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4 Types Of Variety That Make Your Reads Rock!

Edge Studio

If you can bore someone in a 30-second commercial, think what would happen if they fell asleep listening to an audiobook while driving their car… Crash!

In spontaneous conversation, we do not simply say words. To engage our listener, we add variety to our words. Learning how to add vocal variety to scripts – even boring ones – is an art that must be mastered in order to get voice over work.

Another reason to be good at adding variety is because producers often ask for multiple takes of the script – meaning they want you to narrate multiple versions of the same voice over script. Assuming each of your deliveries is different, the producer will then have different options to choose from.

Here are 4 ways voice actors can add variety:

1. Pitch variation

Using pitch variation (expanding your dynamic range) and hitting different words will add terrific variation to your delivery.

Remember not to confuse pitch with volume … for if you raise your volume, the listener will feel that you’re yelling at them.

2. Dramatic pauses

Dramatic pauses, also called beats or frames, add variety to your read. For example, a producer may say, “Give me a beat before that word.” Dramatic pauses also help emphasize the following word. In other words, instead of hitting a word to emphasize it, insert a pause (space) before it.

Whether you use a dramatic pause to add variety or to emphasize the following word, be sure that the pause is not too long, or it will sound too dramatic.

In the following example, add a dramatic pause after “not”. Then try a dramatic pause after “unless”. Try a dramatic pause everywhere. To be very creative, imagine that there are four burger restaurants in town (Burger Palace, Burger Works, Burger Central, and Burger King), and therefore to distinguish which restaurant you are speaking about, insert a dramatic pause before “King”. Experiment with the second example as well.

  • (television commercial) A burger is not a burger, unless it’s from Burger King.
  • (self-help audiobook) Great- now that you’ve mastered chords, your next guitar lesson is scales.

3. Elongate words

Elongating words creates variety to your delivery by adding emphasis; this technique is especially useful on keywords and descriptive words. Sometimes, elongating a word is called “opening up the word” and “lengthening” and “stretching” the word.

Elongating a word is simple. Simply stretch the vowel on the accented syllable of the word. Make sure the word is not overly elongated or it will sound theatrical.

In both of the following examples, just about every word can be elongated – experiment stretching each one. Just be sure not to elongate more than one or two words within the same sentence, because that generally sounds theatrical and redundant.

  • (television commercial) The 200 horsepower, very stylish, 2007 Camry, with an interior like you’ve never seen before. Only from Toyota.
  • (yoga breathing course) Breathe in. Breathe out. Now relax your shoulders, letting go of all tension from within your body.

Elongation is extra useful on short key words. By slightly elongating the word, this technique gives the listener more time to hear it. For example, read the following sentence twice. Do not elongate the “oo” in “Coors” the first time, and slightly elongate it the second time – you’ll hear how much more clear the word is the second time.

  • (television commercial) Up here in the mountains…we love Coors Beer.

4. Vary your tempo

In natural conversation, we continually vary our tempo to create variety – even within a single sentence. Doing the same when script reading will make your delivery sound more natural while adding variety.

In these examples, read the first half of the sentence slowly and the second half quickly. Then reverse it.

  • (public service announcement) For just dollars a day, you’ll help feed hungry children.
  • (tutorial) Be aware of pitch-dynamics, and keep the copy interesting.