The Morgan Freeman Voice Over Mystique:
A Four-Point Lesson For Voice Actors
By Dan Hurst
Click below to hear the author's audio of this article:
OK, so I'm 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."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 don't 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 … oh, and you too.
I know it's a noble task and I'm treading on hallowed ground. On the other hand, it's an interesting topic. I'll leave it up to you to decide why I'm 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 I'd love to know what your perceptions and insights are on this topic.)
1. His Voice Is Unique.
Let's face it. Nobody else really sounds like him - unless they're impersonating him.
Clients want a unique voice and delivery. As a voice talent you need to honestly assess your sound and delivery. You don't have to have the voice of God to be a great voice talent. (Yes, I know MF has played God in movies. That's not the point.)
Great voice talents don't sound like anyone else. Who do you sound like? If you can name someone, you're sunk.
Nobody makes a living sounding like someone else unless it's part of your act in Vegas, and even then, you're not going to have much staying power.
2. It's 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 that's critical.
See, it's not about how comfortable you are, it's about how comfortable the listener is.
On the other hand, many clients create copy that is not designed for comfort. Let's face it, there just aren't 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, it's that good.
Don't you get the idea when listening to Freeman that the two of you are sitting on a park bench and he's explaining something that he's interested in, or excited about?
Yeah, that's pretty much it. There's no cadence to his voice like most announcers develop. There's no DJ projection. You don't get the idea that he's a No-Doze away from an auction. He's just talking to you about something he believes in.
4. He's Confident.
Confidence is an odd sense. Have you noticed that the real confident people don't raise their voice? Makes you wonder about the others, doesn't it?
I know, I know, there's a production mentality that you have to be loud and obnoxious to cut through the clutter, but here's 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 clutter" also invaded my space and just irritated me. The Freeman spot invited me into his confidence to discover something that he knew and couldn't wait to share with me.
Now, I don't need a new car, and I don't need another Visa credit card, but I remember the Visa spot voiced by Freeman. I couldn't 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 they're looking for the next Morgan Freeman, consider these four things.
Your clients don't really want Morgan Freeman. They probably can't even afford him. But they do want whatever it is that works for him. And THAT you can deliver.
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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