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Lawrence Cecchini
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Cathy Faulkner
Claire Dodin
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Michael Stuart
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Rosemary Watson
Jason Reichenberg
Hettie Lynne Hurtes
Xavier 'X-Man' Paul
Rita Pardue
Craig Cooksey
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Gordon Edward
Ron Allan
Kathleen Keesling
Beth Warden
Vance Elderkin
Travis Taylor Medcalf
Liz de Nesnera
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Todd Schick
J.S. Gilbert
Miriam Millikin
Bill Millikin
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David Dunn
Robert Jadah
Scott Pollak
Kevin Miller
Jeffrey Koehler
Kelly Klemolin
Bob Worthington
Kari Loya
Gord Brooks
Jon Terzis
Catherine Sheehan
Larry Maizlish
Dan Murdoch
Gale Van Cott
Bobbi Owens
Brian Roberts
Lisa Rice
Bob Deyan
Alyson Steel
Robert Jacobs
Adam John Morgan
Dave Sebastian
Peter Drew
Greg Harrison
Jim Robesky
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Charlee Redman
Susanna Fera
Kim Crow
Catherine Smith
Antonio McCoy
Chad Miles
Craig Burnett
Deborah Marlowe
Joe DeSio
Joan Hall Hovey
Melanie Haynes

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Opuzz Voice : Featured Article

Your Voice Print ... Is You!"

by Karen Hutton


I’ve been both a voice talent and a voice coach for about 20 years now.

In that time, I’ve performed on camera and off, in television and radio, film and theatre. I’ve coached voice and delivery to broadcasters all around the country, and a few voice over aspirants too. Along the way, I’ve learned and confirmed a few things about this fabulous vocal instrument of ours. Part of it’s on a technical level.  But even more; about heart, soul, emotion and being… and the mysterious and miraculous connection to them all that the voice possesses.

So often it seems that we merely wish to tame and bend it so that it can perform our industry wishes; accomplish better delivery, be natural, do character voices, achieve vocal variety, etc.  Worthy aspirations all, don’t get me wrong. But there’s so much more.

A well trained voice should sound completely natural. In fact, it should sound any way the owner wants it to. Why? Because within its elegant design, the voice is the one instrument that is inherently designed to create a vocal impression of your entire being. It contains your “voice print”, as individual as your fingerprint. Unlike other musical instruments, the voice lives physically inside us. It’s wired to literally “give voice” to the many complex layers of our identity… through sound. Beginning with our personality, thoughts, feelings, intentions and emotions; and including the even finer qualities of our heart and soul development, exist nuances that can be measured by the sound of our voice. In a more “real world” analogy, studies claim that in terms of attitude and feeling on the part of the listener, the sound of the voice has over 5x the impact of the content. I remember my mom admonishing me; “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” (I learned she was more right than even she knew.) The voice is such a singularly unique instrument, that through its very timbre it becomes instantly recognizable as belonging to one particular person and no other.

This is why great actors study voice so assiduously in school. It’s not just about learning to “project”. It’s about learning how to release and empower the voice. In so doing, the actor goes deeper within herself, finds her power and learns to access her distinctive, singular sound. Her true voice.

When that happens, it’s not unusual for person’s life to change on some level. As a voice gains more resonance, dynamic range, vibrant sound and vocal flexibility; it also helps a person release stress and feel more alive, more powerful, more capable and more confident than ever before. As side effects go, not too shabby!

Even folks blessed with a naturally beautiful voice experience these benefits by learning how to control and maximize their vocal gifts. Having their natural abilities more consciously biddable and even more fully expressed creates a tremendous feeling of confidence and empowerment. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

In practical, industry-related terms, there’s other good news. If an actor can find his or her own distinctive “voice print”… he can likewise find the character’s. Coupled with good delivery technique, the ability to release and use your voice effortlessly embeds the character’s thoughts, feelings, intentions, etc.  into their own distinctive voice print (which, of course, is a blend with yours). Voila! Instant credibility and a sound that no one else can duplicate.

Ever hear of the “wow factor”? It’s that indescribable “something” that comes across and tells us that this person is special, unlike any other and we can’t help but watch. And listen. What we’re talking about here is having a voice with “wow factor”.

Well, you might wonder… if this is all so natural, why isn’t everyone doing it? As it happens, we actually unlearn our natural sound in the process of growing up. So many of the messages we are handed down become internalized as part of our identity. Messages like “Don’t speak unless spoken to”, “Don’t talk so loud”, “If I wanted YOUR opinion, I’d ask!”, “Who do you think you are, anyway?” “I’ll give you something to cry about!” (along with, oh, about a million others) become internalized  and cause us to modify our voices’ sound to suit the conditions at hand. We thus learn to tighten up in order to hold back emotion, to use a different voice in order to please, we learn to not be too big, too strong, too smart, too male or female. In short… we learn to restrict our power, voice and naturally vital energy both in communication and in life. What’s more, the part of the country or world we grew up in makes an impact, as does the sound of our parents’ voices; even how our peers sounded and responded to our sound affected how we use our voices as adults.

So, when you stop and think about it from this angle – are you really speaking with your natural voice? The one you’d have if no conditions had been placed upon it? The one that responds easily, fluidly and instinctively to the subtle (and not so subtle) direction of your client or script? The one that bears your distinctive “voice print”? A voice that is free in this way will absolutely get the job done quicker, better and with a broader range.

After 20 years of coaching voices in various realms and putting my own voice stamp upon radio, television and multimedia projects (not to mention that my voice mentor made this point repeatedly), I’m clear about one thing. It’s this learned vocal tightness and restriction that will not only prevent you from having the great sounding and responsive voice you could have; but also creates those unsightly mixed messages, and a monotone/weak/thin/inexpressive voice.

Of course, it IS possible to unlearn what you have learned, young weedhopper! A really good voice coach can help. But the real point here is that it behooves anyone trying to make their mark in this competitive field to also make a point of understanding their voice. It’s a powerful instrument when unleashed. All by itself, it can turn heads, create first and lasting impressions and generally make others unable to forget you. Why? Because they can feel you, see you, hear you – all from the sound in your voice.

Karen Hutton is a voiceover artist and voice coach with 20 years in the industry. Her acclaimed articles entitled “Brilliance in Performance” appeared in “Shoptalk”, a daily international broadcast industry newsletter, circulation 100,000. A selection of these are now used for teaching voice and delivery in journalism schools around the country. Karen and her recording studio are based in the Lake Tahoe area of California.


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