What AGE is Your Voice?

by | Jul 5, 2016 | Techniques | 1 comment

agesDoes a voice HAVE an age?  Well, I mean, of course it has the age associated with the cords’ owner but can you tell a person’s age by their voice? Or vice-versa…does a certain timbre/quality of voice HAVE an age?

I go back to the analogy surrounding race.  The audition you get that says:  “…looking for African-American male…”; or: “…need an genuine Irish female for this one”.

I don’t think it passes muster with equal employment opportunity laws to discriminate voices on the basis of race, but I’ll leave that to Rob Sciglimpaglia or other legal minds… besides, what those directions REALLY mean is the client is seeking someone who can “do” an urban or soul or “black” sound, or convincingly produce an Irish brogue without a doubt.  Yes, there IS a “black” sound, and a “white” sound, and if you think about it, you know what I mean.  Let’s face it, plenty of comedians of both colors do good business making jokes of both/either styles of speech.

But I’m off the beam, here.

What about age of the voice? 

Well, it must mean SOMETHING ’cause I’m often told that many voice-actors refuse to use a head-shot because it will belie the age of their voice. Or at the very least it will cause bias in the mind of the person hiring the voice that the picture and the age of talent’s voice don’t match.

How many sites have as part of the completion of the profile, the age-ranges you can “do”?  So, if you’re 25, and the copy asks for a range of 40-55…how do you accomplish the sound of a person of that age?  I’d love to know!

Conversely, I know of a heckuva lot of people over 45, who are auditioning for specs that ask for a  20-35 age voice.  Is that wasted time?

So weird.  There are lots of teenage guys who have a deep voice I would die for.  And there are plenty of oldsters who have animated, hip-sounding deliveries…so what’s the determiner?

My 2-cents?  It all comes back to “conversational”…WHATEVER THAT IS!

An older person talks more deliberately, maybe a little slower…raspy?  I dunno.  We all live in this world, and we’ve come to recognize and make judgements on a dime about people’s age, weight, city of origin, and ethnicity.  A lot of the time we’re right.

So then, what constitutes a youthful voice?  Pacing?  Slang?  Attitude?

Then there are people like Lisa Biggs, Mel Blanc, Bob Bergen, and others who just throw a monkey wrench into ANY quick assessment of voice age.

If it’s wise — as some VO coaches suggest — to go ahead and audition for copy that asks for female when you’re a male, then by the same logic, it must be OK to audition for a 20-something spot when you’re 53.  No?




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1 Comment

  1. Keith Michaels

    Good post Dave! I was just thinking about writing something on this as well. As voice actors we have to keep the age of our voice in mind, especially if you are in transition. By that I mean, coming out of a certain age range and into a new one. For me, it was going into the mid-40’s that changed my thinking. I have been developing two or three different age range “sounds” over the years. One is more young, hip sounding, one is middle of the road, and one is deeper and mature. I use one of those approaches depending on the message. And it has worked for me for the past 10 years, which is when I noticed my voice had dramatically changed after listening to an old radio morning show skit from 1989. I do worry about the aging of my voice, since I will be 50 next year, because a lot stuff I do is very upbeat and energetic commercial material, and I wonder how I will be able to maintain that intensity when I am 65. But I also wonder what new opportunities an older voice will bring, like characters and audio books. But I have also read that because I use my voice like I do everyday, it stays in shape, and I may be able to buy more time with it then the average Joe on the street.


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