Help me find a voice to rip-off
September 13, 2007 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a narrator for a voice project. Who should they sound like?

At work, my team will be auditioning and hiring a voice actor to record some narration for us. I would like to find some examples of good voice talent that is close to the tone we're looking for, and would love some advice.
We want the voice to be calm, measured (though not flat) and professional sounding. We don't want them to be overly enthusiastic or "peppy" sounding, nor they should they veer towards the overly dramatic a la Bill Curtis.
Has anyone seen any great documentaries, commercials or anything else that had a great narrator/voice talent that sounds like what I've described? I would say that suggestions that are famous actors aren't super helpful, as most of what makes them good narrators is that their voices are super distinct (and recongized). Ideas or names are great, links to them on YouTube or elsewhere are even better. Thanks very much!
posted by Ziggurat to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've always thought Will Lyman from Frontline was pretty good.
posted by dhammond at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2007

Here's a sampler of established talent. This site leans towards amped-up trailer voiceovers, but many of the artists have narration demos as well.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:23 PM on September 13, 2007

James Earl Jones is the obvious one that is recognized. My uncle is an actor but also does a great deal of voiceover work. I think he sounds a lot like my grandmother, but people seem to like his voice and recognize it. Here is a trailer he narrated. You may not want to use this example since it's a political piece, but you get to hear his voice pretty well.
posted by jessamyn at 3:37 PM on September 13, 2007

Eddie Eagle is a nice guy with a great voice. He handles all of the production too.

There are some documentary samples here:

Email me for his email address if you interested in actually using him.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 3:37 PM on September 13, 2007

Don Wescott -- used him on many a project. He's the voice of WGBH's | PBS's NOVA series (among other clients).

Example voiceover/narration -- NOVA: "September 11: Why the Towers Fell"
posted by ericb at 3:47 PM on September 13, 2007

Have you looked at They have samples of their voice actors' work.
posted by brain cloud at 3:50 PM on September 13, 2007

You said no one famous... and yet you seem to be describing Morgan Freeman to a T.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:51 PM on September 13, 2007

One of my favourites is, indeed, an actor who's voiced many many audiobooks: George Guidall. You can hear a sample from Gainman's Americ Gods here.

A similar, comfortable unforced, voice I've like was Morgan Freeman's narration throughout the Shawshank Redemption.

Both selections do come from dramatic performances which has a tendency to color them somewhat though I think both men manage to sound clear, restrained and nearly Cronkite trustworthy ;)
posted by mce at 3:53 PM on September 13, 2007

I gloat only a little, upon the poor man's preview, that the col. seems to agree with me ;)
posted by mce at 3:54 PM on September 13, 2007

I'd say Morgan Freeman, Patrick Stewart, or Anthony Hopkins. You probably don't have the budget, but all three of them have calm voices that inspire trust.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:54 PM on September 13, 2007

Example voiceover/narration -- NOVA: "September 11: Why the Towers Fell"

Ooops ... my bad/my mistake. That's actually Will Lyman (who dhammond recommends) narrating the "Why The Towers Fell." Great voice!

Wescott has done 70 NOVA programs and "[b]etween 1973 and 1996, Wescott was the main promotional voice for PBS."*.

I vote for either Lyman or Wescott.
posted by ericb at 3:59 PM on September 13, 2007

Trying to find samples of Don Wescott online. In the interim here's the listing of his narrations for NOVA, Ken Burns documentaries, etc.
posted by ericb at 4:02 PM on September 13, 2007

npr's bob edwards.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:29 PM on September 13, 2007

Well, as a guy who has written and directed a couple of hundred radio commercials and a couple of dozen TV spots, I can tell you there are scores of amazingly talented VO people who will serve you just fine without you having to pay for a 'recognizable' voice ... unless that's what you want. Two unique, flexible pros who might help are Joel Weldon and Jeff Gadbois. Joel's in Washington state and Jeff in Minneapolis. Google them and their official sites will pop up. You didn't say what city you're in but if it's of any size, you can also contact local production studios (or their sites) for demo tapes and recommendations. I can recommend in Philly (who can hook you up with an amaizng guy named Scott Sanders). Or you can try some voiceover brokerage houses like ProComm ( or StudioCenter, though those tend to be hit or miss. Just remember, the timbre and tone of the voice is one thing, but try to get some sort of human recommendation about how the person works. I've worked with great voices who can't take direction or interpret scripts ... and that doesn't show on demo tapes. The only way you're going to find out is too talk to someone who knows these people and have worked a session with them. Happy hunting.
posted by lpsguy at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2007

I bet you could get the guy that does How It's Made for cheap. Or Mike Rowe, from Dirty Jobs.
posted by electroboy at 7:41 AM on September 14, 2007

Either Tay Zonday or GOB Bluth, if you can manage. Good, deep voices.
posted by sneakin at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2007

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