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Post Posted:: January 10th, 2006, 6:34 am 

Joined: January 4th, 2006, 3:11 am
Posts: 1262
Location: Tampa, FL
I was chatting with Stephan over in the War Of The Worlds thread. He liked the chapter I'd submitted and said that he'd like to be able to do the same but doubted that he could.

Well I took the opportunity to give him a few pieces of advice that I've learned in many years of professional voicing. He recommended that I post them here, so here they are:
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People I'd meet casually would often get around to saying, "You should work in radio!" Smilingly, I'd respond, "Thanks! I hope my boss continues to think that way..." I worked in broadcasting for 20 years before finally coming to my senses and becoming a computer geek, so I really AM a "pro" voice. Nothing makes you good at something quite like doing it every day for 20 years.

Incidentally, anyone can sound the same way. We'll each have our own styles, but the road is a surprisingly short one. There are two tricks; easy to explain but less easy to actually DO. But if you bear them in mind, you and I will sound remarkably alike in a few months.

The first is breath control. Be moderate in your use of breath; not only does it allow you more control over pauses, but it cuts down on mic pops too. Position the mic just above and to the side of your mouth; boom mics are ideal for this because they keep the mic in exactly the same position no matter how you move your head around.

Breath control also allows you to be loud or soft at times of your choosing. You should make that choice often; often even within the same sentence it will be appropriate to go from a shout (rarely used) to a whisper (used quite a bit). Remember that you're not speaking to a person; you're creating breath sounds for the mic to pick up. Play with the mic and see how different things you do affect the sounds you hear on playback. And always remember this: you do NOT sound on the playback the same way you sound in your head as you're speaking.

But there's a second principle, just as easy to tell and a lot harder to learn than the first because it is simply to RELAX. If you can learn to relax, your reading will carry the emotional content of your character rather than of the reader. In dialogue, being relaxed makes it easy to slip from one character to another because you're not emotionally invested in either one so the words of the author are what really come spilling into the mic.

As I've mentioned to someone else, each of us is our own worst critic. I've been out of broadcasting for over a decade and I'm simply horrified at some of the things I hear myself do. If you try these tricks I've mentioned, you or anyone else will get better at this. But I can PROMISE you that I'll get better at this. To me, my voice creaks like a rusty hinge because of all the mistakes I make... I'll get better with practice, but that practice is sorely needed because of the huge number of mistakes I make.

Fortunately I'm able to cut most of them out! SoundForge is a precious gift to someone like me who chokes and stumbles his way through a reading. You simply don't hear all of those retries on the Italian names in The Prince or accent mixups in WotW - they're left on the proverbial cutting room floor.
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There you go. No mystery or magic, just craft and practice. Most folks really do have the ability to do this - a fact which would be patently obvious if you ever actually SAW any of the folks you hear on the radio.

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http://ChipDoc.com/LibriVox/
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
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Post Posted:: January 10th, 2006, 8:00 am 
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hi chip, great stuff. when we get the wiki up & running, lets get this info in there!

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Post Posted:: January 15th, 2006, 7:00 pm 

Joined: November 29th, 2005, 5:10 pm
Posts: 3148
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Another piece of advice from Chip that I have found helpful, copied from another thread:

ChipDoc wrote:
Here's a trick I've used to deal with unfamilaliar pronounciations: Say it in whatever way seems best to you, but say it WITH AUTHORITY. If you sound like you know what you're talking about, most folks will believe you. Even if you're dead wrong, most folks who know "the right way" to pronounce a word will pause and consider if possibly YOU are right if you speak the word with easy conviction.


And a nice summary from Kara on how to deal with blanked out words:

kayray wrote:
Absolutely NOT a stupid question -- it's one we get a lot, because it is so common in older books to have names and places "blanked" out like that.

Really, when it comes right down to it, you'll need to use your own judgement and decide what would make sense to you as a listener.

In this case, I suppose I'd read it as "Lady B's House". You could also say "Lady Blank's House" which sounds strange but does make it clear that the author left that information out of the text.

Sometimes we see things like "The ----th regiment", in which case you might want to say "A certain regiment" or "The blank-th regiment", or you might hear of something happening in ------shire, where you'd probably want to say "Blank-shire".

Sometimes dates are left incomplete: "June of 17--", for instance, when you might say seventeen-hundred and something, or seventeen blankty-blank -- both of which sound funny, but both are perfectly acceptable :)

Just choose something that sounds reasonable to you and read it out firmly, like you know what you're doing!


