My husband and I have recently started recording audio books. I have logged many (many) years of acting on stage and in film and Doug has put in an equally large number of years performing and recording music. We both love reading books and listening to audio books, so when the opportunity arose to narrate and produce an audio book, we thought, "Absolutely! This is right up our alley(s)".
I mean, how hard could it be, right? Little did we know . . . .
When I was asked by the author of that first audio book to write as a guest blogger about my experience, we thought it would be a nice short piece, but (as you can probably tell by this long-winded introduction) I just couldn't seem to stop writing, so it became a 4-part series.
This is the last part in that series
Our first recording session was rough, but we eventually learned what days were high air traffic days and what times were best for outside noises.
With all of the technical issues under control, I was able to concentrate on performance. I’d already done my pre-recording work defining characters and accents and making notes regarding same.
Now, I thought this would be the easy part, since I’ve created hundreds of characters in my life on stage. And in some ways it was. But trying to keep track of twenty or more characters and voices is a bit like doing vocal gymnastics; hopping, jumping and twisting from one voice to another in the space of a breath. There are
characters from different countries, from different parts of countries, old and young, male and female, angry, stubborn, lost, excited . . . .
But, I remembered, we are recording. I can take time between characters if necessary. No need to rush or keep pace as I would in front of a live audience. We can edit out the pauses later. Even with this luxury, keeping the different accents and voices separate requires concentration and focus. Especially when there are several different characters speaking in the same scene.
My dear husband stopped me numerous times to point out that I had used the wrong voice for this character or that one. There was even once when I heard the all-too-familiar “Stop” from the next room. I believe the character I was reading was French.
“That was Irish, wasn’t it?” I said meekly.
“I think so.”
There weren’t even any Irish characters in this particular story. Too bad. I do a mean Irish accent, if I do say so myself.
We finally reached the end of our recording, and I emitted a sigh of satisfaction. Now all we had to do was edit and do some re-recording of spots missed. Easy for me, since the editing would fall upon my husband’s shoulders. I would read the manuscript twice with the recording to make sure we were word-for-word, but the rest of the work was his.
We had been told it takes about two to four hours to edit one finished hour of recording. I’m sure the people who gave this information had never worked with my husband. He has the best ear of anyone I know. And he doggedly listened to every millisecond with that ear; carving out all of the mouth sounds, clicks, background noises, and things that for the life of me I couldn’t hear, even when he told me what I was to listen for. I told him, “You have to lower the bar. If it’s too perfect, it won’t sound natural”. He tried, but I honestly think if we hadn’t had a deadline, he might still be editing that first book.
We met our deadline. It was a long, somewhat rocky journey, but we both came out at the end proud of what we’d done and with the desire to continue.
After sending off the completed audiobook, my husband looked at me and said, “We’ve finally found something we can do together.” I wrinkled my brow. “But we’re doing it in separate rooms,” I responded.
I will leave you with a few of the things we learned on our journey.
1. A soundproof vocal booth is HEAVEN!
2. Don’t lose the human element. It’s acceptable to be a step below perfection.
3. You can be intense without deafening the engineer.
4. Don’t overdo the accents. It’s more important the listeners understand the words than you impress them with your French accent.
5. Stay hydrated. It’s not enough to drink lots of water right before a session. It takes a day or two to get the vocal cords “oiled up”.
6. Patience is a virtue.
7. Don’t forget to turn the refrigerator BACK ON after the session is over.
8. Did I say, patience is a virtue?