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10 Ways To 'Place' Your Character Voices:
From Natural To Monster, Nasal And Pug

By Elley-Ray Hennessy
Voice Talent & Coach

There are infinite qualities of vocal magic, but the basis of most of these is the foundation for character voices - along with rhythms, speeds, compressions, weights and efforts in expression.

Let's look at which placements are most useful to the voice over professional.  

1. Signature. The natural place in which you communicate daily, to which you can add accents, compressions, aspirations, emotional rhythms, etc. to change it up.  

2. Head Voice. Reaching to the top of your head inside - a higher pitched or falsetto. Men tend to dislike this placement, but it's a wonderful addition to many characters.  

3. The Mosquito. Do not be confused - this is not a high note. Imagine that you have blown up a balloon and have the lips of the balloon in your fingers, pulled apart and air is releasing. It is a very high-pitched expression of air from a place of holding your breath and allowing this piercingly bright, high quality to escape.   

4. Soft Palette Pull. If you imagine the yawn and then hold the structure, you will have a round, back-of-the-throat sound. This sound is generally used for an older character or lower status character.   

5. Swallow. This is when you pull down into the lower throat region (Kermit the frog) and then compress the muscularity above it to hold up higher in the back, as if you had phlegm at the back of your throat and went to dislodge it - that is where the hold is.   

6. Low or Barrel. A low, thick placement that is weighted in the chest with pressure from above and below to keep it held there.   

7. The Mask. A placement that is used quite a bit in animation. If you suck helium, it causes your cords to shrink and you sound like a munchkin. But you can shrink the muscularity of your cords yourself by pulling them into themselves just like when you take your outstretched arm and then fold it in half when curling a dumbbell. It is also like pulling a bowstring back in archery - a unique quality.   

8. Monster. This is a compressed, low quality that has gravel, which is created by bearing down and pushing past the compression. You can play around with the amount of compression and how low the lock off is. You can add many qualities to this growly, transformer-type placement. Make sure that the soft palette is raised, as this placement can damage you if done incorrectly.   

9. Nasal Head. This is the head voice forced through the adenoidal system and given a strong push. It is a very active placement and has a sharp, not a dull, sound. Make sure you can express strong blasts of air out of your nostrils onto the back of your hand, as this action is employed when playing with this placement.    

10. Pug. This is when you block the entire adenoidal system so that the k's are almost impossible to voice. This is the little child with a cold quality that can be found by aspirating in and out on the k and then locking around the placement where the k hits the back of the instrument and plugging above and behind the soft palette. Try honking and bringing the back of the tongue up to chock off the sound. 


Be prepared for everything that might be required of you, and that is everything and more. This instrument of yours is brilliant and capable of huge feats that even you have no idea about. Do your homework every day! 

Draw the energy to you by being of the world of voice. Make it your business to surround yourself with all things vocal and positive.

Express because you love it, and because it is what feeds you and ultimately feeds us and changes the resonation of this planet. 

You have a big responsibility to all of us. Get voicing!

Based in Toronto, and with over 30 years experience in voice overs, TV, film and theatre, Elley-Ray Hennessy is a leading voice talent and coach, specializing in animation, commercial announcing and multi-voice. She's won multiple awards, having voiced thousands of TV and radio commercials and countless animation series and films. 


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Comments (5)
Jessica Lohmann
8/21/2013 at 3:06 AM
Thanks Elley-Ray for this helpful article!

I would like to start character voicing and have just tried these techniques, with a bit of difficulty. The different voices I've recorded in the past few days all sound the same to me. No matter what voice I've tried, I can still tell it's ME!

I was wondering if it's possible for you to post an audio of you doing all these variations? I realize this is a year old post and it's extra work, however, the information in it is timeless and this article is currently being shared on several platforms and I know it would help those trying to succeed...

Thanks again, I'll continue to practice. Happy Voicing!
9/16/2012 at 12:54 AM
What a concise, yet precise explanation of how to create certain sounds. Many VO artists inherently know how to do many of these, especially those of us born/raised in, what I call "severe" geographical language regions of our country. But I would never attempt to describe how to produce these sounds/accents. Hat's off to you, Elley-Ray, for figuring out HOW to explain it; this is a "keeper" for sure!
9/14/2012 at 6:10 PM
Excellent and amazingly concise, well articulated article. Thank you for the notes and tips. I'm going to print this out and use it for practice... THANK YOU ELLEY!!
J. Christopher Dunn
9/14/2012 at 2:08 PM
Thank you for these useful guides to creating character voices. I haven't had the opportunity to use many off-signature voices but when I have, they've been a lot of fun. Part of my daily practice session includes warming up with character voices. It seems to have expanded my rang and keeps my abilities supple.
Elizabeth Holmes
9/13/2012 at 1:50 PM
Once again, Elley-Ray, thank you for this "master class" in voicing characters. Wow!

On a personal note, I'd just like to say that your articles consistently strike a deep chord with me. (I even had a dream about your last one, in which I realized the value --no, necessity-- of play.)

Thank you for sharing your amazing creativity and practical knowledge. You're an inspiration!
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