Thursday, 28 April 2016

The "Guy-Next-Door" "Natural" Voice

In the mid-1980s I was asked (by two of Steven Spielberg's casting agents) to go to the Nelvana Studios in Toronto to audition for one of their upcoming cartoon series. Nelvana was a major player in those days, having made their money from the animated "Raid" insecticide commercials. They were also behind 'The Care Bears' and the movie "Rock 'N Rule" with Susan Roman (whose credits in voice would stretch to the moon and back) voicing the female lead while Debbie Harry (of Blondie) provided her singing.

When I arrived at the studio I was given the breakdown (short piece of script) and a sketch of the character. I studied these and practised a few deliveries before being called.

In the booth I gave the delivery I thought best suited the character based on his look and his choice of words and phrasing. Then came shock number one. The director said, "Just give it to me in your normal voice. Nobody does character voices anymore."

So I gave it to him in my normal voice, even though the voice I had previously delivered wasn't far off my usual vocalizations. (It was a bit more nasal.)

I was so dismayed and downhearted about his "nobody does character voices anymore" comment that I stormed out of the studio without leaving any of my contact information. They had some on file (I think), but I was very much in transition at that time, so reaching me was tricky.

Shock number two would come a few years later.

I was flipping the TV dial when I came across the series. It was the exact scene I had read. The voice they used was identical to the first (character) voice I had given the director. I was flabbergasted.

This brings me to the reason I wrote this blog: the "guy-next-door" voice and "natural" voice reads.

"Guy-next-door" is a vague description at best. Do you mean Wilson (Earl Hindman) from the Home Improvement television series? Are you thinking of the whiny guy or the loud mouth? Just who is this "guy-next-door"?

"Natural" is another quandary for me due to the fact that I regular use a variety of deliveries in my everyday conversations. If the voice fits, I use it. The voices I speak to my wife in differ from the way I speak to my cats. When I'm out shopping or conversing with others, there are any number of vocal tones I will emit given any situation. (The whole reason the casting directors asked me to go to Nelvana is that during the audition for them I was delivering the lines of all the characters in the scene.) That is why there are so many different variations in my commercial voice demos. Each one is my own voice, slightly tweaked to match the material being delivered.

Certainly the voices in my character voice demos are vast exaggerations, and I do not consider them in the realm of the "natural" voice delivery. Character voices are something I've done since the 60s when my parents would return home and I'd deliver messages in the voice of the person who had called.

So help me out. What do you consider the voice of the "guy-next-door"?

Check out all my demos (and ask for a free audition of your project) on my website. Click here for demos and a free audiobook.

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