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They Want 'The Right Voice'
... But Which Voice Is THAT?

By Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst
Voice Actor

The right voice!

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a request for an audition from someone that says they are looking for "the right voice” for their company, and would I provide them with an audition.

No direction for style, tempo, timbre, attitude, etc. But still, they’re looking for the right voice.

I must confess that more often than not, I just ignore those requests.


Now, I have the GREATEST clients in the world. I mean that! I love working for my clients.

 We’ve established a working relationship and I consider them personal friends.

But when I get a request from a new potential client seeking "the right voice,” I have to wonder what that means.

I’ve come to realize that generally, it means that the client doesn’t exactly know what they’re looking for.

And sometimes it just means they are looking for samples to give to their client.


OK. That’s cool. But there are a few things for clients to consider when requesting such an audition.

1. How will you know you’ve found the right voice? Tell us voice talents! If you don’t know, how are we supposed to do our best job for you?

2. Good voice talents are actors. They feel the script. They interpret. They perform. What do you want us to feel and interpret? What will make it a memorable performance?

3. Voice actors are much like stage actors. We need direction. We need character definition. We need "motivation.”

4. We need for you to explain your directions. What do you mean by "intellectual surfer dude?” Or "disenfranchised hip guy?” Or the direction I recently received for a horror movie: "caustic zombie.”

5. Vague definitions simply tell us that you’re not real sure what you’re looking for. It’s sort of like going into the paint store and saying "I’m looking for the right color of paint.”

The other day I had two back-to-back live sessions. The first one said, "I want a conversational read like you’re just sitting around with some friends talking about this.” After a couple of tries, I figured out what voice he was looking for and we got the job done.

In the next session, the client also wanted a conversational read. I gave him pretty much the exact voice I had just done for the previous client.

"NO, that’s not it!” he let me know. And he kept hammering me about wanting a read that was more conversational. I kept trying different things, still getting nowhere.

I finally asked, "Do you mean conversational like you talk?”

"Yeah,” he said. So, I did my best impersonation of him reading his own copy.

"That’s it,” he exclaimed. And one take later we were done.


I love sessions where a new client is on an ISDN hook-up or phone-patch. LOVE ‘em!

That’s when I find out what the client is really thinking and hearing in his/her head.

There are far too many nuances in a script that need clarification and direction to just leave it up to the voice talent and hope for the best.

In a live session, the client can actually read the copy the way they are interpreting it, and things go a lot smoother!

Yes! Read it to us! It helps us know what you’re looking for!


For example, do you want that phrase to end with an "up” or "down” feel?

What kind of emphasis do you want us to make on particular words? Just underlining a word isn’t enough direction. Not to mention putting a word in italics or a different color.

Who are you trying to reach with your copy?


One of the directions I giggle at is "movie trailer voice.”

Really? Which "movie trailer voice?” There are about six different movie trailer styles:
  • fear,
  • drama,
  • Documentary,
  • romance,
  • humor, and
  • tongue-in-cheek.
Then in each one of those categories there are the Four T’s to consider:
  • tonality,
  • tempo,
  • temperament, and
  • target.

I must admit I have wasted time, just for grins, submitting dark drama movie trailer copy with a romance or tongue-in-cheek read. I know, my bad.

So, please, help us voice talents help you. We really do want you to find the right voice. And we hope it’s us (me).

But we need you to paint the picture as realistically as possible for us.


Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Sprint, Hallmark, Walmart, Ford, T39 Telemundo and the Kansas City Royals.  


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Comments (4)
Steven Lowell
10/27/2011 at 12:19 PM
Hi Dan!

Awesome post!!! Indeed, this is being shared amongst our job approval staff today! The feedback is great!
BP Smyth
10/26/2011 at 8:31 AM
You make good points Dan, but most of the time the voice seeker doesn't know what the "right voice" really is until they hear it. So, they can't possibly describe the voice they want in the advertisement.

Before auditioning for a gig I must determine for myself whether the script is right for me. If it is right for me, I'll give the audition a go, and hope that I have the right voice they are looking for. Also, I NEVER try to guess what the voice seeker wants. I give them "me", and If they don't like it, that's okay, i just say to myself..."NEXT".

As I have mentioned before, this is an "opinion" driven "fickle" business, all the way around. There is no right or wrong, just the end users opinion. We just give it a shot, hope for the best, and move on to the next audition.

Hang in there folks, and don't let the fickle voice seeker's get you down. You will win some and lose most. :)

Paul Strikwerda
10/26/2011 at 8:05 AM
Dan, thank you for so eloquently paraphrasing one of my eternal voice-over frustrations. Without clear directions, it is so much harder to reach a destination. Why don't clients give us a precise road map or a GPS?

Why don't they just listen to a couple of online demos and invite a few voices they like? That's what I do when shopping for clothes. I choose a few maybe's and take them to the dressing room to find the best fit.

In a recent blog, Dave Courvoisier talked about taking a workshop with "voice whisperer" Marice Tobias. If I remember it correctly, her advice was to ignore any instructions when recording a demo. Part of me can understand why. Instructions can stand in the way of an original performance.

Many of us don't have the luxury of direct contact with a client before we are chosen. We rely on our interpretation of what we believe the client had in mind when giving the voice talent clues about the read.

Our idea of "authoritative" might be very different from the client's perspective. Here's the problem: it is never about us. It is always about the client.

I want clients to be as clear as possible about the read they need. That way I can determine whether or not it's even worthwhile for me to audition.

Then I will go ahead and do my thing, regardless of any written instructions. This gives me the freedom to be me instead of a cliché movie trailer man.

Looking back, my most enduring clients have always picked me because I sound and not like an imitation of someone's else. That voice is "the right voice"!

Roy Wells
10/26/2011 at 8:04 AM
Very interesting take Dan, on a very common problem.
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