Voice Over Terms: What you might hear on a voice over project.

Voice Over Terms: What you might hear on a voice over project.

If you’re working on an audio production project, like an eLearning module, message on hold recording, or a voice over for an online video you’ll likely hear some jargon in and around the recording studio. We’ve put together a glossary of such terms, to help you better understand our industry and what’s happening as we’re working on your project.

Account Executive

If you work with an agency, this is the person who acts as the liaison between you and the agency. Your sales representative at a radio or television station might also be called an Account Executive. In some cases, On Air is hired by agencies and we also work with your Account Executive.

Ad Lib

A spontaneous voice over addition to your recording that was not in the script, or that is an alteration of the script. Sometimes voice over talent will adlib to make a script sound more natural or to fill required space.


The amount of time a media outlet, like a television or radio station, has slotted for a commercial or other production element. Typically, you’ll purchase 10, 15, 30 or 60 seconds of airtime per aired commercial.


This is usually a direction in a script, referring to background sound effects that might suggest a location or feeling. For example, people having quiet conversation and dishes clinking would give the listener a restaurant ambience.


The old-school way of recording that processes and records on tape!


This is a role assigned to voice talent in a script. The announcer voice is given specific directions on how the recording should sound.


This is clear enunciation by the voice over artist.


All things sound! This includes the production, transmission and reception of sound.

Background and Bed

The background on your audio production might be music or sound effects. Bed is the music or sound effects used behind a voice actor’s voice recording.


That is the big console the audio engineer uses to record and produce audio. There are faders to adjust volume and mix all the elements of your production.


A mic stand that points the mic from overhead.


If you’re voicing something, you’ll be asked to step inside an enclosed, soundproof voice to record your voice into the microphone.


This refers to the amount of money an advertiser spends on media time for their commercial or promotional campaign. “It was a $5,000 ad buy.”


How the voice actor should break or pause between words, usually indicated on the script.


A voiceover actor might be required to play a fictionalized person in the production.

Cold Read

When a voiceover artist has had no time to rehearse or look over the script before reading it for production or an audition.


Commercials are commonly referred to as spots. They’re pre-recorded messages advertising a product or service on the radio, television or online.

Control Room

This is where the engineer and/or producer are located with the sound board. This room is separate from the booth.


This is the text or script that will be read in a voice recording session.


The signal given to the voice actor, usually by the producer or engineer, to start performing. Cue up is when the voiceover is lined up to visuals or music in the production.

Dead Air

A pause in a voiceover that is too long. When a radio or TV station loses signal or has technical difficulties, they might experience dead air.

Decibel (or dB)

A unit for measuring sound. Zero decibels would be no sound. Over 100 decibels would a be painful amount of sound.


A recording containing several voiceover samples from a voice artist. This gives you an idea of their range, sound, and capabilities.


This refers to a target audience for an advertising campaign or customer base. Demographics usually include age, geographic location, gender, etc.


Refers to two people talking together in a script.


The person responsible for giving a voice actor direction during a recording session. Sometimes the director, engineer and producer are the same person depending on the size of the studio.


If there is fuzziness in the sound quality of recorded audio, it’s referred to as distortion.


Not the kind you eat! A donut is a type of commercial that will have the same beginning and end but changing content in the middle. This allows advertisers to showcase different information, while staying inline with branding for that ad set.

Drop Off and Drop Out

Drop off is when a voice actor doesn’t end a word or phrase strong enough. Drop out is a slight pause inside a recorded phrase or word.

Dry Read

When a voice is recorded with no added music or background sound effects. It can also refer to a style of reading where the actor is factual, adding no embellishments to the read.

Dub or Dubbing

A dub is a duplicate copy of an audio production. Dubbing is the process of transferring recorded audio from one source to another. Dubbing is also the process of replacing dialogue in a foreign film. For example, you can dub an English voice in a German film.


The arranging of recorded audio. This could mean deleting and adding to it, speeding it up, slowing it down, adding effects, trimming it, etc.


Three periods in a row…this is used to signify a pause in the script.


The person who is operating all the equipment during the voice recording session. Sometimes this person is referred to as the producer.


Also referred to as EQ, this is used to stress frequencies in a voice.  More bass, less treble, kind of thing.


To increase or decrease the volume of sound. Fade in and fade out is when a voice actor turns their head into or away from the mic.


A high-pitched, distorted sound that blasts through the speakers or headphones. This is usually caused by headphones or other equipment getting too close to the microphone.


A screen that is put on a microphone to help make the voice actor sound clearer.

Fluctuation (inflection)

How a voice goes up or down during a recording session.


