Finding Your Voice: Identifying Your Signature Sound

The Professional's Guide To Voice Acting

Your signature voice is what will help you stand out in today’s voice over industry and is the key to unlocking your potential and taking your career to the next level.

But why are businesses more inclined to go online to search for voice talent?

When casting an upcoming project, companies tend to prioritize quick turnaround and cost-effective ways for finding, auditioning, and hiring new voice talent.

Voices is the ultimate platform for matching clients with the signature voices that will make their projects come to life. Using Voices’s online marketplace, businesses can be instantly connected with an expansive directory of fast, reliable voice actors able to deliver a quality script read faster than any other form of auditioning.

By using Voices, clients have the ability to hear from a variety of skilled talent every time they post a job. The defining quality that clients are always on the lookout for, and which differentiates each script read from another, is the sound of the talent’s signature voice.

What is a Signature Voice?

To get voice acting career to the next level, it is essential to identify your signature voice.

What exactly is a signature voice?

In short, it’s your ‘money voice’: the distinct voice that you are most commonly hired to perform, as well as the voice that audiences and casting directors are most likely to associate you with.

Although many voice actors will pride themselves on versatility and the ability to portray a variety of styles of vocal performance, a signature voice is the distinct voice that a voice actor has mastered, serving as the source of the majority of their praise and paychecks.

Finding one’s signature voice is like laying the foundations of a house. You can work upward and outward as you assemble a robust voice acting career, built from an array of styles and roles—but the signature voice remains the solid, dependable ground any voice actor’s career stands upon.

The following sections will try to help define what makes a signature voice, how to find your sound, and how to see yourself within your signature voice.

Famous Signature Voices

Let’s take a look at some famous examples of actors who found their signature voice and used it to launch an entire career.

Actors with Distinct Voices

You’ve likely heard their voices in everything from Hollywood blockbusters to the voice in your GPS. When you read through this list of names, try to see if their iconic voices don’t start playing in your head.

  • Morgan Freeman: One of the most sought after voices in film and voice over, Freeman is characterized by a deep, authoritative voice that built his image as a trustworthy storyteller. The actor has lent his voice to a variety of projects, most notably a VISA ad campaign and the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins.
  • James Earl Jones: Jones’ deep grandfatherly voice resonates with multiple generations. He served as the narrator for the nature documentary Earth, voiced iconic characters like Darth Vader and Mufasa, and is the voice behind the CNN tagline, “This is CNN.”
  • Kelsey Grammer: Grammer’s baritone voice has been wielded to advertise some of the most popular products in the United States across a series of sectors, from Honey Nut Cheerios to Hyundai. Grammer has additionally done voice work for animated productions such as Toy Story 2, Anastasia, and The Simpsons.
  • Carolyn Hopkins: May I have your attention please? Although few people know her name, Hopkins’ voice is heard by millions of people every day. Commended for her clear and helpful sound, Hopkins is the public service announcer behind the announcements you hear in airports, train stations, and city subway systems, and she records them all from her home studio in Maine.
  • Dame Judi Dench: Dench’s soft and alluring voice has been heralded for embodying the elements of what is considered to be the perfect female voice. The British actress’ voice has led her through comedic TV roles, the iconic James Bond character, M, and was asked to provide narration for the Disney Epcot attraction, Spaceship Earth.
  • Don LaFontaine: If you’ve ever heard the phrase “In a world…” at the opening of a movie trailer, then you’ve heard Don LaFontaine’s seminal voice, which has narrated thousands of trailers over the years. Earning nicknames such as ‘Thunder Throat’ and ‘The Voice of God,’ LaFontaine’s signature voice transcended the Hollywood realm when he served as the voice for GEICO Insurance.

Famous Vocal Archetypes

In the same vein that establishing a signature voice helped thrust certain celebrities into the limelight, emerging voice talent may choose to adopt a vocal archetype for their go-to signature sound. To give an idea of distinct vocal archetypes that resonate with audiences, here are a few that Voices’s celebrity trend report showed were the most popular:

  • Deep and Authoritative: Individuals with lower-pitched voices—among them Oprah, Morgan Freeman, and Beyonce—were found to be perceived as having more integrity and competence.
  • Approachable Expert: More casual than the Authoritative voice, the Approachable Expert is meant to emulate the feeling of talking to a friend or family member: relatable, agreeable, and lighthearted. George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson are all notable actors whose voices fall under this archetype.
  • Fun, Foreign Intrigue: Studies have shown that listeners are attracted to accents because of the cultural associations most hold with them. For example, we perceive British voices, like Idris Elba or Kate Winslet, as being classy and posh, while Australian accents, think Nicole Kidman or Hugh Jackman, come across as fun and flirty.

