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How To Listen For The Perfect Voice

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 12, 2013

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Man listening with a metal can and string up to his ear.You may be familiar with the saying, "I'll know it when I hear it," but how does someone know what to pay attention to in order to spot the right sound, audio quality or interpretation of a script?

Going through auditions is part of life when you're a creative producer, and for some people who are new to hiring talent, the process can take longer than necessary.

If you haven't had someone walk down this road with you until now, we're grateful to put our arm around you lead the way. Should you be an experienced producer, hopefully you'll find a couple tips you can use and even pay it forward by leaving a comment with your thoughts!

Discover 3 things all producers should take into account when casting voices for their projects in today's VOX Daily.

Do You Know What You're Listening For?

What does it take to make a hiring decision?

Half of the battle in picking the right voice is to know what you're listening for. Before you can confidently know that, you need to fully understand your brand, the message to be shared and the audience meant to hear it. Having that information is key to understanding whether or not a voice talent's audition or read meets your criteria for hiring.

Below you'll find these three areas clearly defined as well as considerations to take into account each step of the way.

Let's get down to business, shall we?

X Factor: Brand Sound

First impressions mean a lot. When someone picks up the phone to call your company, you want to welcome them with a voice that immediately sets the tone for who you are as a brand and how you treat your customers. The brand is primarily shaped by the company and it is your duty to have the brand speak consistently via all mediums whether it be text, images, audio or video.

To ensure your brand sounds the way it looks or feels in person, you'll need to account for the following considerations, those being:

  • The demographic meant to hear voice-over
  • Any language or accent requirements
  • Creative direction
  • The perceived age of the voice

You need to know who you'll be targeting your message to as will the voice talent. This information is critical for producers to communicate at the initial job posting stage as it will help qualify talent responses and also give those who do audition more to work with when interpreting your script.

X Factor: Script Interpretation

Based upon what you've determined above, the voice talent will be able to take the opportunity into consideration and then assess whether or not they meet your criteria. The voice talent will be able to interpret your script with more depth of understanding, and find a way to sound like your brand. Once you receive your auditions, you'll want to start listening for:

  • Comprehension of your copy and identification with the brand
  • Phrasing and overall flow
  • Diction and articulation
  • How the voice talent sounds representing your company in this context

When you hear the right voice, all of the criteria above should be met and just feel right. An audition will tell you, sometimes within only a few seconds, if the person is the right talent to be the voice of your brand.

X Factor: Audio Quality

This one can be tricky for non-audio engineers to listen for. That said, it isn't impossible to develop a set of golden ears to get the job done when you have need to. There are some things that are more obvious than others in terms of how professionally the audio comes across. You'll want to consider:

  • If the recording sounds crisp
  • Any background noises picked up
  • Mouth noises like lip smacking
  • If there is editing required (i.e. breathing, clicks, etc.)

Not all voice talent are audio engineers, however, it is a skill that many have developed to remain competitive in this brave new world of freelance voice-over. If you find a voice talent that meets the first two but falls short on audio quality, and you're also set on hiring them for their talent, it may be worth booking out time to have them record in a professional recording studio. The expectation though is that you should be able to find someone who fulfills all three requirements for Brand Sound, Script Interpretation and Audio Quality.

A Word From The Don

As I set down to write, Don LaFontaine's words crept into my mind, his whole philosophy being that the voice artist needs to be in the service of the words. Similarly, our ears as producers need to be in the service of the words and the brands we're working with.

How Do You Listen?

If you have found a particular way of listening to auditions helpful to you, please share your insight and help your fellow producers out!

With warm regards,
Stephanie

FlickrCC/Melvin Gaal (Mindsharing.eu)

Related Topics: Accent, how to, SAG


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