First Time Audiobook in a Pro studio?
The first audiobooks I narrated were recorded in a pro studio in the early 1980s! Technology has brought about huge changes in recent years, so I feel that a thirty-year-old experience barely counts. Of the fifty plus audiobooks that I have recorded in recent years, only three have been recorded in a professional studio with another person on the other side of the glass - and frankly, I was a bag of nerves on each and every occasion.
Why? Why is it so daunting to work in a pro studio for the first time - even when you have a shed load of audiobook experience? What did I learn from the experience? What is good etiquette in a pro studio?
My first trip in recent years into a pro studio, was to read a rather complex historical novel about Queen Anne. It was long - the total running time was estimated at 12.5 hours - the studio was booked for three and a half days, so the first pressure I felt was definitely time related. Working on my own in my own space, as long as I meet the deadline, I can work at my own pace, take breaks when I want and if it's not flowing - then I can take a break, get my act together and then start again an hour later. I can pace myself - so I would probably spread a 12.5 hour book over perhaps three weeks rather than three days. Alongside concerns that I would miss the target altogether and not finish on time, I was also concerned that my voice would run out of steam when recording for seven hours a day for more than three consecutive days.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can talk for England - and I used to rehearse for six or seven hours a day, then do an evening performance - but that is a long time ago - and I was really not sure how stable my voice would be. And of course being nervous isn't great for the voice - things tighten up and that can really put a strain of the vocal chords. Would my energy levels drop? Would I start sounding tired and husky? Would I be able to concentrate for that long at a stretch. These were real worries for me - and for a few days before I started, I really was having 'narrator nightmares'.
An added pressure was that it was very dense novel with lots of characters - and all were real people; there were lots of facts to absorb that would have an effect on the performance, this King had a stammer; this Prince had a thick German accent - and so on. Added to this, the two princesses, Anne and her sister Mary were children at the beginning of the novel - and aged throughout. The book also contained excerpts from Anne's diary and many of her letters - written in the style of the period - and printed in italics - so it wasn't the easiest of reads.
It was obvious that thorough preparation was even more important than usual. I always read any MS at least twice before I start narrating, but things do crop up during a read that need double checking, and I knew that it would hold everything up if I had to go searching for things online as I went along. So my prep was very thorough and I made a lot of notes. I was very lucky in that I was able to contact the producer I was working with in advance and we exchanged several emails and chatted about the style of the book and how various characters developed and might sound ... how much of a stammer - how much of a German accent and so on.
I was also concerned that I would be reading from a print copy of the MS. Normally I would be reading a digital version from my tablet - which would be annotated and marked up as needed. I don't actually highlight different characters in different colours which I know some narrators do, as I find it distracting, but I do make little notes about voices and accents on my tablet as I prep. But reading from a hard copy unwieldy in comparison and I was concerned about paper rustles, awkward page breaks and so on.
Once I had got over the first day, and met the required number of finished hours without any difficulty - and without my voice or energy levels disappearing or noticeably changing, I felt a lot happier and more confident going into the second day - and I am happy to say that I finished narrating thirty minutes ahead of time and it all went very smoothly thanks to lovely folk at White House Sound in Leicestershire.
So what did I learn along the way ... and what are my tips for anyone heading into a studio for the first time?
In the days before going to the studio
Good luck - and have fun!
PS ... if you have any tips or know something I've missed out, please add in 'comments'. Or PM me and I will add your thoughts and give you a credit!
I've gleaned quite a lot of knowledge over the years, knowledge that might be of interest to others, especially authors, actors and voice actors. Because I read so much, for pleasure and professionally, I also occasionally write reviews of what I read - so they're here too.
All opinions and views are my own!