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 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.ĒCan 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.
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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