I want “THAT” Voice

by | Apr 10, 2013 | Auditions | 16 comments

microphone-bHonest-to-goodness wanted posting for a voice actor:

We’re looking for a male narrator whose a Jack Nicholson/Joe Pesci/Vincent Price type for a low budget, unconventional horror film that’s currently in post production. The ideal candidate’s vocal presence should invoke intensity and suspense intertwined with crass and a sense of humor.

That post came from a Google Alert I set-up long ago for the keyword “narrator”.

Doesn’t it just make you roll your eyes when you see the reference to a name actor like that?  Lately, if it’s not Morgan Freeman, then it’s Mike Row, Tim Allen, Peter Coyote, or Jeff Bridges.  But I don’t see that Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci, and Vincent Price sound AT ALL like each other.

So you know what this means?  This means the director has no bloody idea what they want other than a certain genre.  The adding of recognizable names (or sometimes a link to a YouTube video voice they like) — honestly — I think makes it into the specs because they feel they have to put something down.  I’m not disparaging well-meaning clients.  We’re on the receiving end of these directions, so we see it over and over…and clients have no idea of the mind-numbing similarity that often pops up in the specs.

I’m no VO coach, but I’ve listened to enough of them hear the following advice, so I’m passing it along:

Read the specs.  Give ’em one read that way…then give ’em another read that’s all YOU.  Often, I think they’re HOPING for something original that’ll knock their socks off regardless of the direction they gave.


Forget what the specs say, and just give ’em the read only you can bring.  You know what’s the magic of THAT read?

You’re the only one that can offer it. 

It comes with your experience, your tone,  your emotion, your understanding, your interpretation, your history, and your intention…and no one else has THAT.  Sure, the client might still give the job to the guy who sounds like Vincent Price, but he then again, he may LOVE your take.

….and do you really want to be able to do a good Jeff Bridges?… or create YOUR brand, perfect YOUR voice, hone YOUR delivery?

I like Tim Allen, but I’m working hard on Dave — so that some day, some director will put in his specs:  “I need a Dave Courvoisier-type voice…”





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  1. Colin McLean

    Nail on the head again there, Dave. It’s exactly the same, and crucial, point that should drive everyone to write THEIR book/sing THEIR song/… It isn’t that there aren’t dozens, indeed hundreds, of fine books/songs already – but what the world WILL want and, yes, pay for, is YOUR take on whatever IT is.

    Dare I quote my all-time favourite passage from Hamlet here? Ok then ..

    (Polonius to son Laertes as he sets off for France) “..This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee.”

    Same point. But made a bit differently. His take in fact. See? Now let’s hear yours.

    Best wishes,


    • CourVO

      Thanks, Colin… this particular issue’s been festering in me, and I’m just tired of trying to sound like someone else. Hope I didn’t come off as too overbearing, but thought it needed to be said.

      I appreciate your stopping by my humble blog,

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. John McClain

    Just had a client ask for an “arresting, impactful” male voice. They also provided YouTube links to some (very well done) guy next door reads. That’s why I always say, half our job is client interpretation.

    • CourVO

      Amen to that, John… only sometimes I’m sure my interpretation skills leave a little to be desired.

      Thanks for reading my blog!

      dave courvoisier

  3. John Lano

    Hi Dave,

    You’re preaching to the choir. Recently, someone asked me for a mix of Eddie Izzard, Chevy Chase and Gandalf. Luckily, I knew that they were in the VERY beginning stages of the project which was the best indicator that they had no idea what they were looking for. I didn’t land the part, but I didn’t stress over matching that ridiculously unrealistic combination of voices. Following the project’s details and stylistic cues, I gave them my best “John Lano.”



    • CourVO

      Atta boy, John…and that’s really all you CAN do… be the best YOU!

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting!

      Dave Courvoisier

  4. Marc Scott

    Jack Nicholson/Joe Pesci/Vincent Price?

    Geez… I kinda want to hear that finished VO now. I’m really curious what that would sound like! 🙂

    • CourVO

      Ha! I feel the same way Marc… what did that winning audition sound like!?


  5. Moe Rock

    EXACTLY! I just today got a call back for a spot I almost didn’t do because the specs were so NOT me. But I figured what the hey… just gave them an honest “Moe” read and got a call back.

    • CourVO

      See? Toldja so!


      Dave C

  6. Dave Roberts

    Hi Dave,
    I agree wholeheartedly with you common sense on this particular blog. Two years ago my agent asked, “…can you do John Cleese in the “Faulty Towers” style?” After studying in London at The Rose Bruford Academy of Theatre for 5 years back in 1973, then working the theater/agent routes all over the United Kingdom, falling in love with Monte Python and the “Ministry of Silly Walks” then heading back to the United States only to be cast in regional theater time and time again as a classical British Actor, I found my self saying to my agent, “Are you kidding me? Can I do John Cleese? You bet your ass I can!” So I auditioned. Got the gig immediately. It was for Earthlink. The agency of record for Earthlink was J. Walter Thompson. When I arrived at the recording session there were 5 young producers half my age, all spry and giggly, and eager to see what their casting efforts would produce. An hour and half into the session i was dripping with smiling my ass off, but dripping with sweat as each one put me through their particular directional paces. The national commercial money was very good! I kept trying new deliveries, new nuances, new inflections, anything that p[opped into my head…I kept going and going…kept a great attitude…made them laugh…made me laugh…and the best thing was I gave each of the 5 “young producers” what they each wanted. Finally, after consuming 4 bottles of water I had to take a “pee break.” When I returned, the whole room was in a heated discusssion as to what ‘take’ to use, what ‘take’ was the best, and my engineer (whom I’ve know for the last 15 years was shouting at them above the din of conversational noise) “You can’t expect him to do another take for Christ’s sake! You’ve all got what you need and you don’t even know it!!!” Wow…I was a bit taken aback. So I just kept my mouth shut and realized i looked like shit with my sweaty wet earphone hair! Within 5 minutes I was told I’d done a great job and we all shook hands and said goodbye. I go back into the car, lit up a smoke and thought to myself…that was interesting! I’ve never seen an engineer chastise paying producers before and stand up for the talent! Pretty cool. In closing they combined a couple of lines from take 1, 2 and 3. In all we did about 40 takes. I just hope I don’t have to go through that again! All my best,

    • Dave Roberts

      Please excuse me for my spelling and or sentences; I just had surgery today and I’m a little out of it! Sorry about the incongruencies in the diatribe!

    • CourVO


      That’s quite a story, Dave…and a GOOD one…thanks for stopping by to share that!

      Dave Courvoisier

    • Gonzalo

      Great story, Dave! Maybe it’s because I’m fairly new, but I wouldn’t mind one bit staying in the booth all day doing 100 takes if necessary for national commercial money 😉

      Take care!

  7. Rachel

    I know I get nervous when I see a name in the specs and feel like I’m not 100% sure I can “do” that person’s voice or even remember exactly what they sound like, and then I try to remind myself of what I’ve heard Pat Fraley say a number of times: instead of trying to sound exactly like that person or character, ask yourself what kind of “vibe” or attitude that person represents–airhead? tough guy? hipster? etc…–and then do your take based on *that* vs trying to copy someone else’s style & sound. That always struck me as great advice on how to deal with this kind of thing.

  8. Nicola Redman

    I was told recently to come into a session with a few varying reads to the director can chose which they like most. Useful for #gaming anyway. Looks good, as it shows you’ve thought about it.
    Northern Irish voice


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