[POLL] Characters: Voices or Vanilla?

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When listening to a book, do you prefer character voices or vanilla?

Poll ended at October 27th, 2015, 1:36 pm

I prefer character voices
I prefer a straight reading with no character voices
I enjoy both equally
Total votes: 28

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Post by AdeledePignerolles » October 23rd, 2015, 2:29 pm

I prefer voices unless they sound completely ridiculous. I try to do voices myself but I always get someone else to listen to them and tell me if they sound too overdone. My favorites are ones where the reader does voices but doesn't sound like they're straining to reach a ridiculously low or high pitch (such as a man doing a woman's voice or vice versa.)

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Post by SonOfTheExiles » October 23rd, 2015, 2:38 pm

I would suggest that a woman doing a young man's voice should try not for pitch nor for timbre, but, for want of a better word ... for attitude.

Imagine a woman playing Peter Pan in a panto. The most skilful make sure they get the walk and the stance right. They walk like a male.

It's similar with the voice. Attitude.

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Post by msfry » October 24th, 2015, 4:15 pm

Elizabby wrote:I like accents if they are done well. I agree that a badly done accent is painful to listen to - which is why I only do British and Australian English. I figure there are enough people on here with real American accents for me not to need to attempt one! ;)
One of the best compliments I ever got from a PL'er was that I had chosen material "for which my voice was well suited", with a further observation that some readers don't do that. While I like to listen to both "vanilla" and "character", I know I like to record emphatic material that makes a strong point (whether I agree with it or not), that is emotionally charged, so I look for writers with a pronounced cadence. Also, I won't sign up for material that I feel would be best delivered in a Scottish, Russian or Parisian accent, or needs a real he-man voice.

Quite often, really, material is written such that a "vanilla" reader, (steady calm voice without too much expression) is my decided preference to listen to. Let the words do the work. Other times the reader's expressiveness is what makes the project pop. I'm still not quite sure how to tell the difference.

Per another comment, I too am completely unable to follow along when the text is read too fast, like the reader is rushing to get it over with, gulping words, etc. Sadly, I have to skip that reader. Yet I sometimes read too fast myself and can't tell I'm doing it until I listen back, but I find this easily cured using the Tempo Effect in Audacity. Usually a -2 setting works well for me, but I've gone as low as -8 in places. Absolutely cannot tell an adjustment has been made. So now I feel comfortable recording at my "normal" talking speed.

Likewise, I can't follow material that is read very slowly with too many pregnant pauses. Yet I occasionally record a segment that way myself (usually distracted, tired, or reading ahead), but later I edit the extra long pauses out. I can also bump up the tempo (I've gone as much a +8) with no distortion whatever.

Reading is one thing. Listening back is another. Two different skills. I just get it down on tape, then adjust the spacing and tempo in another sitting (like the next day or week), for as interesting a listen as I can muster at my current skill level.

Also, listening to numerous live podcast programs and noticing how the speakers breathe heavily, stutter, clear their throats, lick their lips, rattle papers, pause too long, etc. in a natural conversational manner, I've recently found my preferences adjusting slightly to material that isn't scrubbed totally clean. I suppose we all adjust our listening preferences over the years, so it's never going to be possible to please everybody all of the time.

I do include the CC in my signature to invite crits/comments, because I want to learn from all the different viewpoints, but few dare to offer them (except the brand new PL'ers who don't yet know the "be nice" rules and offer some very informative comments.)
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Post by RuthieG » October 27th, 2015, 12:46 pm

This poll will expire in a couple of hours. I think the conclusion is that the listeners who have responded are fairly equally split in their preferences, but also that if a book is well read, it is enjoyable whether or not character voices are used.

Thank you all for your participation!

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Post by smike » October 27th, 2015, 1:17 pm

RuthieG wrote:This poll will expire in a couple of hours. I think the conclusion is that the listeners who have responded are fairly equally split in their preferences, but also that if a book is well read, it is enjoyable whether or not character voices are used.

