- Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR)
- Corporate (Industrial)
- Documentary & News
- eLearning & Education
- Sport & Exercise
- Government & Official Communications
- Inspiration, Relaxation & Meditation
- Internet & Website
- Kids, Young Adults & Adult Games
- Medical & Pharmaceutical
- Public Service Announcement
- Museum & Tours
- Instructions & How to Use
All these projects rely on professional voice-over artists. The narrator’s voice is cardinal to ensure that the message will be perceived by the audience in the intended way. A narrator’s voice has a number of unique elements: gender, register, pitch, timber, age, amplitude.
A professional voice-over narrator can work on his voice to expand his register and amplitude or to improve its pitch and timber. However, gender is a given.
The voiced speech of a typical adult male will have a fundamental frequency from 85 to 180 Hz. That of a typical adult female from 165 to 255 Hz. Thus, the fundamental frequency of most speech falls below the bottom of the “voice frequency” band as defined above.
Pitch is an integral part of the human voice. The pitch of the voice is defined as the “rate of vibration of the vocal folds”. This explains why women generally have higher voices than men do. Women tend to have higher voices because they have shorter vocal cords.
As a result, aside from extremely rare exceptions, a male narrator’s voice impersonating a woman will sound off, and vice-versa.
Yet, these technical elements are not the central issue when deciding whether to select a male or a female narrator’s voice.
These vary from region to region, so, unless you are familiar with the cultural preferences of your target market, check with your narrator voice service provider what is the optimal gender choice of a narrator’s voice.
Even within the Western Anglo-Saxon world, cultural preferences vary. The best example is Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual “assistant”. When made available to the public, Siri’s first narrator’s voice was female in the US and 4 other countries, but male in the UK.
In the US, the logic behind selecting a female narrator’s voice for Siri relies partly on scientific studies that have shown that people generally find women’s voices more pleasing than men’s.
According to Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.” As a result, “it’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone like.” Nass quotes a research that suggests this preference starts as early as the womb, citing a study in which fetuses were found to react to the sound of their mother’s voice but not to other female voices, but showed no distinct reaction to their father’s voice.
Nass quotes a research that suggests this preference starts as early as the womb, citing a study in which fetuses were found to react to the sound of their mother’s voice but not to other female voices, but showed no distinct reaction to their father’s voice.
Another element behind the choice of a female narrator’s voice for Siri lies in history. As women were old-school telephone operators and pilots were given instructions by female voices in the cockpit to distinguish instructions from the men operating the plane, people got accustomed to receiving assistance from a disembodied woman’s voice.
However, the fiasco female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s underlines the power of local cultural stereotype. Despite the overwhelming majority of default female voice for navigation systems, Germans were so outraged by having to take direction from a woman when driving that they inundated BMW with angry calls.
In advertising, though, different stereotypes apply. A study in The Journal of Advertising looked at the effect of using male and female voices in commercials. It indicated that, whilst the narrator’s voice gender didn’t matter for products that were neutral or geared toward males, it mattered a great deal for female-oriented products.
So, though a female narrator’s voice may effectively promote tanks or heavy-duty hardware, a male narrator’s voice would be ineffective for promoting cosmetics or feminine hygiene products.
For eLearning projects, though the choice of the gender for the narrator’s voice seems to have little impact, the general criterion for choosing a male or female narrator’s voice is to match the dominant gender of the audience.
As you can see, there is no one fits all answer to the question: “Male or Female Narrator’s Voice?”
Contact us if you need advice about what voice would be best for your project.