You can browse through our vocal style tags for a look at the range of styles of vocal performance that your content can be delivered in.

Find Your Sound: Identifying Your Signature Voice

When you first dipped your toes in the world of voice acting, it’s possible you tested out a variety of roles and opportunities, or initially viewed voice acting as a simple way to make some money on the side. But now that you’ve graduated to professional status, you’re at the stage where it’s crucial to network, get your voice heard by as many ears as possible, and, most of all, start making a name for yourself with your signature voice.

Of course, everybody’s voice has its own distinct sound, or voiceprint, not unlike the way everybody has their own unique fingerprint. Even so, one’s signature voice isn’t always apparent from the outset. In order to identify and hone your signature voice, you must first gain an understanding of your vocal strengths and weaknesses.

Identify Your Niche

If you want to carve out a place for yourself in the voice over industry, figuring out your niche is a prime strategy. There is a high amount of crossover between video games, movies, TV series and other media nowadays, which can allow for the opportunity to land a particular role and go on to reprise it across multiple projects and platforms.

Once you specify the type of role that you excel in, you can begin to flesh out your resume by purposefully seeking out more roles similar to that one.

To find your niche, it may be a valuable idea to complete some exercises in order to know what you do best and where you need improvement.

Here are some exercises you can try to find your distinct voice:

  • Think back to auditions you did in the past, and try to remember what connected with casting directors when you read for a part. Did you read any feedback or constructive criticism?
  • Turn to those who know you best! Consulting friends and peers both inside and outside of the industry can be a perfect way to discover what others find your strongest vocal characteristics to be.
  • Try performing a variety of script genres to gauge whether your vocal qualities lend themselves more to any specific markets or character types than others. Check out our catalogue of sample scripts and see where your voice sits best.
  • Make audio recordings of yourself when you’re experiencing different emotions. Listen back to how your tone changes when you’re happy, compared to when you’re sad or angry. This is a great way to identify your natural voice while recognizing how different emotional states can impact your sound.
  • Try working with a vocal coach to qualify your range and figure out how equipped you are to handle different vocal registers.

Dealing with Typecasting

On one hand, typecasting can be a sign that your past work was impressive, and that casting directors can trust that you will deliver a similar read and give them exactly what they’re looking for.

At the same time, you may have started out in one area of voice work, but now that you’ve found your voice, you intend to establish yourself in a way that better reflects your new signature sound. If this is the case, here are some approaches you can take to announce your new sound to the world:

  • Update your demo to showcase your signature voice.
  • Rewrite your Voices user profile to include your new expertise.
  • Spend some time on our Style Tag page for inspiration on how to describe your signature voice using words. Think of how you might describe your voice to someone who has never heard you speak before.
  • Remember that one benefit of voice acting is that your physical appearance is not important. Typecasting is generally more of an issue in the TV and film industries where how you look can influence the roles you receive. This means that voice acting gives you more freedom to explore different roles.

Seeing Yourself in Your Signature Voice

Some signature voices will reflect the nuances of an actor’s personality, while others will stand in stark contrast to the actor’s authentic self when they aren’t in the presence of a microphone. As in all walks of life, the voice you most enjoy doing may not be the voice that lands you the most work.

It is worth noting, however, that the market for traditional, exaggerated radio voices has plummeted, whereas the demand for conversational voices has increased. Listeners are more adept than you may imagine at discerning whether a speaker is communicating naturally, or whether they are putting on a show. When in doubt, pursue your natural voice.

The iconic celebrity voices listed above were all voices that the actors were born with, and that’s one reason why they have such enduring power: they were real, and that resonated with audiences. A signature voice also has to be within the actor’s range, and should never cause physical pain or discomfort.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t fashion your signature voice after what you think will bring you fame and fortune. Instead, work with the unique qualities of the voice you already have. If your signature voice is authentic and trained, finding your place in voice acting and thriving as a professional voice actor will be much easier.