Sounding The Same Over The Long Haul

Hey, there!

My client, Jason, up in Seattle, asked me recently what to do about sounding consistent on long term projects, like narration and audiobooks.

It’s a great question, and the stuff of an easy little tip.

So. What’s the secret of maintaining performance consistency?

Long term projects, like audiobooks, technical how-to’s, multi-day narration jobs, help files and so on, make a particular demand of you and your voice that a 30 second commercial does not: how to sound the same in chapter 46 as you did in chapter 1.

Jason was concerned that the listeners would actually perceive any differences as they moved from section to section in his final work.

For the most part, he needn’t worry. Nor should you.

First, let yourself off the hook on this one. There are lots of examples where the narrator of an audio book sounds a bit different from chapter to chapter. Not THAT much different, but everyone’s idea of what an acceptable delta of difference is will vary.

A slight amount of nasality, a tiny change in neutral narration pitch, a bit of a speed change isn’t going to be all that noticeable. Nor are they keeping score: no one’s ever measured someone’s narration speed and made any sort of issue over any inconsistencies. It’s natural to have some variance.

So…give yourself a big old break, and cross maintaining perfect consistency of pace off your list of things you need to worry about.

Second, remember that listeners don’t always consume your work in a linear, beginning-to-end fashion – they may only listen to one section, or they may jump around from point to point, especially with technical work.

But what Jason is talking about boils down to maintaining the tone and intention of your work, and maintaining that across multiple sessions of work.

[tweet_box]How do audiobook narrators maintain vocal consistency for a whole book?[/tweet_box]

Here’s what I do:

Before I start, say, Chapter 7, I’ll simply listen to the last minute or so of Chapter 6. And I’ll mimic myself, speaking the text from that last part of Chapter 6 out loud, as I’m listening.

Then, I’ll pick right up, at the same pace, same tone, same mental set point that I had with Chapter 6’s work, when I start to record Chapter 7.

You might even want to record that last minute of Chapter 6 over again, moving right on to Chapter 7, and maybe even choose to make your edit not at the chapter break, but before it, so that you’re actually introducing the listener to any slight changes before the chapter switches.

And remember, you then have to maintain tone and intention throughout the session you’re recording. But that’s a given.

Doing that preview will help you maintain the same tone from section to section, and lets you rest easy that you’re not taking listeners, who work through your entire script, on an unintended vocal joy ride.

Hope this helps.



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  1. Great article David and it’s nice to see that I do it the right way. I had to provide a line that was added almost a month after the job was completed. I took a bit from the part I did, I always mark the mic position and any preamp settings on the script itself, then I keep those. I was able to listen then drop the line and have it almost undetectable except to a great engineer. Great tips all!

  2. David, what an eminently elegant, but simple and practical way to achieve the right result. As you have demonstrated in the past, the brilliance of a given technique/procedure is in its simplicity, practicality, and ease of accomplishment. Thank you.