Thank you all for your participation!

That's exactly what I feel, Ruth. If somebody can do character voices, that's nice, but it's not something I actually need to enjoy a reading -- and I listen to a LOT of LV recordings. :)

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Post by silverquill » October 28th, 2015, 9:26 am

Great comments in this thread! I guess I would go for vanilla with hot fudge. Unless one is really adept at creating distinct character voices, then just a little differentiation to give the idea that another person is talking, and different fro the narration, is enough for me.

I think the key, for character voices and accents, as has been mentioned, is that they are done well. I'm not skilled enough to go full bore on voices. Played Alfred Doolittle once, but could never master a credible cockney accent - hard for a Yank, I guess.

I've also heard some nice animal sounds in recent stories, and I really admire them!

Sounds as if we have a really mixed bag here. That's LibriVox for you.

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Post by MARTIN GEESON » October 28th, 2015, 1:11 pm

I have done 'voices' because I cannot do vanilla (to acquiesce in that odd expression). To make no real distinction between dialogue and objective narrative isn't an option for me - I have tried it and failed. The voices take over, as Ruth so wittily describes in one of her posts in this thread.

I would make the point that comic novels and stories surely need to be characterized; some attempt be made to communicate the humour, whether broad and uproarious or subtle and ironic. This is where I part company with people who resort to the phrase 'letting the text speak for itself'. Humour simply does not emerge from a dry recital that makes no attempt to differentiate character and emotional transitions. I think I am probably better suited to reading comic texts - the works of Rabelais, for instance - and because I enjoy them in the delivery (the more bizarre the better), I believe this is amply fulfilling the author's often-stated intention of making people merry.


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Post by commonsparrow3 » October 29th, 2015, 12:28 pm

I don't generally even attempt "voices", as my natural style is more "vanilla", but after reading some of what was written in this thread by those who like a bit of vocal dramatization, I went ahead and attempted some "voices" in a Christmas short story. So this little poll may end up by encouraging folks who normally read one way to occasionally change it up a little and try the other way!

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Post by tovarisch » October 29th, 2015, 1:09 pm

When recording I do some dramatization of direct speech (women's voices higher, men's lower, that sort of thing). I have heard it overdone, though, and am not sure I'm not going to fall into the same pit. Only the listeners will tell. My personal preference as a listener is to have some difference since it helps in comprehension of conversations, especially when narrator's comments are sparse.
  • reality prompts me to scale down my reading, sorry to say
    to PLers: do correct my pronunciation please

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Post by mhhbook » October 29th, 2015, 9:52 pm

commonsparrow3 wrote:I don't generally even attempt "voices", as my natural style is more "vanilla"...
I understand what Maria is saying. My style is also "vanilla". I've been trying to add a little more color to my readings, though don't know how it sounds yet. My mother was Kentucky born, Illinois raise. She was soft spoken and not one to call attention to herself. My way of speaking is similar. When she read to her grandchildren when they were young (and I'm sure to me, though I don't remember) she would dramatize with animated, exaggerated voices, which the children loved. However, what sounds right to a 3 year doesn't ring true when we get older. I have the deepest admiration and respect for people like Ruthie G and Martin Geeson (and hundreds and hundreds of others) who read in such a wonderful way that they make people in books come to life.

When I'm listening to books by an American author I prefer an American accent. I'm not as picky if a book takes place in the New England area, as a somewhat British accent seems all right. However, I like it best when a book set in the Midwest has a reader with a Midwestern accent. Not so much an upper Midwest "Fargo" type, but somewhat like Kathy Bates.

As an occasional LibriVox reader I know recording and trying to sound "right" can be frustrating, so I tend to be forgiving of anyone else's imperfections. The only readers I can't listen to are ones who read at an auctioneer's speed. I feel like I should be holding up a paddle and bidding on something. :?

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