The Voice

MicrophoneHave you ever listened to your own voice? I can remember as a kid, my parents let us play around with an audio cassette recorder that they had for some reason or other. My siblings and I would sing songs, create shows, or just babble on about nothing in particular and then quickly rewind the tape to see what it sounded like. I had mostly forgotten that feeling until I started podcasting about two years ago. When I joined LOTRO Players News on episode 8, I started listening to that podcast every week to seek out areas of improvement for both the show (Andang has always been good about listening to suggestions) and for myself, personally. It was strange to be hearing my own voice played back to me, as it didn’t sound the way I thought it would. In my mind, my voice sounded fairly normal and straightforward. But next to Andang’s booming baritone, Pineleaf’s distinctive ring, Ethelros’ smart-sounding Welsh tones, and Draculetta’s amazing radio voice, I was surprised at how weak and unimpressive mine was. Over the months to come, I was able to learn how to improve my technique and project a bit better, but there’s only so much you can do with the instrument you’re born with.

I’ve been on many other podcasts since that first LPN episode, and each time I’ve tried to make up for this lack of a strong audio presence with interesting, informative and helpful content. It helps that this is also the type of content that I enjoy listening to myself, but I wonder if on some level I’m extra careful to make every word count due to the lack of a memorable voice. As proud as I am of my Beyond Bossfights shows, in retrospect there are some things that I’ve done a poor job of including due to my singular focus. I would like to incorporate a bit more humor, but that usually gets pushed aside in favor of more serious topics. I’m hoping that the “What are the kids playing?” segment lightens the mood a bit, but I still have some difficulty letting my sense of humor shine through during the ‘meat’ of the show.

I received an interesting Skype call a few weeks ago. In fact, it felt a little bit like an ambush at first! Andang and Teriadwyn were on the other end, and they had been working on the ‘secret project’. By now most people know that the secret project is a YouTube series focusing on Tolkien lore that will be presented in short documentary style. They were really struggling to get the voice-over right, which was a big deal because the entire production was being planned around the narration. Andang remembered a sight-read I did on an episode of LPN, and wondered if I could do a quick one of the first lore project script for them. I did the read, and they both agreed that it was good enough that I should “audition” for the actual voice-over part of the project. I made a recording and uploaded it to the desired location. A few days later, I got the message from Andang: “Congratulations, you’re the new voice of Middle-Earth Lore”.

Voice

We actually had an interesting conversation about voiceovers prior to my submission. It seems that the trend is moving away from the booming broadcast-y voices towards softer, more organic and relate-able voices. The more I thought about this, the more it made perfect sense. Ira Glass, known for his public radio shows including “This American Life” has a voice that would not have been very acceptable 50, or even 20 years ago. Though, through familiarity and the fantastic stories his shows are able to tell, I find myself strangely comforted when I press the ‘play’ button and hear Mr. Glass begin to speak. This is exciting news for those of us without a traditional broadcast voice! I’ve received some very positive feedback for the scripts I’ve completed for the first two episodes of MEL. I hope I’m able to do the rest of the content justice.

Getting a voice acting “job” has led me to pay even greater attention to the subtleties of my own voice. Voice acting (even the narration kind) is quite a bit different than podcasting. I’m learning a lot of things, including how to take direction and to try to understand the vision of the director using nothing but audible feedback. Not to mention how to pronounce all of these Middle-Earth words! I’m learning how to project my voice less in order to make the production sound less like a broadcast and more like an intimate conversation. I’m also learning what being part of an actual production flow is like – working on something, throwing it over the wall and not seeing the finished product for a number of weeks.

I’m excited to be a small part of this project. It’s amazing where a voice will take you.

microphone by SparkCBC creative commons

broadcast @ sónar 2010 by ariel martini creative commons

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13 thoughts on “The Voice

  1. Pasduil May 29, 2015 / 11:14 am

    It’s kinda scary that you put so much thought and work into how your voice sounds! I guess when you need to pore over recordings of yourself that might make a person self-conscious about how they sound.

    To me your voice seems more or less in line with a lot of what I hear on radio and in podcasts. It mostly sounds very fitting to your personality in not being flowery or theatrical in any way, but rather down-to-earth, measured and clear. Your voice sounds maybe a little younger than I know you are, but overall it seems apt for you and well suited for podcasting.

