, will help illuminate what finding your signature sound means and how to start figuring out what yours might be.
Show me the money.
Your signature voice is, by definition, your money voice. It’s a distinctive kind of delivery and niche sound that people consistently hire you to perform. This is almost never an extreme, stylized vocal delivery, but instead, it’s the down to earth vocal sound you would deliver on a piece of ad copy or as a narration on a documentary. Disappointed? Yeah, I know it might seem super boring, but the reality is that by mastering that unique signature delivery, you will have an original, go to sound to build outward from. It’ll be the “home base” where you can always refer back to and rely on. It will most likely end up being the voice that will help launch your voice acting career and land you most of your voice-over work.
Where oh where is my signature sound?
The truth of the matter is that it usually takes time for you to discover your signature sound. You will need to experience with performing a wide variety of copy, and take the time to experiment with your reads. Your signature sound is most often the voice and style of copy that allows you to produce the most natural, authentic deliveries. As you start submitting auditions for voice acting gigs, you’ll begin to notice consistencies emerging, and you’ll be able to identify what types of deliveries routinely get noticed by voice seekers. You may also find that you can start to identify what other people feel your strong suits are.
Finding your essence.
As you become more familiar and comfortable with your voice, you’ll start to find that you can begin to identify the attributes that are specific to you. One way you can start identifying your signature sound is by determining some of the basic characteristics that make up your personal essence or vibe. What first impression do you feel your deliveries give to the listener? Making a list of descriptors that encapsulate your voice and your way of speaking can be a helpful way to start zeroing in on your signature sound. Is your essence warm, caring, and friendly? Confident, opinionated, and assertive? Goofy, playful, and crazy? Ask people in your life what their impression of your essence is to get an idea of how others hear you.
Are your personality and your signature voice related?
Your voice-over work will often run parallel to your essence and to your interests. For people who fit this mold, identifying and honing your signature sound may come more readily. While your signature sound can be a true reflection of your personality, some voice-over professionals actually find that the voice they are consistently hired for contrasts with their natural self and what they consider to be their personal signature. Confusing, I know, but one way I like to look at this is having an “alter ego” as your signature voice. You may discover this “other you” while playing around on the mic, trying different approaches to a piece of copy. It might come from mimicry, or trying to emulate a particular type of delivery or vocal quality. It may even happen completely by accident. However, as long as it feels and sounds authentic, your signature voice can be different than your personality.
Are your vocal quality and your signature voice related?
They may very well be. Your voice could be raspy and deep, or it might be crisp and clear. That deep voice may sound more serious, authoritative, and intense. If you have a higher tone, you might come across as fun, outgoing, and charismatic. Identifying and embracing your vocal characteristics is another way to start honing in on the types of qualities your signature voice is made up of.
When it doesn’t come easily.
Finding your signature sound may take a while. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to find your signature sound on a specific timetable. The most important thing is for you to discover for yourself your own personal and particular vocal qualities and sound. There are so many opportunities in the voice acting industry that there’s no reason for you to feel the need to alter who you are and what you sound like in order to be successful!
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About the Author
Claudine Ohayon is an Emmy Award-winning director/producer, commercial and promotional voice talent for brands like Verizon, Listerine, and MasterCard, native Brooklynite, published photographer. She was also the live announcer for the first ever televised Hollywood Film Awards on CBS.