By Patricia Shanks www.studioshanks.com
Sometimes we’re called voice talent, or the voiceover guy, or the narrator. We depend upon our individual, unique vocal peculiarities to help us compete for the chance to read your commercial or your corporate narration.


Our soft, soothing tones lull the consumer into submission. Our gravelly delivery provokes the consumer to take action and buy those auto parts, or look into that senior health plan. Our ability to turn every statement into a question sells vacuum cleaners. Our cheery voice with the smile in it keeps customers happy while they wait, and wait, and wait on hold. We are the voices of cartoons, and stuffed animals. We read individual numbers and words which are then pieced together so we can tell you how many messages you have, when they came in, and that they can be erased.

We introduce live events. Anywhere there is a disembodied voice, or a human voice in the body of something that is not human, you will hear a voiceover professional. And, from time to time, you will even hear our voices apparently emanating from other humans.
We sing, too. Soprano Marni Nixon sang for Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr and Natalie Wood. And when Rossano Brazzi’s mouth moved to the words of “Some Enchanted Evening” in the movie musical South Pacific, it was the luscious voice of Giorgio Tozzi we were hearing.
More often than not, we are fairly anonymous. We are the voices over the PA system in the airport scene in a feature film. We are credited only by way of the voicecaster who hired us. We are, “Barbara Harris, ADR.” The next time you watch a film notice how frequently you hear a line or two from a personless voice.
Every once-in-a-while, a voice talent rises from the pack and becomes more than a voice sans persona, as evidenced by the careers of Gary Owens, April Winchell, Shadoe Stevens, Nancy Cartwright, Lorenzo Music, Thurl Ravenscroft, Don LaFontaine and a host of other talented people. If you think of any of those individuals, you instantly think of their trademark voices. Who could forget Bart Simpson, or Tony the Tiger, or Carlton the Doorman, or that movie trailer guy? And well-known television and film actors who happen to have interesting voices or ways of delivering speech often transition to voiceovers. Don Adams (Agent 86 from Get Smart and Tennessee Tuxedo), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier and Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons), James Earl Jones (countless films and TV shows and Darth Vader) and Julie Kavner (Rhoda’s sister Brenda and Marge Simpson) are a few who instantly come to mind.
Some of us are fast talkers. Some are slow and droll talkers. Some of us are kids – or adults who can sound like kids. We are masters of multiple accents, or speakers of other languages. And some of us specialize only in making sound effects with our voices. Some of us make careers out of doing the voices of other actors and voiceover talents. Voice talents who sound like actors and other famous people overdub films as vocal “doubles,” eliminating four-letter words to allow for better public consumption on the small screen. Clever talents will settle into and focus on a niche or two or three that suit them especially well.
Voiceover people are often the last hired to complete a program. But they provide one of the most critical components of any program. A Website Flash animation without voice is just a disconnected series of moving pictures. Visual titles, alone, are a poor way to drive action. Character voices keep theme park guests excited and pumped up about the experience that awaits them, while they wait in long attraction lines. The right voice can help tip the vote. Bumper stickers just leave that gooey stuff on your bumper. An upper crust accent can influence the audience perspective on a product or service, thereby helping the retailer to unload that overstock of cheap, uh, inexpensive widgets.
We are voice talent. Hear us roar, and talk, and sing in numbers too big to ignore. Our voices span the world. Many of us have studios and recording resources at our disposal, allowing us to speak locally and globally. So whatever your next project might be, give us a jingle. We await the chance to talk with you – and for you – with bated breath.
Patricia Shanks is a voiceover and on-camera talent, actor and voice trainer. Her Websites are http://www.studioshanks.biz  and http://www.studioshanks.com