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Vocal Dissonance

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"The first rule of thumb for all radio personalities is to look absolutely nothing like how they sound."
Strong Bad, Homestar Runner, Strong Bad Email #120 "radio"

While it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, it's something that happens. You see a person, you expect certain things. This extends even to their voice. If you see a muscular man, you expect a deep macho voice. The Vamp will have a sexy, sultry voice. A child's voice is high-pitched. And so on. This trope is about when those expectations don't match up; e.g., when the muscular man has the sultry voice, The Vamp has a childish voice, and the child has a deep voice.

This trope is generally played for comedy since the idea of a squeaky voice from a big person or a deep voice from a small person is generally seen as absurd. For better or for worse, this can sometimes come about by chance, depending on how casting in a voiced work goes. Of course, after a bit, you'll have trouble hearing that character with any other kind of voice except their own.


Cute, but Cacophonic is a subtrope of this, specifically referring to when "an extremely cute and/or tiny animal turns out to have a surprisingly loud cry." Instant Soprano, another subtrope, occurs when this trope arises in response to a Groin Attack. This trope also could be the result of an Inopportune Voice Cracking. Often overlaps with Most Writers Are Adults when young children in animation are depicted with somewhat deep, adult-like voices. Not to be confused with Larynx Dissonance, which involves an actor attempting to impersonate their opposite gender, or Lyrical Dissonance, which involves song lyrics.



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  • In a couple of Pepsi commercials, when cute little Hallie Kate Eisenberg asks for a Pepsi and gets a Coca-Cola instead, she breaks out the man's voice.
  • Hilariously used in one of the La llama que llama spots for an Argentinian telecom. The baby of the llama family is about to say his first words and his relatives (parents, older brother, grandfather) are waiting anxiously to hear them... and he speaks in the voice of a grown old man.
  • Bud Light once had a TV ad where a guy was being introduced to his biker friend's sister. He was nervous because he figured she would sound normal but look like the biker in drag, but instead, she was a blonde bombshell with a voice made of cigars and shrapnel.
  • A Japanese commercial about the Ajinomoto Stadium reveals the reason why the beautiful women's voices sound like raspy old men: they're shouting so loud to the point where their voices cracked.
  • A DirecTV ad compares normal Peyton Manning with high-pitched voice Peyton Manning, who has cable.
  • The booming bass in the J.G. Wentworth "Bus Opera" commercial comes from a woman. A woman who looks like she ought to have a low voice for a woman, mind you, but not lower than some of the men in the commercial.
  • An anti-smoking radio advertisement had a deep and raspy-voiced person talk about smoking a lot and then reveal their name to be Helen, which is supposed to come as a surprise to the listener.
  • A spot for Allstate has a man looking at some car damage when his little daughter comes up and in Dennis Haysbert's voice assures him that his Allstate policy has him covered. (Several spots for Allstate employ this.)
  • Frankenberry from the Monster Cereals, despite being the biggest and strongest of the monsters, has a light and high-pitched English accent. This is thanks to his voice being an impersonation of Boris Karloff, the actor to portray the original monster, who is more often stereotyped as just making deep groans instead of actually talking.

  • Gabriel Iglesias describes times he uses a high-pitched cheerleader voice to mess with drive-thrus that mess up his orders. He orders in his girly voice, pulls up with an intimidating look on his face, waits until they ask if he's the one who ordered, and proceeds to hit them with "Oh my God, yes!" The drive-thrus in his neighborhood have wised up though. He tries it on them and their response is "Okay, Gabriel, pull up."
  • Korean-American comic Henry Cho was born and raised in Tennessee and it shows when he speaks. The last thing you expect to hear out of someone who looks like him is a southern drawl. Lampshaded in one of his routines when he mentions traveling in Korea, and being asked for directions by an American in a patronizing, faux-Asian pidgin "EXCUSE ME, IS THIS THE BUS-Y GOES-Y DOWN-Y TOWN-Y?". He replied with an exaggeratedly twangy "...I reckon so."
  • Gilbert Gottfried is known for the high-pitched, whiny, fingernails-on-chalkboard voice he uses when he's performing and giving interviews. It's become so associated with him that hearing him talk in a more "normal" manner is quite shocking.

