Specificity in Voice Acting Can Help You Stand Out

Joanne Boreham

Specificity. It’s a word that has come up a lot in voice over. In a world where actors are having to do a lot of home recordings, it’s an important concept to take to heart. When you are rehearsing and practicing you can play and be free with the sides and your approach to the characters, but when you are auditioning for a project, you need to be specific.

What do I mean by that? Well, really examine that character, the genre and the specific show. What is appropriate for that genre, that show and that age group? Have specificity in the choices you make.

When you are reading for an animated show, you don’t have a reader doing the other lines and it is easy to end up rushing through and not give the lines the time or the intention that they require. Slow down, be specific. Make sure that you are responding as if you were actually responding to a scene partner. If possible, practice with another person reading the other lines to help you explore the shape of the scene and your character’s dialogue.

When you rush, the listener loses the context of the lines. You give them no time to absorb what you are saying or to imagine what you are responding to.

If you are adding sounds or efforts to the scene, be specific. Visualize what is happening and perform accordingly. Know where you are and what you are trying to communicate to the listener. If you aren’t clear on what you are doing, the listener won’t be either.

If you are sending in more than one take of a character, make them markedly different, don’t send it two takes that sound essentially the same. Specificity with your approach to each take will strengthen the material.

And here is something that is very important – really look closely at the slating and labelling instructions. With the increase of self-directed auditions, the volume of material that the casting director has to go through has increased, and they don’t want to be having to re-label submissions. In some cases, where they are accepting submissions through a breakdown service, if you don’t label correctly, the system may not process and add your submission correctly. You don’t want all your hard work to get lost or misplaced, so read the directions closely, and follow their specific instructions.

I know that this may sound tedious, and all you want to do is play and explore a character and do the voice that you want to do. By all means, do that at home. Explore your range, and build a repertoire of characters and voices, but when you go to audition, put that aside. The casting director, and the entire production team, is looking for the voice that will bring the character to life and serve the story in the way that they envision. So be specific, do your research on the show, and the genre and develop a voice and character you feel best matches what they are looking for.