Tuesday, 28 April 2015

What makes a good voice for radio?


Twenty years ago a good voice for radio would speak with ‘Received Pronunciation’ Here’s what Wiki has to say about r.p.:

Traditionally, Received Pronunciation was the "everyday speech in the families of Southern English persons whose men-folk [had] been educated at the great public boarding-schools" and which conveyed no information about that speaker's region of origin prior to attending the school.

So if you spoke posh you could get a job reading the shipping forecast on the BBC.  Now that did start to change as long ago as the second world war, when regional accents were used on the radio to distinguish between the German broadcasts which often used announcers who spoke r.p.
"Germany calling, Germany calling.  The British Ministry of 'mis' information has been conducting a systematic campaign of frightening  British women and girls about the danger of being injured by splinters from German bombs"

So right here right now, what makes a good voice for radio?  It’s more about clarity and intelligibility and much less about accent and pronunciation. My favourite example of that would be - Jonathan Ross who has a terrible voice complete with slight stutter and speech impediment but is considered one of the best broadcasters the UK has.

What makes Woss so successful? Well he has a natural ability to present himself in a clear and concise way.  He is sharp and quick-witted.  He is natural and relaxed.

But when it comes to voice-over work the regional accent has made some inroads but a variation of r.p. still rules.  Voice over work is more about acting than finding your own voice which is what radio broadcasting is about.

Think of radio broadcasting as you, your voice but just a bit more confident and expressive.  I say a ‘bit more’ it’s very easy to go to far and sound like an excited children’s TV presenter or to cover your nerves end up sounding dull and monotone.

The voice work-out
Here are 4 things you should do for a better sounding voice:
1 Sit up – raise your diaphragm (The muscle bit under your lungs) or stand.
2 Breathe – nerves will have you gasping for breath, take a breath do not be afraid of the silence that you create to breathe.
3 Smile – not like a Cheshire cat, but some facial expression changes your delivery and helps to stop flat lining.
4 You – be yourself try to relax and don’t forget to think and understand what you are reading.

Three words ahead
Hard to do but if you can read three words ahead whilst speaking three words behind.  Example ‘The cat sat on the mat.’ Whilst you are speaking the words; ‘the cat’ you are reading in your mind ‘on the mat.’ 

This has advantages in that you know what you will be reading out loud next.  The disadvantage is that you see ahead of you a difficult word and in a split second your brain will say to yourself ‘you gonna mess this word up,’ and of course you do.

Listen to yourself

And also have someone listen to you.  A good mentor will listen to your performance and be able to point out mannerisms lack of clarity and of course where you succeed in communicating your thoughts and ideas with clarity and intelligibility.

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