    Comic Books 
  • One Gotlib strip that deconstructs the Western genre shows who provides the translated voices of the rugged cowboy, demure schoolteacher, and stoic Indian: a weedy accountant-looking guy, a heavyset older woman towering above the other voice actors, and a Chinese midget with huge glasses and teeth respectively.

    Fan Works 
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Reuben Ashford is mentioned to have a surprisingly deep voice for a rail-thin man like himself.
  • In Batman: Melody for a Mockingbird, Nightwing jokes more than once that the Scarecrow's Mississippi accent detracts from his "Master of Terror" supervillain shtick as much as his skinny Geek Physique. Nearly getting a lobotomy from the professor seems to change his mind.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Justified in that, unless a guest voice actor is involved, every character in the series is voiced by its creator LittleKuriboh and that it's intended to be Played for Laughs.
    • In episode 22, one of Duke's fangirls (the Gonk one) has a very deep voice.
    • Mai Valentine and Serenity both have male voices (Mai sounds sort of like a drag queen while Serenity sounds almost like Jar-Jar Binks, minus the Caribbean accent). As of recently, Mai has officially been given a woman's voice. Which seems to be this trope In-Universe.
      Joey: Nyeh, Mai! What happened to ya voice?
      Mai: What do you mean? I have a woman's voice now.
      Joey: Yeah, but all of a sudden it makes me less attracted to you somehow!
    • Yami and Odion retain their rather deep voices as babies.
    • Dragon Ball Z Abridged Cell lampshades on how Yami's voice is ridiculously deep for a 14-year old kid.
      Cell: That is a deep voice for a fourteen year old, my God.
  • In 50% OFF, Nagisa Hazuki is a small blond teenager who's a Gayngster with the voice of a Scary Black Man.
  • Ultra Fast Pony has a lot of this. Cross-Dressing Voices abound, because one guy does all the voices for the show, while the cast is primarily female. The most pronounced examples are Rarity (an elegant fashionista with a nasally voice and an Australian accent) and Sweetie Belle (an adorable youngster with the voice of a death metal singer).
  • Sweetie Belle also gets this in My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series and its spinoff Rainbow Dash Presents, where she has a hammy, deep voice (coming from being possessed by the demon Thrackerzod.)
  • This is occasionally used in Friendship is Witchcraft for a comedic effect. For example, Princess Molestia (or "Luna" as she calls herself) has a regal design, but a geeky sounding teenage-esque voice with an Unexplained Accent that characters even in-universe don't understand the origin of.
  • In Burning Coals the short and cutesy looking Neo has a hoarser voice than you'd think. This is due to a throat injury she received as a child.
  • TheInvertedShadow's Lyrish series: Bon Bon, a female pony, was given a very gruff masculine voice for the latter half of the series. Prior to that, what few noises she made were provided by miscellaneous audio clips.
  • In some Touhou fan works, certain editions of the Touhou M-1 Grand Prix or "The Cruel Sisters and the Suffering Maid" by Innocent Key, Remilia, who is physically a child, is given a voice more befitting of a young woman in her late teens to early twenties.
  • It's mentioned in The Love Club that Glinda didn't expect the soft-looking Munchkinlander Boq to have such a deep voice.
  • This is downplayed with Sam Winchester in Cross Cases- when Harry first hears him speak, he notes that Sam's voice is surprisingly light for such a big guy.

