Often when we hear the word “voice over,” we think of Don LaFontaine’s instantly recognizable movie trailer voice: “In a world…”
But if you make promotional, informational or educational videos of any kind, whether it’s for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or any other video platform, you’ll most likely benefit from a quick crash course in recording voice overs. And, even if you don’t make your own videos, maybe you’re interested in pursuing a career in voice acting and voice overs.
In this blog, we’ll show you everything you need to record your own voice overs like a pro, including:
- How to improve voice over skills with good preparation and pronunciation
- How to improve recording quality with proper microphone choice, technique and accessories
- How to edit vocal takes into a polished voice over
First, let’s take a look at what qualities constitute good voice overs.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD VOICE OVER?
Voice acting is a woefully underappreciated skill. Despite what many assume, doing a great voice over isn't just reading a script into a microphone. It takes training and practice to be able to read for a voice over with confidence and command.
A great voice over should be clear and easy to understand, but it should also evoke the desired emotional or intellectual response in the viewer. Great voice overs begin with correct pronunciation and confident delivery, so let’s take a look at how to improve these skills.
HOW TO IMPROVE VOICE OVER SKILLS
PRACTICE THE SCRIPT AND MAKE NOTES
Before you even start recording, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done your homework and prepared yourself for the task ahead. Carefully read through the script out loud, whether you or someone else wrote it, and make notes about any passages that feel awkward to you and ideas of how to make them work. These notes will give you a quick guide to reference back to if you hit a snag in the middle of a take.
STAY HYDRATED AND USE GOOD POSTURE
Your voice is just like an instrument that needs to be maintained and tuned before a performance. Give your voice a proper warm-up by reading from the script in varying pitches, paces and tones, much like a singer would practice scales before a concert. Keep a bottle or glass of water nearby and regularly take a drink between takes to keep your vocal cords hydrated. Also, be sure to stand up straight—good posture can help a vocal recording sound clearer and more confident.
GET INTO CHARACTER AND GIVE OPTIONS
There is a difference between voice acting and talking. Good voice acting requires you to get into character and deliver the script in a manner that makes the audience believe what you’re saying. Record each line multiple times with different inflections, word accents and emphasis. This will give you or the dialogue editor options to choose from in the editing phase. Of course, you should also ensure that you’re pronouncing each word correctly and enunciating in a way that is easy to understand.
HOW TO IMPROVE RECORDING TECHNIQUE
MICROPHONE CHOICE & PLACEMENT
A great sounding voice over starts with the microphone. Condenser microphones like Blue Yeti make it easy to capture all the details of your voice with professional quality. When recording, make sure to utilize good microphone technique and placement to get the best sound possible.
To ensure a clean vocal recording with minimal room noise, the microphone you use should have a cardioid mode, which means it only records sound directly in front of the microphone and rejects sound from the rear and sides.
Place the microphone approximately six to twelve inches from your mouth. Standing too close can result in a muddy or boomy sound, and standing too far away risks picking up excessive room sound, which can make your recording, sound cloudy or distant.
POP FILTERS AND ACOUSTIC TREATMENT
When listening back to your recording, you may find words that feature the consonants “P” and “B” result in an unpleasant popping noise. This happens when a sudden burst of air hits the microphone, otherwise known as a “plosive.”
Don’t worry, this is an easy fix. Get yourself a pop filter, which is a thin acoustically transparent mesh screen that protects the mic from these sudden bursts while allowing sound the pass through clearly. If you don’t have a pop filter, try placing the mic at a 45-degree angle and speaking past the diaphragm instead of directly into it.
The environment you record in also makes a huge difference in the sound quality of your vocal takes. Smaller rooms and walls that are made of reflective surfaces can cause unwanted reverberation that detracts from the clarity of your voice.
You can minimize this by treating your room with acoustic foam panels, which absorb the sound instead of allowing it to reflect back into the space. If you’re on a budget, hanging soft tapestries or empty egg cartons can also help to absorb reverberant sound in a pinch.
HOW TO EDIT YOUR VOICE OVERS
After recording your voice over performances, chances are you’ll want to review and compile your best takes into one seamless performance. There’s no shortage of audio or video editing software options out there, and almost any software you choose can get the job done. Check out our blog on the best video editing software for more info.
You may want to enhance the sound of your voice with a few common audio processors. Compressors and limiters help to control the dynamics of your recording by taming the loudest parts of your recording and boosting the quieter parts. Expanders and gates help you keep extra noise out of your recording by only automatically turning down the sound in between sentences.
Equalizers are used to balance the overall tone of your voice by boosting or cutting at specific frequencies, and de-essers can tame harsh “ess” syllables by quickly ducking the audio whenever offending consonants are detected. To learn more about audio processing, check out our blog on EQ and compression.
Now you know the basics of what it takes to achieve good voice over recordings. Keep practicing and you’ll be creating captivating voice-overs with professional quality before you know it!