Moveable partitions that can be used around a voice over artist while recording to reflect or absorb sound. This can also be used to isolate one voice actor from another in the same booth.

Hard Sell

Hard sell is a type of commercial or audio recording that is often used by high-volume retail clients, like a car dealership or furniture store. “Rush down to Danny’s Car Dealership today while supplies last!”


When the voice actor begins a spot with a high note, either on the first word or phrase, to grab attention. Then they immediately start dialing it back.


When a microphone is turned on, it’s referred to as hot.

In the can

This phrase means part of the script or the entire production is complete and approved.


A commercial, or part of a commercial, that is a musical.


An engineer or producer might ask ‘for a level’ while a voice actor is in the booth. This is like a sound check. The voice actor will start reading the script at the level they’ll be speaking throughout the recording.


Library music is pre-recorded music beds used in commercials, messages on hold and other commercial recordings. A fee is generally required to be paid by the studio on a per-piece or annual basis to access the library.


The copy that is read by the voice artist.

Marking Copy

This is literally marking scripts with lines, circling words for emphasis, etc. Some voice actors mark copy to better follow voicing instructions.


The final approved recording.


The microphone.


The blend of music, sound effects and voice overs, usually referring to the finished and accepted recording.

Mouth Noise

The clicks and pops a mic will pick up from a voice actor. This usually happens if their mouth is dry.

Music Bed

The background music that will play behind the voiced copy.

Off and On Mic

This refers to either speaking directly into a mic or away from it. For example, if the script calls for shouting, the actor will typically turn their head away from the mic and voice it off mic.


A voice direction that will make the copy sound larger-than-life. It calls for the voice actor to overact.


How fast or slow the voice actor reads the script.

Paper Noise

Just that. The mic picks up the noise made by moving a paper script. That’s why there are typically stands in a recording booth, to eliminate paper noise. Nowadays, a voiceover artist can read from a tablet or digital device.


The spelling of vocal sounds which express pronunciations of words. It is a system of spelling in which each letter represents invariably the same spoken sound. Example – Nike (nye-kee)


The musical level a voice actor speaks.


Listening to what has just been recorded.


Some voice sounds will create a popping sound in the mic. Voice actors must be careful when voicing words that start with P and B sounds. Having a foam cover over the microphone or a screen can reduce or eliminate popping.


Post-production is all the work done after the voice actor has finished recording the script. This is when the music and sound effects get mixed in the recording.


The person in charge of the recording session. Many times, the producer is also the sound engineer and director rolled into one!


A commercial spot used by radio or television stations to increase audience awareness of something the station is doing. For example, a promo will run to advertise radio contests or upcoming television programming.


Public Service Announcement.


The style of reading a voice actor does when voicing a script. You might hear us refer to a ‘strong read’.


A type of effect added to the voiceover in post-production. It is like an echo effect.

Rough Mix

This is when all the components of the recoding, including voice, music and sound effects are fine tuned. The last step before the final mix.


The ‘rehearsal read’ of a script by voice talent. It’s like a dress rehearsal, before the recording starts.


“Let’s do one more for safety” is a phrase you might hear a producer say. It’s basically a retake of a voice over. Sometimes because there was something wrong with the first one, but many times to have a backup.


Short term for sound effects.


The time slot where a voice actor performs and records a script.


To pare down the read during recording. That might mean speeding up the read or cutting words.


Spec spots are used to help sell a client on the commercial. For example, a radio station account executive might have a voice actor and producer create an example commercial for them to use as a sales tool for a prospective advertiser. This would be a spec spot.


A commercial. Back in the day, commercials were performed live between songs and other programming. The performers were literally “on the spot”!

Station ID

This refers to the short sound clip where the call letters of the station are announced.


A storyboard is a script that includes visual conceptions for a television or video production. It gives the voice talent an idea of what will be happening visually while the voiceover is playing.


Where all the magic happens. All recording and mixing are done in the studio.


Aligning tracks to start or end together or matching a voice from a prior take.


The information placed at the end of a spot that contains things like a date, website, phone number or legal disclaimer.


The recording of a section of voiceover copy.


Refers to the voiceover artist, entertainer or broadcast performer.


The beginning part of a recording that is used to gain interest.


The speed the copy is voiced and delivered.


When the script gives very little wiggle room in terms of length. Often the script itself will be a little too long to fit into a certain time frame.


Refers to an actual piece of audio, or to record audio.


Short for voiceover.


No, not a falafel wrap! It’s a term said by a producer at the end of a session.

Have questions? We’re happy to answer them for you. Contact us here.