Voice Acting 101: How To Sound Like A Boy.

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If voice acting is on your list of potential careers to dive into, you might be wondering, “How do I make my voice sound like a boy?” The answer is it takes the right job, a little research, and some vocal training to achieve this feat.

One major appeal of a career in voice acting is that your voice does not have to match your appearance, and “gender” is only a word. Some of the most recognized male cartoon characters such as Bart Simpson, Charlie Brown, and Tommy Pickles were all voiced by adult female voice actors. Below you will find several tips and tricks to help guide you in successfully making your voice sound like a boy.

Listen to the Voices You Want to Imitate

The best place to start your vocal transformation is to listen to who you are wanting to sound like. When you are listening to either YouTube videos of your favorite male cartoon character or your son and his friends playing with toys in the other room, close your eyes and focus on specific things.

  • Tone – mood of the voice
  • Pitch – highness or lowness of tone
  • Inflection – emphasis of phrasing
  • Pronunciation – age, education, race, region
  • Tempo – urgency of the phrasing

There will be a significant difference between a small boy child and a teenage boy voice, so you will need to have a good understanding of what voice you want to imitate. If you are unsure of what voice you are capable of producing, there are tips and tricks listed below to help you find your niche.

Tone Sets the Mood of the Voice

You might have heard the phrase, “watch your tone.” A person’s tone has the ability to alter the mood of any given situation. When you are listening for ways to imitate the tone of a voice, you need to be able to audibly recognize moods without seeing a face.

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Indifferent
  • Excited
  • Bored
  • Tired

All of these moods can be voiced by slightly changing your tone. Close your eyes and listen to what someone is saying compared to their body language. As a voice actor, you need to be able to convey your mood by using only your voice, you will not have your body language to help with emphasis.

Boy voices will have a range of emotions depending on their age. Can you hear the emotion they are trying to convey? Are you able to imitate it? That is the best place to start when coming up with your new character.

Pitch Changes According to the Age of the Voice

Pitch is defined as the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. A small boy child will typically have a higher pitch to their voice. Likewise, a teenage boy who is going through puberty might alternate between low and high pitches. Male cartoon characters rarely age, which makes them the perfect voice for female voice actors to imitate on a long-term basis once they have developed the right pitch for the character.

Inflection Emphasizes the Phrasing of the Voice

Inflection is the emphasis of certain words or phrases to help get across the meaning you are trying to imply. Study the pitch and tone of a boy as he says each of these phrases:

  • “I didn’t do it.” – States a fact.
  • “I didn’t do it?” – Asks a question.
  • “I didn’t do it!” – Exclaims a phrase.
  • “I didn’t do it…” – Sets up for an explanation.

You should hear a pitch and tone change within each of these phrases as they are all trying to convey a different message. Though you are not able to use your facial expressions to emphasize the phrasing, lean into using your facial expressions so that your voice can carry the inflection.

Pronunciation Determines the Age, Education, and Region of the Voice

When listening to the boy voice you want to imitate, pay close attention to the pronunciation of words. Smaller boys might not complete a word they are saying, and teenage boys might add an extra syllable.

A slow drawl, added syllables, and additional letters are a few examples of how the pronunciation of a word can add a little extra character to a voice. For example, you can drop the “g” off of the end of “staying” to say “stayin’.”

Many voice actors will often change the shape of their mouths to pronounce words. The position of your mouth, lips, and jaw will alter the sound of a word. Here are some tips you can try.

  • Pursed your lips to have a pinched sounding voice.
  • Stick your tongue out, which can assist in creating a mumble
  • Open your mouth wide to help with inflection of words.

You can also try speaking with an accent or changing vowels to develop the unique voice of your character. Think about the region or race of your character, and research the way that words are spoken or different catch phrases that may be common to where they would reside.

Tempo Guides the Urgency of the Voice

The tempo of a voice greatly emphasizes the urgency of whatever is being said. If you listen to a small boy who is excited about his new toy, chances are he is going to skip over words because he is trying to tell you about his prized possession as fast as possible. A teenage boy might draw out what he is saying and pause to add effect. A sigh here and there is common for teenage boys, too.

Find Your Inner Child’s Voice

Once you have a good understanding of the voice you are trying to imitate it is time to work on finding your very own unique voice. These tips will help get you started in developing your male voice.

  • Breathe on your hand, try to make it cold then hot. Release a sound, and that is the base of what you want to start your voice with.
  • Use your chest voice. Females more commonly use a head voice, and males are mostly chest voice. A tip: place your hand on the roof of your head and see if there are vibrations when you speak. Adapt your tone and register until you do not feel the vibrations anymore.
  • Eliminate the airiness in your voice. Practice rumbling by making a deep, resonant sound. This is key when developing a teenage boy’s voice.
  • Find the full range of your voice. Take a deep breath in, then slowly release the air by humming from a low pitch to a high pitch.

Everybody has a different quality to their voice and might not be able to achieve certain sounds. After you have determined your tone and pitch capabilities, then you can focus on the age of your character and how to develop their voice further.

Vocal Distinctions Between Pre-Adolescent and Puberty

It is common knowledge of how a child’s voice transitions from pre-adolescent through puberty to eventually result in their adult voice. There are some common vocal characteristics between all of these phases of a child’s life that you will need to take into consideration when finding your inner child’s voice.

InfantPre-AdolescentAdolescent
Smaller lung capacityLung volume is increased but not fully developed.Full lung capacity
Zero/Limited WordsShortened/Incomplete PhrasingLarger Vocabulary
87 breaths per minuteLower range of pitch and vowelsInvoluntary changes in pitch or cracking when speaking.
Cooing and CawingFewer voice qualitiesHusky or Horse voice quality

To develop your own unique voice identity, there are a few more tweaks you can add to make sure you are on point with your boy character’s tone and cadence.

