Hiring a British voice over
This guide is specifically written for non-British clients who are looking to hire a British voice actor for their project.
So, you’re on the hunt for the perfect British voice for your project? Of course, you’ve already done your research and know what kind of British voiceover you need. The thing is, because the British Isles contains so many accents and dialects, you’re in danger of booking the wrong kind of voice. Hiring a British voice over should be easy…but it’s not!
So what is a British voiceover?
A small question with a potentially very lengthy answer.
It’s simply put, a recording of a voiceover talent that speaks with an accent coming from anywhere in the British Isles. This includes all locations from the far southwest tip (Land’s End) to the northernmost point of Scotland (John o’Groats). It might not be a vast landmass in comparison to the U.S. or Australia but it does have a huge amount of accents and dialects, each distinct in their tunes, tones, familiarity of your average listener and of course pronunciations.
As a small but densely populated island, some accents shift dramatically in as little as 30 miles. Think of the proud Liverpudlian or Mancunian, or the Cockney’s of London living just a stones throw from our ‘rulers’ in Westminster.
There’s English Voiceover and this includes:
This article would be way too long to list them all but if you are a non-Brit then you may have encountered the West Country burr (that area below Wales), the unmistakable Geordie of Brian Johnson (AC/DC), Brummie (Birmingham) and the Liverpool Scouse (The Beatles).
Probably the three most common types of English voiceover would be Received Pronunciation, London (maybe going as far as Cockney) and Northern. All accents work on a spectrum though and are of course influenced by a number of factors including but not limited to education, friends and family, gender and how well-travelled an individual is.
The more you listen and the more you are exposed to these accents, you’ll hear a seemingly infinite variation. That’s why it’s so important to know what kind of British voiceover you need (or if you are producing on behalf of a client – what they need!).
There’s British Voiceover and this includes:
all of the above plus Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish…..
Then as a side note for this guide we must remember the huge amount that speak in English in other countries – the English speaking voiceovers of the States, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand…
So that’s not English Voiceover or British Voiceover but instead English-speaking Voiceover.
You need to know what kind of English voiceover (or British voiceover) you need for your project.
Booking ‘the real thing’
As an English Voiceover Artist, I have often been asked by an overseas client to ‘do a Northern’ or very recently ‘can you speak Gaelic?’. The answer is a very honest no. I’m from the South-East of England and work between refined RP and a rougher or more relaxed neutral voice as heard on my British Voiceover Artist Demos.
Of course there are voice actors who can (or at least claim to be able to) deliver your voiceover recordings in various accents. They might be an actor with ‘an ear for accents’. I’ve always greatly admired voice actors who can really do this, the ones who can deliver perfect accents indiscernible from the real thing. In the same way that a New Yorker might be able to perform with a Tennessee Twang (or drawl) it’s important to consider whether or not the audience would spot the fake accent.
Just how important is that level of ‘genuine’ for your project? How important is it for you to work with a voice actor who is really born and bred Mancunian or they are in fact an actor from London who’ll give it a go?
The risk of fake accents when hiring a British voice over
Fake accents can ruin a project. They can pull the listener out of the immersion you are aiming for as a producer, changing the experience and possibly having a detrimental effect on your product, service or brand reputation. So go for ‘real’ where you can.
Native British voice
A ‘native British’ voice will nearly always sound different from a learnt British voice. Non-native English speaking actors are often forced to master RP British in their training at drama school. This is rarely successful and in my opinion a waste of their time and focus. Learn the language and its colloquialisms but embrace the dial of accent that you have as a foreigner speaking English as a performer – whether stage/TV/film actor or voice actor.
The traditional or typical British voice over sound
Traditionally, voiceovers with a British accent have always tended to be ‘received pronunciation’. Often referred to as the ‘Queen’s English’ or ‘BBC English’, Received Pronunciation (RP) is the accent usually described as typically British.
It’s the distinctive British voice we might associate with a higher class of British brand.
You could call it ‘posh’ and to be honest, this sound is less in demand these days. Instead, and this is what I’m called upon to record, is the neutral English sound – a voice that comes from somewhere in the south-east of England, but not necessarily London, certainly not cockney and not sounding like a BBC newsreader from the fifties!
I’ve voiced hundreds of projects that vary from received pronunciation through to a rougher, less-refined sound and everything in-between. It’s a 21st century version of the distinctive British voice. Listen to examples of my work as a British Voiceover Artist.
Useful search terms to use when hiring a British Voice Over
voice over artist UK
UK voice over artists
British male voiceover
British female voiceover
RP British voice actors
but of course, do check what kind of British, what kind of English…!
If you are looking at hiring a British voice over for your project, please get in touch to see if I am the right fit.
Checklist for hiring a British voice over.
- If you are producing for a client, check what specific kind of British Voice Talent you will need.
- Make sure to understand the target audience when booking any type of voice actor.
- Listen to the voiceover demos of a few British Voice Actors to narrow down your search.
- Again, perhaps present these to the client just to check on accent again.
- Check whether it’s a real accent or a fake. This could be very important to the integrity of the project and experience for the end-listener.
- Ask the voice actor for a sample read of the actual text that will be used in the final recording.
I hope this guide to hiring a British voice over has proved useful!
I’d recommend checking out my full Step by Step Video Guide to Working with a Voiceover Artist, no matter what kind of project or voiceover requirements. Access HERE
Find out more about the regional accents of British English in these useful articles.
You might be interested in my take on Voiceover Training