I recently received an inquiry from a young protege (I guess you’d call him that, anyway, he was interested in something I had to say about it) about voice and impressions that I thought I’d share with you, in case you might know someone who was also curious.

He asked me if I thought he should train his voice before he started to do impressions, and how one goes about that. My answer follows.

Wow. Big question there…

To me, training the voice means gaining familiarity with what you can achieve with your voice.

That is done by practice and experimentation. It is a lifelong thing. (At least I hope so!)

Impressions can only be done when one has sufficient familiarity with one’s voice that they can control it to mimic the tone and nuance of another voice. (the content, the words and ideas, have to do with concepts, not sound.)

The HOW is more difficult. I don’t really know HOW.

In my case, I just have always had an interest and drive to see what I could do vocally, so I always work on it, even in my “off” time.(An artist doesn’t really have “off” time, unless he is on Jury Duty.)

So, I don’t know of any specific systems or methods of practicing voice things to sound like others, I just have made it a daily part of my life.

For the last ten or twenty years, much of my life has included daily requests for auditions of me sounding like other actors, for use in film and TV. So that has been a regimen of other-directed study.

Then, when I hear some voice I’m interested in on the radio while driving around, I tend to try and copy it, so that I can see how close I can come to producing that particular wave length, if you will.

But I wouldn’t separate training from doing impressions. The doing will inform the training.

You could liken it to some sport you enjoy, or other physical activity like dance.

If you merely TRAINED to be a tennis player, without playing a game with anyone, you wouldn’t necessarily become an expert. There would be parts of the activity of tennis that you would be totally unpracticed in.

On the other hand, if one trained and played, as most athletes are, you would have gained a lot of ability towards the end goal of being a good player.

So, that’s my two cents.

I also recommended to him that he record himself, in his own voice, and listen to it over and over again so that he really knows what he sounds like to others. This is very valuable and allows one to make subtle changes to create new sounds.

Basically, like any tool, the voice has to become second nature in its actuality, that is, how it sounds to an audience, and that is achieved through practice and familiarity.