Laura sounds like she’s 17, but has teenage twins and a paid mortgage. James is a millennial that sounds like he could be a retiree. One of the reasons I love voice acting is how it shatters the barriers of age. You can be an actress over 40 and still have a profitable career or a 19-year-old male neophyte with a great set of lungs an awesome performance capabilities and make a living. In many ways the microphone is much more merciful than the camera. In other ways it’s more revealing.
Our pitch doesn’t change much as we age. Both men and women generally hold the same tone from the age of about 20 until 60 to 65. An untrained voice at that Golden age generally goes up in the case of a man and down in the case of a woman. Other voice changes within the general population include slower speech, elongated syllabes and more frequent pauses (for air). A trained voice can work around that, meaning voice actors can continue working well into retirement, if they so choose. Diet exercise and plenty of rest are also part of that magic vocal health formula.
What does change with the decades is vocal resonance. It deepens. Also the ability to control your instrument and perform get better with time and work. Also your confidence in your instrument intensifies. An older voice actor will have played and experimented with their voice over the years such that now they have multiple sharpened tools from which to draw in their actor’s toolbox.
I don’t know about you, but now that the dust has settled with the emergence of the millennials into the market place, I’m seeing a surge of work calling for middle age and/or senior voices, especially in the B2B sector. Whether Gen Xer or Boomer, the over 50 crowd are very active in the world and in the market place. They dominate in terms of investment and are involved in a lot of ventures initiated by themselves or in sync with their younger counterparts.
There is also a shift in what we traditionally think of as senior. Gen Xers are still getting over the fact that they’ve edged into their fifties. And while Boomers may be embracing retirement they don’t like to think of themselves as old. And They’re seasoned. They’re mature. They’re mellowed. Performance-wise the traditional vocal “fry” “cackle” and tonal “drop” of June Foray’s Granny on the Looney Tunes or Dan Castelleneta’s Abe Simpson don’t translate well. “Talking senior” is much more subtle. Think of Morgan Freeman or Bill Nighy. Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep or Allison Janney. These are our seniors and they are the epitome of cool.
In terms of products I’ve seen targeted for seniors? There are the obvious luxury cars, real estate, travel, financial investments, and healthcare. But there’s also technology and “bucket list” adventures/pastimes. Seniors are connected. Yeah, they mostly live on facebook, but they like to stay abreast of technology. So they are on Spotify and Pandora as well as local radio and TV channels. Quite a few even have Instagram profiles and know what to do with them.
The kind of narration or character approach I use to successfully connect with seniors in a voiceover read includes descriptors like confidence, empathy, respect and peer-to-peer. Technically, I’ll often relax my throat and drop into the lower register. But not always. It depends on the character. Many older females speak in higher tones.
There is a disconnect when it comes to marketing to the greying haired set, though. The over 50 crowd comprise about half the population, and account for over half of consumer spending, but only see 10% of marketing targeted toward them. Currently. My prediction? This untapped market should see a lot of growth in the next few years as millennials take up the marketing baton, see where the opportunities lie, take the next leg and run with it.
In the last year voice over artist Kim Handysides has been hired to perform the voice of a twenty-two year and a sixty-six year old and multiple ages in between.