One of the most common descriptive words to show up in a casting brief for voice-over is a request to sound “friendly”.
While at first glance this may sound simple enough, “friendly” can be a tough nut to crack if the voice actor is new to the industry or their voice isn’t typically cast in these roles. In fact, the generic-ness of the direction makes it even harder to follow in practical terms. Surely anyone can sound friendly to their friends?
It’s time to get more specific.
Two types of friendly
Before we get too far along, there’s a fork in the road I want to point out. There are two types of friendly to address:
Characters that are friendly by nature
Copy that should be read in a friendly manner
For a voice actor creating the voice of a friendly character, they will require a full understanding of the character’s motivations, relationships with other characters and the objectives for the scene or episode. For example, they may be a generally friendly (good) character but angry at the person they’re speaking to in a certain scene or upset with the situation at hand. For the voice actor to convey this it will require more nuance and attention than a general “friendly tone”. An experienced director will make this clear in both the scene notes and when directing the performance.
Copy that should be read in a friendly way, it can often be a bit more straight forward. Most voice actors will master the friendly commercial read at some point because without a friendly sounding voice in their repertoire it is very difficult to attain commercial success!
On Voquent, we don’t have a ‘friendly’ tone category because any commercial voice-over will, by it’s nature, sound friendly! It’s a much better practice to first decide what specific feelings you want to incite in the target audience. Then choose an appropriate tone for your voice-over brief e.g. Comedic, Conversational, Eloquent, Enticing, Nurturing, Playful or Inspiring.
The descriptor ‘friendly voice’ is not always that useful, particularly if the copy itself isn’t written in a suitably ‘friendly’ way. The script is just as important as the voice, after all!
ALSO READ: What Makes a Voice Scary?
Sound more friendly with these 3 tips
For additional help nailing a variety of ‘friendly’ sounding reads, try a few of the ideas below next time you’re behind the mic or directing a voice actor. You’ll be surprised at the differences that shine through in the vocal performance:
1.Smile and raise your eyebrows
It’s hard to sound anything but friendly with raised eyebrows and a smile. This simple trick is sure to bring happiness to even the dullest copy and bring joy and ‘friendliness’ right into the microphone and out of the speakers to elicit feelings of excitement and optimism in the listener.
Not only is it an easy trick to perform, it genuinely works according to this scientific study.
2.Imagine your audience
The voice actor could imagine they are speaking to a close friend while recording. This isn’t a faceless nameless audience, but someone you know really well. How do you want them to feel?
If it’s a longer book or narration, you may even suggest they put up a small picture of someone in the booth to help them remember the audience throughout the project. If you do this though, you may want to check with the friend that they don’t mind being a virtual studio buddy!
3.Always use gestures
Voice-over is acting, it’s not just about putting the vocal cords to work. Get your whole body involved. If the studio space allows, and as characterization dictates, encourage the voice actor to use hand gestures instead of standing still. This can help them feel more like the character and their voice will sound audibly more animated and excited about the product, service or whatever they are narrating.
Character alignments can help too
Character alignments, first popularised by Dungeons & Dragons, are useful guidance in a voice acting brief. Much more useful in fact than the adjective ‘friendly’. If you’re not familiar with character alignments and how they relate to voice-over, we have a great post here that explains it in detail.
Using character alignments, it is possible to easily categorize and differentiate “good” characters. This opens up your options for voices both in character situations and for commercial reads. Of course, ultimately your interpretation of a character will come down to the script and any additional direction notes provided, but the alignment can instruct the performance and define different friendly-sounding personalities.
This is something that not only the voice actor must consider (of course!), but the director and the copywriter too. Remember the ‘two types of friendly’ we mentioned before? Well, even a corporate script will be read by a particular sort of ‘character’ and thinking about whether they are Lawful Good (or perhaps ‘strait-laced’, ‘authoritative’) or Chaotic Good (friendly but ‘cheeky’, perhaps a bit more ‘playful’) can make a world of difference. The character must be considered throughout the process.
Character alignments can help shape vocal choices so that characters and commercial reads are more nuanced. This can help to create a more honest and genuine sounding read giving you different flavours of ‘friendly voices’.
The most experienced voice actors will already have a variety of different friendly-sounding characters and commercial voice demos on their Voquent profile. If you come across a demo you like, click the picture on the sample card to visit their profile to check out the rest of their demos.
They may already have recorded the perfect vocal sound for your project or character and you can use this demo as a solid reference in your brief when you contact us to check availability.
Caroline Turner Cole (Voice-over artist and writer)
Al Black (Voquent Co-Founder)
Alex Harris-MacDuff (Voquent Producer)