Do You Know Your Voice Over Archetype?
By Susan Berkley


One of the most frustrating things for voice over beginners and experienced pros is giving voice buyers, producers and casting directors exactly what they want. In the old days we auditioned live at an agent, client or casting director’s office. And while it was often inconvenient and time consuming to get there, it was great to have someone in person running the audition so you could ask questions and get clarification on the spot.

Not anymore. Today you are generally on your own auditioning and recording from your home studio, unless you work in NY or LA where many agents and casting directors want you to come in for face-to-face auditions.

So what do you do when you get direction like the following I received from one of the on line casting services?

See if you can figure this out…

“The VO should sound natural, have a warm, friendly, genuine and conversational feel without sounding or feeling sleepy. Pace should be mid-tempo to avoid boredom though keep with whatever seems most natural & less forced. Conversational with a hint of drama. If male, he has a lower-medium register voice that is warm, likeable and utterly natural but reveals depth, awareness and insight. And you can hear the twinkling, piercing eyes that have the manner of George Clooney or Jeff Bridges.”

I hope you’re laughing as you read this because I sure was. What the heck do they mean by a voice that sounds like the twinkling, piercing eyes of George Clooney or Jeff Bridges? Ridiculous!

But actually, they’re dead serious. What they really mean is they’re looking for a George Clooney or Jeff Bridges archetype (or the female equivalent) not a sound-alike.

While we all have a unique signature sound, each of our voices falls within a universal archetype. The dictionary defines archetype as the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies

Casting directors deal with archetypes a lot. In a sea of choices, it’s a way to stay organized and communicate with producers and clients. Copywriters deal in archetypes too. They are the foundation of storytelling and we love archetypes because they are familiar and help us recognize ourselves through the story characters.

By definition, the archetypes are already set. They are timeless and this is reassuring in a fast-paced world. Unlike software, there will never be a Hero or a Villain 2.0. Sure, their weapons may change, but at the core, a hero is a hero is a hero and an evil bastard will always be just that.

So how do you find your voice over archetype? It’s hard to tell without hearing you and this is one of the things we identify for everyone who comes to one of our Voice Over Bootcamp Recording Studio Immersion Experience weekends.

(There may still be a few available seats at our next Bootcamp March 23-25 at beautiful Avatar Studios in New York City. Contact Bill at my office at 800-333-8108 or or click the link below for details)

To get you started, here are some common voice-over archetypes with a brief description of each:

  • Mature: often identified with wisdom, elders, or mature authority. Grandparents. Professors. Boss stereotypes.
  • Story-teller: young, middle aged or mature: an easy going, relaxed, all American type, identified with the West or the South. Everyman, every woman.
  • Upscale, elegant : sophisticated, cool. Middle aged or mature. Rarely a young sound.
  • Hard Sell: energetic, male or female pitch person type. Can be rough or smooth but always kinetic bordering on hyper.
  • Wry/sarcastic: dry, male or female, ‘whatever’, real, detached. All ages, but typically young or middle aged.
  • Loose, wild and wooly: quirky, unique, energetic, defies description, often comedic, think Chris Rock, Cathy Griffin. All ages.
  • Real guy or girl next door: no trace of actor or announcer. Typically young or middle aged. We trust them because they are just like us. Relaxed. Believable.
  • Announcer types: all ages, from light to mature. Beautiful voices with great diction. Smooth to hard sell. Can make the copy and the product the star, so that they themselves disappear. Can read lots of copy smoothly without sounding like they are rushing.
  • Young and perky: energetic, youthful, optimistic kid next door

So here’s your homework. See if you can identify the George Clooney and Jeff Bridges archetype. Then write to me at and let me know what you think it is. In the meantime, have a great week!


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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit

Copyright 2012, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. Do You Know Your Voice Over Archetype?