"Give me 5 in a row"…huh? tips for new voice actors

Sooner or later, as a Voiceover Talent, you?re going to hear this direction: ?OK now, just give us five in a row.?? This usually happens when you?re at the opening line or closing line of the copy, but your client may also ask for it anywhere else.? Why? Usually one of two reasons:

  • The client isn?t sure what tone he wants and needs your creativity to hear possibilities
  • You are stuck in the same reading tone, and the client needs you to break out of it and show some range.?

Even when you?re in your home studio, and the ?director? is ? well, you – you still may find you need to open up and find more possible ways to approach the words in front of you. We all get stuck now and again.
?Part of your job as a VO professional is to be flexible, imaginative, relaxed enough to go in a different direction and professional enough to maintain the change when necessary. So ? your practice routine should always include finding ways to open yourself up to more variety.??
So ? how to find the variety?? The key is to be prepared, by practicing variety.
There are two ways to approach this, using both sides of your brain, and they ultimately function together.? These are:

  • Freedom of your imagination (right brain)
  • Control of your instrument/voice technique (left brain)?

Huh? What about my brain? Yeah, this is simplified, but basically we need to access both sides in practice sessions- the right side, where imagination, whole concepts and emotion are key – and the left, which is more about separate ideas, organization, logical thinking.
?Think about learning to play the piano, for instance.? Left brain: correct finger positions, practicing scales, posture, learning the notes.? Right brain: feel the music. Let it flow through you. Trust the techniques you?ve practiced, let them go, and be the music.
Right brain: Imagination.? Read the phrase using:

  1. Different emotional states. These are usually adjectives, such as: Angry. Sad. Disappointed. Frightened. Disgusted. Perky. Secretive. To make these work, it helps to imagine the reason you might feel this way. What happened to make you feel that emotion? Actors call this ?the moment before.? Imagine who you are mad at, for instance, and why. No piece of copy comes out of the air. There is always a reason to keep talking. ?You can ?color? an entire copy section with the tone change, or just infuse one word with it ? ex. ?delicious?, or ?anguish? ? for a non-pitch path to emphasis.
  2. Different gestures/body language.?Your brain has spent a lot of years associating emotions and vocal elements with certain gestures. If you throw something across the room, I dare you to sound relaxed and calm while you do it. I always ask my classes to try to be the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West without scrunching?up their nose, stooping over, and making those crunched-up witch hands. There’s never enough commitment to the reads without the body to go along with it. Try it sometime. With this phrase, just use your already-strong connections and try a few gestures:
    • read the phrase while shaking your index finger, angry Mom-style.
    • shrug your shoulders
    • put your hand on your heart
    • smile
    • raise your eyebrows
    • Furrow your brow
    • Sweep your hand across the sky
    • Put your hands on your hips and frown


  1. Different thoughts. Actors call this subtext. If you say ?I hate you? while thinking ?I love you?, or vice versa, you?ll see what I mean. Try some of these thoughts:
  • I have important info for you
  • no you’re wrong and I’m right
  • this is soooo funny!
  • You must believe me or we?re all doomed
  • this is a wonderful secret
  • ?this is so simple


  1. Different intentions.? As in ?But what?s my motivation?? It, too, changes everything. These are usually verbs, something you are trying to do, something you want. Examples ? you want to?
    • Convince
    • Entice
    • Seduce
    • Warn
    • Share

Different characters for you, and/or your listener.? Some of this comes with a change in body language, but remember: we speak differently in different roles in our own lives: employee, spouse, best friend, child, sibling, co-worker.? Are you reading as: a stuffy professor? Straight-laced CEO? Friendly neighbor?
?We speak in different tones to different listeners, too: a baby, a boss, and peer, a young child, a teenager, the President. Let this natural variety work for you when reading copy by using your imagination. Who are you talking to, and why?
OK, you get the picture. Some imagination techniques put everything else into gear without overthinking. Record yourself practicing these reads and listen back to see if you fully committed to the changes your imagination wanted to make.? Stuck for ideas? There are excellent lists of intentions, characters, etc. in any good improvisation book.? Or take a class!
Right brain today, left brain next entry…..
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