Nearly everyone who does voiceover work professionally these days understands the value of training as an actor. Even straight single-voice copy often requires the ability to act in order to deliver the message effectively. Any acting classes, and especially improv, are beneficial.
But, I suspect not nearly enough people understand the value of musical training for voiceover work. I first learned this from Marice Tobias a number of years ago. I attended a master class she gave in Nashville, TN. During the class she made an off-hand comment about her experience that often the best voiceover people had some kind of musical training. As an illustration, she told us about an orchestra conductor from Canada who was at that time one of the hottest voiceover talents working.
In the years since then, I’ve often thought about that comment and about how valuable musical training is. For one thing, I’ve long believed that the most basic unit of spoken communication is the phrase. Not the sentence. Not the word. The phrase. Each phrase (typically) contains a single coherent thought or concept, which is connected with the other thoughts and concepts of a given sentence. How we shape and connect these phrases makes a huge difference in our ability to communicate clearly. (On the other hand, my friend Roy Williams breaks this idea down even further into thought particles. But, that’s another story for another time.)
And it is in this matter of phrasing where musical training is so beneficial. Because in order to play or sing well, we have to be able to shape and connect the musical phrases in a coherent manner or else our music doesn’t hold together the way we want it to.
Intimately bound up with phrasing (both musical and in voiceover) is the matter of timing and pace. Again, musical training helps us understand the value of timing. On the one hand, accurate…on time. On the other, not too rigid or we run the risk of seeming robotic rather than alive.