Have 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”.
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