It happens to most of us voice actors, and it is one of my biggest historical struggles. Focusing too much on how the voice sounds!
"Wait... what?" You may be thinking. "Isn't that what voice artists are suppose to do?" And of course you are very close to being right. That is what we are supposed to deliver not do, its not where we are supposed to begin!
Let me explain.
Let's imagine voice over like a cooking recipe for lets say... waffles (a food I am vastly experienced in through my years of active production and consumption). When you are making waffles you have a set of ingredients, such as baking powder and eggs that require proper timing and application in the cooking process (i.e. beat egg whites and mix baking powder in as a last addition). Functionally, the quantity or combination of the ingredients doesn't change if you bypass the cooking process and just chuck everything in at once, but the end result does. Skip the specific preparation steps, and your waffles will turn out less delectable to the taste. So is the same of voice!
Focusing on delivering voice as the starting point in voice over, is like skipping the proper steps of cooking! And just like we want those delicious fluffy waffles, we want that delicious fluffy voice over.
As I see it there are functionally three high level steps, or cooking directions, in which we deliver professional voice over:
Pre-Work: Script prep and the like.
Emotional Engagement: Connect emotionally to the content.
Voice: Deliver a believable character.
Focusing on voice primarily, I.E. how it should sound, is the equivalent of skipping steps 1 and 2 above. And the result will often result in a shallow almost inhuman delivery.
You may be thinking "If this is the case, why would you struggle with this if it clearly won't deliver good VO?" There are a few reasons, and in my experience they are psychological primarily.
The reasons why voice artists, including my past self, skip straight to how the voice should sound is due to:
The ego stemming from the common view repeated to us from the external world via comments like "You have a great voice! You should do voice over."
The practiced ease in which we can adopt a voice, and the knowledge that we have historically provided believable VO.
The emotional distance in which you can adopt a voice being technically requiring no emotional vulnerability.
Really, simplified into one core reason, the seduction and ease of delivering a voice versus the risk and vulnerability of emotional engagement. Voice over is an art threatened by self seduction. Artists, often alone recording in their home studio, have to actively fight their inclination to be seduced by the polish and technical skill of their voice!
The reality is, internal emotional engagement is a key step to believable projected emotion. It doesn't matter how good you sound, if you aren't believable. Of course emotional engagement isn't enough by its own, hence why once you have found your emotional place in said script you need to use your technical voice skills to deliver it clearly. But regardless, emotional engagement needs to drive good voice.
Simply put, first feel, then be the voice, always.
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