  • Nunzio, from the Myth Adventures series is known to have this issue, often including it in his initial descriptions when he makes his first appearance in a book.
  • The radio soap actors in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter are described as quite unattractive with very wonderful voices. The author even says explicitly that many men would get Blue with Shock if they realized that the very sweet, silky voice of the soap heroines comes from an old, fat, badly dressed and worse groomed lady. The titular scriptwriter is also a radio actor: he is short and thin, but with a powerful voice and such a big charisma he gets a lot of admirers even with his poor looks, at least until the burnout begins to hit him hard...
  • In the first scene of A Mighty Fortress, the fourth book of the Safehold series, male Merlin speaks to Sharleyan using the voice of Nimue Alban.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Remarkably, Voldemort, the Big Bad, is a notable aversion of Evil Sounds Deep, as he is described as having a quite high-pitched voice.
    • Harry has this reaction the first time he hears Dolores Umbridge speak in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She speaks with a high, girlish voice, whereas due to her froglike face, Harry had expected a croak.
  • In The Pale King, Nugent's little sister can imitate Regan MacNeil's voice perfectly, much to the delight of Nugent's bored coworkers.
  • In Maledicte, Maledicte is a slight, pretty young man with an incredibly harsh, rasping voice. Justified in that he purposefully took poison to damage his voice.
  • During the final confrontation with Victoria in Twilight: Eclipse, Bella is shocked to see that the obsessed vampire's voice is less of a menacing growl and more of a high and childish squeal.
  • Near the beginning of "The Brain Stealers of Mars", Rod Blake meets something on the surface of Mars that looks like his partner Ted Penton—but it's new to imitating humans, and when it first speaks, it speaks in Rod Blake's voice.
  • Owen Meany from John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. A dwarf, he's by far the smallest kid in his class...and he has No Indoor Voice.
  • Shadowslinger, an elderly, morbidly-obese sorceress from the Garrett, P.I. novels, has a voice that sounds like she's eight years old. As this conflicts with her self-promoted image as a terrifying wielder of dark magic, she usually has her son Barate Algarda speak for her.
  • Applies to several characters in the Honor Harrington series. The titular character is a 6'5" Heavy Worlder Lady of War, who has a soprano voice. Thandi Palane is a genetically modified Amazonian Beauty who can literally punch a guy's face in, and a mezzo-soprano (one step down from soprano). The Memetic Badass (both in-verse and out) Victor Catchat is a tenor (highest male voice within the modal register).
  • Link in the Belisarius Series has this. It is an AI from millions of years in the future that uses specific women as host bodies, transferring to the next body whenever one dies. As a result, the age of its host bodies over the story ranges from seventy to eight, and while it can use its host's normal voice, it usually uses a vaguely described but utterly inhuman and emotionless voice that most people find highly unsettling.
  • In The Andromeda Strain, the secret research installation plays pre-recorded messages spoken by a female voice described as "luscious". Dr. Hall is bemused to learn that this voice belongs to a 60-year-old woman.
  • In The First Law series, Bremer dan Gorst is a bull of a man and a Lightning Bruiser to boot, but he's got the piping voice of a child, to his eternal shame.
  • Played with in The Builders by Daniel Polansky. The Captain is a grizzled, stoic military commander who has a unnervingly scarred face and a deserved terrible reputation. However, he has a squeaky voice described as a falsetto. On the other hand, every character in the work is an Intellectual Animal and the Captain is a mouse- and so his voice is actually quite fitting for his species (he sounds like Micky Mouse in the audiobook); it's just that it is greatly at odds with his personality.
  • In Eva Luna, Eva's Cool Big Sis Mimi is a beautiful woman with a very deep voice. She is the re-invented and finally able to transition Melecio; she manages to find a medium of sorts, voice-wise, and "reserves" her deepest pitch for when she needs to make a point.
  • Dr. Greta Helsing: Mummies tend to pick up the regional accent from wherever they were awoken from slumber, leaving Greta a bit nonplussed to hear ancient Egyptian undead speaking with British- or German-accented voices.
  • Dire wolves in Wolves of the Beyond have whispering voices despite their huge sizes.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • Current WWE wrestler and ex-MMA fighter/TNA wrestler Bobby Lashley sounds like Mike Tyson without the lisp, or at least, not as noticeable.