  • Excited Energy – Most kids are ready and willing to tell everything to somebody who is listening. When you are bringing that exciting energy, you are giving your voice a genuine appeal to anyone who has endured a story from their child.
  • Shaky Voice – It is very rare to have a child who is completely confident in whatever they are trying to convey. Learning how to switch over into a less confident delivery will give a more authentic impression.
  • Musicality – A child might speak with a bit of a twinkle in their voice. Their voice can swing back and forth which is a feature you can use to differentiate your character.
  • Speech Impediment – a slight lisp or a mumble is common for children who are learning to communicate. Try switching up the pronunciation of a certain letter or sound.

There is no limit to the different quirks you can give your character’s voice. You have to keep in mind your physical and vocal capabilities, but after that is nailed down, the sky is the limit.

Implement Vocal Warm-ups to Prepare and Protect Your Voice

A vocal warm-up is one of the most important steps to not only prepare your character’s voice, but also to protect your vocal cords so that you can have a long career without any lasting damage. Just as an athlete stretches and works their muscles for a big event, you need to stretch and work your voice to have the maximum results.

Seven Vocal Warm-Ups for Voice Actors

The more you fine-tune your vocal cords, the more diverse your voice acting portfolio can be. Likely, you want to be as marketable as possible and have a long-lasting voice over career. These are a few warm-ups experts recommend you complete.

  • Stretch your body before you stretch your voice. This video provides the best body stretches to help open your lungs and rib cage to fill them with more air.
  • Focus on breathing to relax your vocal cords.  When your vocal cords are relaxed, it can expand your vocal range. You can start by trying this hissing exercise.
  • Humming and lip trills to loosen face muscles. Starting with a low hum or lip trills/flutters will restore vocal quality after long periods of rest. Add a siren scale while you are performing a lip trill to aid further in loosening your muscles.
  • Master the ability to descend on nasal consonants. A common warm-up for voice actors is focusing on words that end in a Z and lingering on the z to get resonating.
  • Practice your fricatives. Fricatives are consonants that are produced by letting out air slowly. Practicing your fricatives helps for a clearer pronunciation.
  • Lips, Teeth, Tip of the Tongue Twisters. Articulation is one of the key factors in successful voice acting. You can try reciting a few familiar tongue twisters such as:
  • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  • “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
  • “Unique New York, unique New York, unique New York.”
  • “A big black bug bit a big black bear.”
  • “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”
  • “We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”
  • Learn how to properly yawn-sigh. This helps regulate oxygen to extend your vocal range. This video helps you learn how to properly execute a yawn-sigh.

A few extra tips when practicing your vocal warm-ups:

  • Get a good night’s sleep. A well-rested voice is easier to warm up in the morning.
  • Do your warm-ups in the shower. The humidity is great for your voice and will help lubricate your vocal cords.
  • Drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated. When your mouth is parched, it can be difficult for you to properly execute phrasing and certain words.
  • Drink warm tea to help with relaxation and lubricate your vocal cords.

Vocal warm-ups might be the most crucial step in preparing your voice for a new character. Take care to set up your warm-ups properly and not rush through each step. If you hurt your vocal cords, it could result in extended healing times which would potentially put you out of business. You also might do permanent damage that could prevent you from ever voicing your unique character again.

Record and Assess Yourself

The perception of your voice may be far different from the way the world hears you, and it is important to record and assess yourself to have a better idea of what might need to be adjusted. You do not need to have high-tech equipment or professional audio editing software, but you do need an open mind and the ability to accept constructive criticism.

What Equipment is Needed to Record a Voice Over?

When you are starting out, aside from a quiet space, minimal equipment is needed. You can successfully record your first voice over with the following items.

  • Microphone
  • Headphones
  • Voice recorder on your phone
  • Audio editing equipment on your computer (optional)

As you become an established and working voice actor, it would be advantageous to invest in high-quality audio recording equipment. This article is a great guide in selecting the best audio editing software for voice recording.

Assessing Your Voice Recording

To prevent your voice from coming off as fake, you need to be able to objectively assess a recording of your voice against this list of qualities that producers will be looking for.

  • Resonance – This addresses the quality of sound in your voice. If resonation is within the throat, it could sound muffled. If resonation is in your nasal passages, it will sound nasally. If resonation is in your mouth, it will be a balance of both bass and treble. Depending on the voice you are creating, you need to be aware of your resonance.
  • Relaxation – Do you feel relaxed and comfortable in your character? If you are not purposely trying to have a tight voice, you will be able to hear how tight your throat can be if you are not relaxed.
  • Rhythm – The voice you are trying to convey needs to have a consistent cadence that matches the mood of your character.
  • Pacing – Unless the script calls for a long and drawn-out monologue, make sure your sentences are tight and non-complex. Pay attention to your breathing, unless scripted, it does not need to sound labored. You should have a good grasp of how your character would approach the script.

There is something to be said about being your own worst critic, but be advised that voice-over producers will be looking specifically for these qualities listed above. If you are open to constructive criticism and are willing to make adjustments to feed the needs of a character, you will be in good shape.

Conclusion

For a female voice actor, one of the most lucrative genres of voice acting will be child or teenage cartoon characters. With an influx in the market, you need to be as prepared as possible by listening to the voices you want to imitate, researching and practicing a much as possible. Use the tips below to help you have a good grasp of exactly how far you can push your voice and how to achieve the most unique character to make it hard for vocal producers to resist what you have to offer.

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