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VOICE ACTING
The Morgan Freeman Voice Over Mystique:
A Four-Point Lesson For Voice Actors

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

Click below to hear the author's audio of this article:


OK, so Iím curious. I saw a Tweet from Christa Dubill, a TV anchor here in Kansas City, that said,
"Morgan Freeman may have the best voice in the WORLD! He could say 'take out the trash' and I'd be motivated.Ē
Can someone please explain that to me?

I mean, I like Morgan Freeman. I like his narrative qualities. I love his conversational attitude. But I donít get the extreme fascination for his voice or delivery.

So, I decided to do a little research and try to learn something that would make me a better voice talent Ö oh, and you too.

I know itís a noble task and Iím treading on hallowed ground. On the other hand, itís an interesting topic. Iíll leave it up to you to decide why Iím doing this.

WHY EVERYONE WANTS MORGAN ...

Of all the identifiable voices in the last couple of years, the one that seems to get the most mentions as a preferred style is Morgan Freeman.

So I asked myself why, and this is what I came up with.

(And Iíd love to know what your perceptions and insights are on this topic.)

1. His Voice Is Unique.

Letís face it. Nobody else really sounds like him - unless theyíre impersonating him.

Clients want a unique voice and delivery. As a voice talent you need to honestly assess your sound and delivery. You donít have to have the voice of God to be a great voice talent. (Yes, I know MF has played God in movies. Thatís not the point.)

Great voice talents donít sound like anyone else. Who do you sound like? If you can name someone, youíre sunk.

Nobody makes a living sounding like someone else unless itís part of your act in Vegas, and even then, youíre not going to have much staying power.

2. Itís Comfortable.

Comfort is in the mind of the listener (ok, you think of a better way to say it).

We really have no idea if Freeman really is comfortable in his delivery, but we feel he is. More importantly, he makes us feel comfortable, and thatís critical.

See, itís not about how comfortable you are, itís about how comfortable the listener is.

On the other hand, many clients create copy that is not designed for comfort. Letís face it, there just arenít that many car spots or furniture spots written to make you feel comfortable (how ironic).

A good voice talent understands that and knows how to adjust.

3. He Has A 'Park Bench' Delivery.

I really should trademark that term, itís that good.

Donít you get the idea when listening to Freeman that the two of you are sitting on a park bench and heís explaining something that heís interested in, or excited about?

Yeah, thatís pretty much it. Thereís no cadence to his voice like most announcers develop. Thereís no DJ projection. You donít get the idea that heís a No-Doze away from an auction. Heís just talking to you about something he believes in.

4. Heís Confident.

Confidence is an odd sense. Have you noticed that the real confident people donít raise their voice? Makes you wonder about the others, doesnít it?

I know, I know, thereís a production mentality that you have to be loud and obnoxious to cut through the clutter, but hereís something to think about:

A couple of evenings ago I watched two commercials back-to-back on TV. One was a hard-sell, cut through the clutter local spot and the next one was one voiced by Freeman. Which one do you think I paid more attention too?

The one that "cut through the clutterĒ also invaded my space and just irritated me. The Freeman spot invited me into his confidence to discover something that he knew and couldnít wait to share with me.

Now, I donít need a new car, and I donít need another Visa credit card, but I remember the Visa spot voiced by Freeman. I couldnít tell you who the car dealer spot was for.

YOU CAN DELIVER, TOO

So the next time you see a request for an audition that says theyíre looking for the next Morgan Freeman, consider these four things.

Your clients donít really want Morgan Freeman. They probably canít even afford him. But they do want whatever it is that works for him. And THAT you can deliver.
----------------
ABOUT DAN
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.

Email: danhurst@danhurst.com
Web: www.DanHurst.com


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Comments (10)
Dan Hurst
8/25/2012 at 8:01 PM
Hey everybody!

Thanks for your comments and insights! I learn so much from you guys when you respond to articles like this, and I thank you for that!!!

And thanks to John Florian for posting these articles. John truly is one of our best friends.

Thanks!

dan
Rick Lance
8/23/2012 at 12:16 PM
As I was watching the Olympics almost every evening it was airing on network TV, I heard Freeman many times in various spots. Your observations are right on, Dan! He's just talking to you one-on-one all the time. With a nice little crackle in his aging voice. You believe what he says. He's a convincing actor.

Btw, I especially liked this line: "On the other hand, many clients create copy that is not designed for comfort. Letís face it, there just arenít that many car spots or furniture spots written to make you feel comfortable (how ironic)."

You'd think these folks would finally learn from guys like Freeman. Listen to the copy he reads and compare it to the crammed, awkward, unconversational crap we get to read.

I'd say you described Freeman's work very well!

Thanks for sharing.

Coleman Ford
8/23/2012 at 6:09 AM
This was excellent. The very first thing I was taught was to develop a personal style. Sometimes easier said than done, but maybe thinking too hard is what inhibits us. Morgan likely was never concerned with whether he "sold" something or not. Maybe that's why he IS so believable?
Robert Leach
8/22/2012 at 11:52 PM
Jay wrote what I was thinking. The park bench analogy is so vivid and spot on! This is one of the most useful performance tips I can remember reading. Thanks Dan.
Dan Friedman
8/22/2012 at 11:39 PM
Brilliant assessment Dan! Love it.

Dan Friedman
JAY LLOYD
8/22/2012 at 10:54 PM
Well done, Dan! It's a great effort to rattle the cage of any VO person. We all approach every script, digest it, decide on a delivery style that we think would be appropriate and let 'er rip. But, if we took just another moment to think about controlling our voice better as we embark upon the script delivery we've decided upon...well, we could be on that "Park Bench" with MF. With bigger paychecks? And, whatever happened to that guy who imitated MF so well doing political spots for a candidate who MF DIDN'T support? Do I remember that MF filed a lawsuit?
Jay Winstel
8/22/2012 at 9:15 AM
Dan,

I like your park bench analogy. That could be a good exercise to help relax in the studio - Imagine yourself sitting on a park bench while performing the voice-over.

As for Mr. Freeman, his sound is distinctive and he still incorporates impeccable diction into his delivery even though it's very relaxed. Either that or all the decision makers out there remember our grade school days watching him on "The Electric Company" and trust that childhood memory.
BP Smyth, Narrator
8/22/2012 at 2:10 AM
Morgan Freeman's voice is simply the flavor for the moment, or however long it takes for someone else to become the flavor of the moment. There is no mystery to any of this. We just have to ride it out. Mr. Freeman is a popular movie star (at the moment) and "everybody" seems to jump on the bandwagon. God only knows who will be next. I'm praying it is someone that sounds like me. :-)
Tracy Elman
8/21/2012 at 11:28 PM
Thanks, Dan. Even women have been asked to sound like Morgan Freeman. It was fun trying. I needed to get the park bench and then it was good.
George Tsiros
8/21/2012 at 7:48 PM
Dan,

Excellent blog! All I can say after listening to your read is you could say, "Take out the trash," and I would be motivated. You have an outstanding voice and delivery. Thanks for sharing thoughts and your voice and delivery. You continue to inspire me.

George
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