    Like

    • Braxwolf May 29, 2015 / 12:59 pm

      What’s even more scary is that most of the time you spend working on your voice is to make it sound more *natural*! That seems counter intuitive, But it’s amazing how many times I shortcut words or slur them or don’t enunciate when just conversing with someone. I never noticed until I started listening back!

      Natural is good, but you also have to be understood. It’s easy to over-compensate and sound forced.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pasduil May 29, 2015 / 1:13 pm

        You’re reminding me of some Bruce Lee quote about “unnatural naturalness” here. 🙂

        There’s definitely a balance between having a distinctive voice (esp when in a large group) and being easily understandable. Things like a little bit of a Welsh accent are a blessing for listeners in knowing who’s speaking. Just so long as it’s not so much that I can’t understand what they’re saying!

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  2. Ranni, the Flamingbard May 29, 2015 / 11:25 am

    I despise the sound of my voice!

    Looking forward to seeing this series. Grats on getting your part. 🙂

    Like

    • Braxwolf May 29, 2015 / 1:07 pm

      Thanks, Ranni! I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product, too!

      Like

  3. Syl May 30, 2015 / 6:43 am

    Nobody likes their own voice 🙂 Three weeks ago I met a long lost person in my life and he told me that he never forgot the sound of my voice – and I’m still mind-boggled. I think we can’t get used to the difference between how we truly sound to others and how we sound to ourselves, through our umm skull.

    I find your ventures into more voice acting very interesting. I personally have always listened to our BB episodes too in order to learn how to improve my podcasting. I’m always in awe of people with the broadcasting voice as you said, so basically I don’t feel I can come close, but there’s people who actually like the more casual, chatty and high-pitched voices like my own, or so it seems……no idea, I am confused. 😉 Maybe I should just believe them, hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Talarian May 30, 2015 / 4:09 pm

    Yeah, took me quite some time to get used to the sound of my own voice. Mine’s pretty high pitched and almost nasally, which drives me bananas. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound that way in my own head, but your own head has all that space in your skull for your voice to reverberate, hence why it tends to sound deeper to yourself until you hear it played back from an outside source.

    Also, congrats 🙂 That’s a pretty sweet gig!

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  5. Andang May 30, 2015 / 6:53 pm

    So much truth in this article. I have learned so much about production from this project. It takes months to get something like Middle-earth Lore off the ground. That I knew but I didn’t realize how many others would need to be involved. I have learned so much about script research, writing and editing, VO work, managing teams and really every part of TV production.

    In particular on VO, I never knew how different long form narration was from podcasting or even doing character voice acting. It is so hard to stay interesting and keep attention for that long. I spent over a month just finding my narration voice and you just walked on and were pretty awesome from the start :D. I am glad I spent the month though because now I have so much more respect for narrators and can give better feedback for the desired sound.

    Also it really is hard to anticipate how good it is going to be since it takes so long, even as involved as I am but I found that doing our best at each stage and having a high quality bar at each stage means the final product has a good chance of being good.

    Thanks again Brax for agreeing to do the voice and thanks for the great article.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Braxwolf May 31, 2015 / 9:55 am

      Glad you stopped by! And thanks for corroborating my story 😉

      Like

  6. Draculetta May 30, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    Thanks for the kind words on my “radio” voice. It’s funny I don’t like to listen to my self. Even back when. I was in radio. It was odd to hear it on a commercial I cut or something. 

    Can’t wait to hear you on middle earth lore!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Braxwolf May 31, 2015 / 9:57 am

      We had some good times, didn’t we Drac? I’m glad we had the opportunity to do a show together and am happy to “count” you among the friends I made along the way!

      Like

  7. Chestnut Stonebough (@ggchestnut) June 5, 2015 / 11:05 am

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to seeing the finished products when they’re up! I hope you’ll post announcements/link to them. 🙂

    Voice acting is definitely different than podcasting. Not only can you pretty much talk about whatever you want on a podcast, you don’t have a script that you have to have sound natural. Especially if it’s boring crap. As a web-training designer, I have to do my own voice acting (for most of my stuff), and not only is it weird to hear my own voice, it’s weird to try to invoke feeling over things like installation procedures, lol. At least you have a much more interesting topic. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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