  • Another wrestling example (albeit not as dramatic) was the strange incongruence of the voices of Chris Benoit and Edge (who were tag-team champions together on two occasions) to their respective physical appearances. Benoit was a short but very muscular man who often sported a "hobo beard", but his voice was relatively high-pitched. Edge was tall, rather lanky, and had perfectly styled long blond hair, but his voice was often a low growl and noticeably more masculine than Benoit's. (And just to add to the irony, both men were Canadian.)
  • Yet another wrestling example: Shawn Michaels, who was slightly small for a wrestler and adopted a somewhat effeminate ring persona for his "Sexy Boy" character, had a deep, gravelly voice like an Old West mountain man (the result of his childhood in Arizona and Texas). In the later years of his career, he grew a beard and began dressing and acting more like how he actually sounded.
  • Stephanie McMahon is a rather interesting case. Starting around mid-2002, her voice on Raw/SmackDown immediately changed from a high pitched screamy voice to a much deeper and more womanly voice. This was actually her natural voice from the beginning (ie. her screamy/high-pitched voice from 1999-2002 was basically manufactured for her stage persona), but it's definitely an interesting contrast.
    • This interview from 2000 and this interview from 2012 show that, other than talking in a considerably lower tone now, her voice has changed a lot less over the last twelve years than one would think based on her Raw/Smackdown Vocal Evolution (it's more her way of speaking that's changed over the years).
  • Another Diva example: Lilian Garcia. A cute, skinny blonde girl...with a surprisingly deep, resonant voice that sounds not unlike that of an announcer at a monster-truck rally.
  • One more for the road, former WWE Diva Chyna was an Amazon any way you look at it. 5'10", very muscular and carried enough of a presence to hold her own against male wrestlers, her rather high, soft, nasal voice is fairly surprising (she also had a slight lisp, making her voice about as surprising as Mike Tyson's.)
  • Low Ki is a small wrestler with the voice of a giant.
  • Beth Phoenix is muscular like Chyna, and also has a very soft, sweet sounding voice. She doesn't have a lisp, though.
  • A.J. Lee: 5'2" and looks like a Latina Miranda Cosgrove, but has a really low, throaty voice.
  • AJ's former partner-in-crime Kaitlyn qualifies too. She is an Amazonian Beauty and looks more feminine than Beth or Chyna but still has a higher-pitched voice with Valley Girl-esque inflection that one might not expect from a woman with her figure.
  • Brie Bella's voice is even lower than AJ's, which is one of the many ways she can be told apart from Nikki note .
  • Brock Lesnar's voice is a bit high compared his large and imposing figure and his screams sound more like screeches than roars.
  • Bill Goldberg is a big, muscular, wrestling monster like Lesnar, and has a high-pitched nasal voice.
  • Natalya Neidhart has a very deep voice for a female of fairly average height. Although considering she's part of the Hart family and how Badass she is it might actually work.
  • Brooke Adams also has a pretty low-pitched voice for a female, especially since she's also a model. She is a Texan, though.
  • Torrie Wilson is also a bit lower than one might expect from a statuesque blonde.
  • Sean Waltman who, like Shawn Michaels, is small for a wrestler. He has a very raspy, baritone voice, probably brought on by age and years of marijuana use since his voice used to be a bit higher, though still low for a guy his size.
  • Terry Funk is one of the toughest SO Bs in the wrestling industry (having wrestled for 50 years and counting) and he certainly looks the part. However, Funk happens to have a rather soft and kindly voice, which can be quite jarring to hear coming out of a man who has fought in more hardcore matches than you can shake a stick at.
  • Melina Perez A Spicy Latina with a soft, almost baby-ish high-pitched voice.
  • "Lass Kicker" Becky Lynch has a very athletic yet feminine figure, and her voice is deeper than a good portion of the male's WWE roster.
  • Listen to WWF monster heel Nailz in this AWA promo. That's his real voice. Now listen to him in this WWF promo.
  • The muscular Apollo Crews sounds nothing like the deep-voiced Apollo Creed and Terry Crews.
  • Sting zig-zags this. Steve Borden, the man behind the paint, sounds the way you'd expect him too, as does the early blond Surfer-dude Sting. However, once he started dressing up in his trademark black and white Crow-inspired look, his medium-pitched voice and California accent clashed with his ghostly appearance (he actually stopped talking for a while perhaps due to this).

