know your working tools

Over the past 15 years, I have developed as a Voiceover Mentor; thanks largely to my academic colleagues – Dr Kate Foy, Dr Ashley Jones and Dr Bernadette Meenach; and also my peers – Sharyn Doolan, Reg Mowat and Marcus Oborn. The many conversations and time spent working with these people has rubbed off on me obviously. 

Since the early 90’s, I have considered myself a professional voice over person. Reflecting back; (as mentioned in a previous post) not only has my style and acting changed – but it seems the many years of just doing it, and soaking up knowledge from the afore mentioned people, has amounted to a lot of acquired knowledge, that just slips out sometimes.

In my last session with a mentee, I heard myself discussing how important it is as a voice actor, to understand the working tools of your trade. This has brought us to this post.


This is not the right place for me to go into detail… so I’ll keep it brief 😉

As people who use our voice – vocal cords, as the primary tool of our trade; we must look after it, keep it well sharpened with regular warmup and vocal exercise. The working tool of our trade; must be the microphone. How we use the microphone, can alter the mood, the depth, the emotion of the read. So, when walking into a studio – you need to understand the microphone in front of you.

What does a microphone do and how does it work?
Simplistically; the microphone is designed to capture sound, like the human ear. Unlike the human ear, the microphone does not have an optimal design. Hence, there are different types of microphones optimised for different tasks. There are three types of mechanism commonly used in microphone design: the Dynamic or “moving coil” Transducer, the Condenser Transducer and the Ribbon Transducer, all of which have specific characteristics and strengths.
Then, you need to think about patterns – Condenser mics may use any of the three main pickup patterns (Cardioid/Unidirectional, Figure-of-Eight or Omnidirectional). Dynamic mics are mainly Cardioid or Hypercardioid, while Ribbon mics have a natural Figure-of-Eight response.

Understanding just the basics is important I feel. Then, it’s down to listening; put the headphones on, start your vocal warmups, or proof reading the script aloud, all whilst moving around the mic – listen.

Moving here, changes the sound in this way – moving over here, makes it sound like this. The point is, listen.

Then you can use your proximity to effect the read in all the right ways.

This is why my first session with an aspiring voice actor, not only includes warm up exercises and vocal toning techniques; but we also talk about microphones and how to use them. I love experimenting with microphones, and learning ways to bring the read to life. Listen and be curious.

2 Comments to “know your working tools”

  • Shelley Kinash

    @JasonMyatt Thank you for this insightful post. Embrace, listen to and learn from the tools of our trade – in this case our microphone, or our human microphone – our voice. You set-off McLuhan-esque reflections.

  • admin

    Thanks Shelley! …if you’re enticed, and looking for more of a “The medium is the message” kind of post; I think you should read the next post, hyperlocal.

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