Creating vibrant voice overs: quick tips from a professional

Recording great audio takes skill, preparation and experience to master.

…however, we haven’t got time for that!

So we’ve caught up with top voice talent Julia Burns to discuss her techniques, and fast-track you to recording clear, informative and absorbing narration of your own.

Do you have a ritual before you start recording?

If I’ve been sent the script beforehand (which is usually the case for e-learning) then I will have marked on it where I want to raise or lower my voice, speed up or slow down. Just before I start recording, I’ll glance back over it to make sure that I’m familiar with how I want to read it.

If I’ve been given the script as I walk through the door (as is quite likely with continuity announcements), I’ll quickly read through it to get an idea of the topic and mark up any areas that need particular emphasis or quietly practice areas I can see will be more difficult.

Either way, I always try to brush my teeth a few minutes before recording – that’s a proper ritual isn’t it? I’m not sure if it makes a difference to how clear my voice sounds, but it makes me feel ready!

Do you believe it’s important to retain your own vocal style and personality when recording?

I’m not a character actor so if a client has hired me to record a voice over, hopefully it’s because they like the sound of my natural voice. Of course, I can make myself sound happier, sadder, angrier, more excited, amused and so on…but these changes will be iterations of my own vocal style rather than emulating someone else.

How do you keep narration exciting and arresting?

It’s all about telling a story using the right pace, timing, pauses, highs and lows.

Do you envision another person being in the room, is it important to keep your style conversational?

It sounds like a good idea to pretend that you are talking to another person but if you try to record something too naturally, you will sound bored. When recording a voice over, you need to really go for it and, strangely, that’s when it will start to sound genuinely conversational.

Do you like to record your own audio or do you normally work with others? Is it good to have a second set of ears?

I like recording at home as there is less pressure and I can practice and re-record numerous times until I’m happy that it’s perfect. But I absolutely love recording with other people and being directed or – even better – working alongside other voice over artists on conversational pieces. It’s a real thrill having to get things right first time and being able to bounce ideas off each other. This is quite rare in e-learning but when it is done, it can be fantastic for the client and the learner as it’s so interactive and engaging.

How do you normally set yourself before beginning a session?

A lot of the time I sit down just because that’s how most studios are set up but it’s great to stand up when you need to project and if you have to read a lot of long sentences. I always smile except if it’s something serious and I usually gesticulate widely too to help me get my point across!

Julia is voice artist and broadcaster with experience working with clients ranging from the The Open University, BBC and Sky.

She is available for work through and

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