Just thought I'd put these things here so they're easy to find in the future!

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Annie Coleman Rothenberg
http://www.anniecoleman.com/

"I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice." ~Whitman


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Post Posted:: January 16th, 2006, 11:25 am 

Joined: December 28th, 2005, 8:36 pm
Posts: 4284
Location: Redwood City, CA
Quote:
Here's a trick I've used to deal with unfamilaliar pronounciations: Say it in whatever way seems best to you, but say it WITH AUTHORITY.


It's really funny how well this works, not just in reading but in lots of other situations too. When I was an acolyte at my church as a teen, the person who trained my group really emphasized that if you don't know what you're doing, just move slowly and solemnly and as if you look like you DO know what you're doing. Useful if, e.g. you forget to light the candles before service starts and have to do it at some reasonable-seeming point during the service.

Similarly, a coworker of mine (who has more experience than I do) pretty much always sounds like she knows exactly what she's talking about. Which she does, about 95% of the time. But the other 5%, you don't know until after you've acted on whatever answer she's given you, that her advice was not particularly useful to the situation.

If you look and sound like you know what you're doing, people will generally believe that you do. :)

-Catharine


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Post Posted:: March 14th, 2006, 11:10 am 

Joined: January 26th, 2006, 8:39 am
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A simple but deceptively difficult approach that helps me sound better is kind of a Zen thing. When I'm reading, it's very easy for me to get caught up and just sweep along on the phonetic stream of the sounds of the words, and that's when I'm in the most danger of talking too fast and making mistakes. What I try to do is to really understand and appreciate the meaning of each word as I read it aloud. This helps me go slow and put the proper feeling into the reading. It's so simple and obvious---but it's always a challenge, too!

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Post Posted:: May 18th, 2006, 2:48 am 

Joined: May 16th, 2006, 8:30 am
Posts: 29
Location: Sherbrooke, Quebec
Another thing: 50% of verbal communication is actually visual. Facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures all "sell" what you're saying. So to emote in voice-only communications, you have to "over-sell" the read. The biggest challenge for me is hearing myself while I'm reading... I think I sound like an ass, over-emoting William Shatner style, but when you listen to things back the next day, what seems nearly hysterical when you're recording sounds almost normal without those regular visual cues.

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Post Posted:: May 18th, 2006, 10:17 am 

Joined: February 23rd, 2006, 1:04 am
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Location: Boston / Santa Cruz
Later edit: My posts are too long. I'll shrink the stuff that's not so central so there's a chance you may be willing to read something.

I have to agree with you there, Shepherd! But I have to emphasize a point that will sound at first like disagreement. And then I have to conclude by saying I'm never able to succeed at what you describe. (wah!)

And I'd qualify that 50% of conversation is nonverbal (except over the phone?). I don't think the 50% applies here, where we're recording classic texts. An observation: there are no facial expressions from a paperback/hardbound/scrolling screen text. And yet how it communicates with us! If that text will touch us at all, it will touch us without facial expressions.
I think the texts we choose here do not begin with some 50% deficit.

But they do need to be faithfully conveyed to the listener, and the surest means of that (as Thistlechick says above, in my favorite description of the reader's touchstone) is to be with the meaning of what you're reading. The reader's understanding always communicates in the reader's voice, and the listener's understanding is guided (or else obscured/misguided) by the reader's ... reading.

When a reader focuses on anything other than the meaning (diction or melody or accents or a particular sawing action of the arm, oops, I mean a particular overlay of melodic variation so as not to be monotone, etc. etc.), it tends to obscure the text -- it's like text printed in an elaborate typeface: difficult to read.

[Shepherd, I *do* agree with your post, because I realize you are *not* suggesting that ~theatrics rather than text should take precidence. And you are a skilled reader! You seem automatically to keep the text at center.]

So if the reading were a body, its skeleton would be the meaning of the text as it's understood and held in mind by the reader -- zen, as Thistlechick said, quite a challenge.

