Voice impressions can be done by copying tempo, body language, accent, pitch and speech manner of a person or a character you want to sound alike. To learn a perfect impression you’ll have to listen and observe a character, while also constantly practicing and recording yourself doing the impression.
To learn voice impression fast it helps to choose a character that has a similar pitch to yours and plenty of tutorials on Youtube.
How to choose an easy impression?
If you are going after a well-known impression whether it is a character from a movie, TV series, cartoon or a famous person check if there are good impressions on Youtube.
If there are many impressions, it’s a sign that impression is easy to learn. On the other hand, if you barely find any impressions, that’s probably because it’s hard to learn. Moreover, on Youtube you’ll find a lot of tips about how to perform the particular impression.
You will often find that made-up voices are much easier to learn like Mickey Mouse or Stewie from Family Guy. A real, authentic voice is going to be much harder to learn as it is more nuanced and complex than a made-up voice. You still can learn any impression you want, just some of them will take longer.
Also, when choosing a character consider the pitch. It’ll be much easier to do an impression of someone in a similar pitch to yours.
Write down notes about the character
Once you decide on an impression find some good clips of the character and watch them at least a dozen of times.
When watching the clips listen for vocal nuances in their voice and write down some notes so you have a good description of how they sound. You’ll be creating a voice description, the more detailed the better.
Here’s what you need to look for when listening:
- Fast or slow speaker
- Punchy or elongated sentences
- A breathy or strong voice
- Old or young
- Direct or indirect
- Mumbly or articulate
This video will also help a lot when trying to write down notes about the character and will give you some ideas and nuances to look for in the voice:
Also, consider that your character might sound different depending on who he speaks to, if you can learn to switch back and forth between the variations of a character’s voice that will add another layer of depth to your impression. Look at this example of Molly speaking to Ron and Harry in completely different manners
Mimic the body language
Even if you’re doing just a voice over try mimicking the body language. Below are some body language aspects you should look for when doing an impression, although feel free to expand.
- Hand movements
- Facial impressions
- Head position and movement
- Walking manner
Body language will help you to feel the character better. An energetic character will move a lot and will apply hand gestures, while a sad character will slouch and let the hands down. It’ll feel more natural to do a certain impression when your body is in sync with how you sound.
Also, body can alter how you sound. For example, slouching or puffing out your chest will influence your voice due to how it physically changes your lung capacity. Rapid body movements will make you lose your breath. Wide open mouth will make you naturally sound more breathy while a closed mouth will make you sound mumbly, smiling will make you sound happier and etc. Facial expressions are especially important since they affect your vocal cavities and voice resonance.
Rather than trying to learn the impression in a few long sessions, create a schedule and train daily. It is much better to repeat the impression daily for a shorter period of time, than trying to learn it in one long go.
You can do it while driving a car to work or while in a shower. It is good to associate practising impressions with a daily task because it forces you to practise regularly.
You will want to give your brains the time to process the impression. It is a long process and so you shouldn’t expect quick results, give yourself at least a few weeks to learn and even more time to hone and master the impression.
Record yourself doing the impression
Record yourself when doing the impression, it’s vital to hear the feedback. Recording yourself will help to track whether you’re on the right track. Moreover, when we speak aloud to ourselves we don’t hear it the same as others do. We hear lower frequencies more, so what you hear is not the actual sound you make.
Taking time to record yourself and playing it back will give you a more realistic representation of how you sound and you’ll be able to track the progress which gives motivation.
You will also need an okay microphone to do it. A built-in laptop mic or a phone could work, but they don’t do justice to your voice. If you can afford it, at least get a $40 mic for the job. You can find a guide on how to choose a microphone here.
Do the impression of the impressionist
Rather than making an impression of an actual character/person try looking for someone that has already done a great job at making an impression of that character.
This way it is going to be easier to pick up characteristics of the voice. Someone making an impression will be exaggerating the voice, so it makes it easier for you to capture its essence.
Once you get the basics, start watching original videos of the character. At that point, you will be able to notice more nuances in the voice.
Start learning with catchy frazes
When you begin learning the impression, start small. Learn one fraze at a time until you are comfortable with them. You can then move to longer comprehensive sentences.
You’ll know that you’ve mastered a voice impression when you’ll be able to do it in non script sentences without putting much effort.