  • Stephanie Miller of The Stephanie Miller Show, a morning political and comedy show, is a skinny, white, middle-aged, brunette woman. Many a listener, however, call in and express surprise after seeing pictures of her on the show's website that she is not a blonde and/or fat. One caller even thought she was black.
  • From his voice, one would definitely not expect John Tesh to have blonde hair and blue eyes.
  • CPO Pertwee (Jon) on Navy Lark doesn't sound anything like he does in real life.
  • High Pitch Eric from The Howard Stern Show, who is 6'1", probably weighs close to 400 lbs, and sounds like Mickey Mouse with a New York accent.
  • Beulah, the maid on Fibber McGee and Molly (who later got her own spinoff series), was played by a Caucasian male named Marlin Hurt.
  • Amos 'n' Andy starred a pair of white men (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll) as the title characters. When the show moved to television, the roles were re-cast with African American actors.
  • CBS Sports radio host Scott Ferrell is self-described as "having the body of Olive Oyl and the voice of Popeye."

  • Shrek: The Musical has a couple:
    • The dainty-looking Sugar Plum Fairy often speaks with a very deep, throaty voice.
    • Often, Dragon is represented as a huge puppet, but has a high and jazzy singing voice.
  • On the 2015 US tour of Matilda, Gabby Gutierrez, despite being somewhat smaller than most girls playing the title role, had a rather deep singing voice for a 9-10 year old, as heard in this audio clip of "Naughty".
  • Aerial artist Tanya Brno is an Amazonian Beauty with a tiny Cheno-esque voice.

    Theme Parks 
  • In Disney's The Haunted Mansion, during the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song we are treated to a line of various ghosts singing the song, one featured a small bearded old prisoner speaking in the deep gravely voice of Candy Candido while the executioner leading him away has a high pitched Mickey Mouse-like voice (by Bill Days).

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • Even as a third-grader, Matthew had a very deep and sultry voice.
    • Quite a few of the teenage girls in this show have the deep, suave voices of men. Viewers get used to the girls' voices much faster than they do with Matthew's kid voice.
    • Ashley Katchadourian, one of the smallest teenagers, has the deepest female vocal range.
  • Homestar Runner used this trope during the Strong Bad Email "radio". Strong Bad demonstrated that radio personalities usually look nothing like how they sound by making his mopey, soft-spoken younger brother Strong Sad talk like an obnoxious disc jockey.
    Strong Sad: Hey hey hey, it's the Deathly Pallor, coming at you on numbitty 902, WA3D FM, "The Sturge." Coming up next, we got some hot new tracks from double-O ballyhoo!
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • In one of the episodes, fallen angel Cypher (who looks like this, by the way) gets all excited and starts talking in high-pitched, squeaky and nigh-unintelligible voice.
    • The seven-feet-tall Super Soldier Cato Sicarius has a similar problem, except very much constant.
    • And finally Lucius the Eternal, a horrendously mutated and similarly huge Chaos Space Marine, beats them both and sounds like a psychopathic Mickey Mouse, which in this case makes him creepier.
  • Played with in the Shadow of Israphel machinima series, since all but one of the voices are done by one person putting on accents (even within the plot, and without the actual characters knowing they're being voiced), leaving several characters with either incredibly out of place voices or voices that change with every appearance.
  • The ladybug in Bee and Puppycat, voiced by Tom Kenny, has a very deep voice.
  • RWBY:
    • Lie Ren has a Badass Baritone despite his slender build and a rather effeminate appearance.
    • Cardin Winchester of team CRDL is a big, bulky guynote , leading one to expect him having a deep, intimidating voice. In actuality, however, Cardin has a fairly very high-pitched, almost nasally-sounding voice. Additionally, the other voiced-in-English member of his team, Russel Thrush, is much smaller and leaner than him but has a much deeper voice.
    • For a non-human example, the Grimm Dragon that appears in the climax of Volume 3 does not have the deep, terrifying roar one would expect of a giant demonic dragon, but instead squeak-screeches like a giant bat.
    • Oscar is a young-looking 14-year old boy with a deep, adult-sounding voice.
    • Depending on the volume, Ruby's voice comes off as unusually high-pitched for a 15-17 year old.
  • Donald from The Lightningbolts: Light of The Sun has the appearance of a Pretty Boy, but has a voice that gives more of a Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit impressionnote  when he was voiced for the first time.
  • Monster High: The Wolf sisters all have Brooklyn accents while their brother Clawd and mom Harriet don’t.
    • You’d expect Spectra to have a snooty voice since she goes around spreading tall tales. Instead, she has a high-pitched whispery voice.
    • Elle has a staticky robot voice. Robecca just has a British accent.
    • The Phantom of the Opera is from France, so why does his daughter Operetta have a Southern accent?
    • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Kiyomi is Japanese but has an American accent. Deuce and Viperine are both gorgons (snake-haired monsters from Greek mythology), but Deuce has an American accent while Viperine has a Spanish one.
      • Most of the zombies can’t talk. And then you have Spanish-accented Moanica.

    Web Original 


Video Example(s):


TOH - Demon Kid w/ Deep Voice

In Season 1 "Lost in Language", one of the kids Amity was reading to has a low, guttural voice, despite the fact he's still a kid.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / VocalDissonance

Media sources:

Main / VocalDissonance