As a listener, my greatest hope is always that the text overtakes the reader. For my own listening relation to the reading, a very firm backbone can support *any* sort of intelligible exterior. One of my Very Favorite Readers at LV has this natural presence in the text ... but rustles pages, moves closer or farther from the mic as page-turning requires, etc. etc. I'll listen to anything she reads. Because I so enjoy her natural relation to the text. (Obviously, some aspects of fandom have to do with completely subjective tastes such as "oh I love a ___ accent," or "oh I can't really abide anyone's diction that reminds me of my own :roll: " and suchlike. But whatever your subjective delights, I'd wager that every one of your very favorite readers seems always swayed by the text rather than by some external meter of variation or dramatization or characterization. They're able to do whatever they do *in addition* to and not *instead of* staying right there in the meaning of the text.)

I'll make a fitness metaphor here. When you're new, you need to build up to the workout. The eventual goal is, let's say, to be able to run a mile without collapsing at the end of it. You really shouldn't begin by running a mile. Nope, really nope. Unless you're already able to run a mile, the way to become able to run a mile is not to begin by running a mile.

The parallels are shakey with this running : reading thing.

I think rather than running, I should say something like tightrope walking, because it's balance that you need. If you have the balance already, if you're sort of born with it in your genes, then try the daring things that make it so very enjoyable to your audience and to yourself.
If you're learning the balance, focus on that central need and let every additional effort issue out of and not instead of that center of gravity. For most of us that means understatement at first -- it won't be monotonous, because the text will push and pull, speed and slow you on its own if you're inside of it. It usually takes a page or two for the text to overtake you, so you might try recording your piece from start to finish and then immediately re-reading the first page or so up to the point where it overtook you.

The more you develop your center of gravity inside the text, the more places the text can lead your reading -- you can wonder today if you're sounding hysterical, then listen tomorrow and realize you had followed the text without holding back on it.

Anita


Last edited by a.r.dobbs on August 4th, 2006, 11:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Posted:: August 4th, 2006, 8:19 pm 

Joined: June 30th, 2006, 8:42 pm
Posts: 4112
Location: Jersey Shore, N.
Shepherd wrote:
Another thing: 50% of verbal communication is actually visual. Facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures all "sell" what you're saying. So to emote in voice-only communications, you have to "over-sell" the read. The biggest challenge for me is hearing myself while I'm reading... I think I sound like an ass, over-emoting William Shatner style, but when you listen to things back the next day, what seems nearly hysterical when you're recording sounds almost normal without those regular visual cues.


This is interesting. I never worked a job sitting down. (I don't thing anyone would let me!) Standing and moving while I read helps me to both get and give meaning and so, I guess you could say, my gesticularions, body language, hand movements, facial expressions, and etc., ARE somehow translated through what you say, and in effect, the listener CAN see you and you ARE expressing in body language. If you dont mind my being definitive here, you HAVE to move and express yourself naturally. This is explorating the language, exploreing the words and sentences are you "read." You've heard the expression "talking on your feet." It's really a lot easier, and a lot more expressive than what you come up with behind a desk. Use the same opportunities when you're reading alone behind a mike!

Alan


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Post Posted:: August 4th, 2006, 8:22 pm 

Joined: January 3rd, 2006, 8:34 pm
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Honestly I am not a very physically expressive person, save my facial expressions (which Corey will attest are many!). Standing and walking I think would cause me to tense and be out of breath.

To each his own of course!

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Post Posted:: August 11th, 2006, 10:34 pm 

Joined: June 11th, 2006, 12:27 pm
Posts: 197
Location: Cwm Rhondda, Wales, UK
When I was a little kid taking piano lessons, I used to shrink under the gaze of my teacher, which I interpreted to be judgmental. One day he must have noticed this; he said to me, "Play the music as if you are the only person in the world who can hear it. Then you'll like it."

He was right, of course. Once I forgot about how I might sound to someone else, I began adjusting the music so it sounded good to me. It does wonders for one's confidence.

So after all these years I come to LibriVox. At first I was appalled by the sound of my own recorded voice (still am sometimes). But gradually I've started to "record the text as if I am the only person in the world who will hear it." That at least gets it done. And I enjoy it! All the cringing comes later when I edit, but by then it's too late, the recording is made, I have to post the link... :wink:

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As usual, the grownup world made very little sense to me... (Manny Ellis, Neighbourhood Tales)


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Post Posted:: August 12th, 2006, 8:36 pm 

Joined: January 3rd, 2006, 8:34 pm
Posts: 5471
Location: Keene NH
Sandra wrote:
When I was a little kid taking piano lessons, I used to shrink under the gaze of my teacher, which I interpreted to be judgmental. One day he must have noticed this; he said to me, "Play the music as if you are the only person in the world who can hear it. Then you'll like it."

He was right, of course. Once I forgot about how I might sound to someone else, I began adjusting the music so it sounded good to me. It does wonders for one's confidence.

So after all these years I come to LibriVox. At first I was appalled by the sound of my own recorded voice (still am sometimes). But gradually I've started to "record the text as if I am the only person in the world who will hear it." That at least gets it done. And I enjoy it! All the cringing comes later when I edit, but by then it's too late, the recording is made, I have to post the link... :wink:


Hey, you've got a little bit of my philosophy :)

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Post Posted:: August 28th, 2006, 8:04 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 10:24 pm
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Location: San Diego, CA. US
After listening to many audiobooks, I noticed something unique in one reader that most others don't do. I'm referring to Jim Dale, the reader of the American Harry Potter audiobooks.
When Jim reads in his enthusiastic way, I noticed some parts of the stories that irked me, and I immeadiately thought, "this phrase is read this way." After listening to the series somewhere in the realm of 4 times, I mentally anticipate those lines that irked me originally, though I don't dislike them anymore. His over-inflection of certain monotonous dialogue gave a verbal asterik for keeping attention and I remember it better because of it. Pregnant pauses, hesitations, stutterings, and other willful mistakes can play games with the listener, and keep you from relaxing into a dull drone. (Of which I have many dead on the cutting room floor)
I hope this is useful... and if not, oh well. :)
Lenny

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Post Posted:: August 28th, 2006, 8:25 pm 

Joined: February 23rd, 2006, 1:04 am
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Hmm, so you mean it could be a ... good? ... strategy to mis-inflect things sometimes to keep your listeners busy, engaged in criticizing you? ;)
Interesting approach, I must ... SAY.

Has anyone here besides me heard the absolutely astonishingly exquisite Nigel Planer read Terry Pratchet's Hogfather?

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Post Posted:: April 12th, 2007, 3:41 pm 

Joined: March 17th, 2007, 7:59 pm
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
a.r.dobbs wrote:
... And I'd qualify that 50% of conversation is nonverbal (except over the phone?). I don't think the 50% applies here, where we're recording classic texts. An observation: there are no facial expressions from a paperback/hardbound/scrolling screen text. And yet how it communicates with us! If that text will touch us at all, it will touch us without facial expressions. I think the texts we choose here do not begin with some 50% deficit. ...

I suppose not. Something we do with conversation though, even over the phone, is insert "conversational lubricants". They could be actual words, like "... ya know?" or "... eh?" or even simply a rising inflection at the end of a phrase, as if the speaker was asking a question, just to see if they need to slow down or backtrack, or if it's okay to keep going at the same rate.

Much of what we're reading though, is like reading a diary or or a letter, with the writer telling of their experiences, but with no expectation of immediate feedback from the future reader, because they can always scan back a line or two if they've lost the thread. Some of the texts actually use the notion of a memoir as the premise for telling you the story.

Oh. Now I'm lost. I thought I was trying to make a point eventually, but I forgot what the point was, or else I've talked myself out of it and changed my mind. That must be it.

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Post Posted:: August 16th, 2007, 5:23 am 

Joined: February 25th, 2007, 7:42 am
Posts: 105
Location: Brooklyn, NY
This is a very helpful thread, with lots of advice to consider. Relaxing and breathing really do seem key to me. In my work in the field, I have seen/heard a lot of styles of narration, and have picked up a few other tips.

I once heard a professional narrator say "Don't read ahead." Not meaning that you shouldn't pre-read work (that can be helpful) but meaning that while he is recording he focuses only on the words that are coming out of his mouth, rather than scanning ahead to see the next words he's going to say.

I'm sure his method isn't for everyone, but this has helped me reduce the number of times I stumble when reading text aloud. I do scan ahead just a bit as I read, but I find that if I let my mind relax and not actively think about anything but the words I am currently saying my flow is better and I can go longer between mistakes. I try not to let my mind wander or let sentences pass me while I am on distracted auto-pilot.

I also think it's helpful to play around with pacing on my own so that I can find "my speed." I think each text and reader can have a slightly different pace that allows a reader to follow the story but is not so slow as to drag. This is something I'm still working on, as I have a tendency to rush (and then perhaps to overcompensate the other direction sometimes) but I can feel it when I get into the right tempo for me.


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