Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Voice Demo

Sunday afternoon I recorded a voice demo in Kansas City. I plan to use it to get some work recording commercials or narrating videos or reading audio books, or whatever may come my way. When I worked in broadcasting, I would occasionally get a job doing voice work just because people would hear me on the radio and call me. But, since I'm not in broadcasting anymore, those things don't happen regularly. So, I decided it was time to seek it out.

Step one in that process is to have a voice demo. Although I've been doing voice work for many years, formats have changed, and I didn't have copies of things. Even if I did, I don't have access to a professional recording studio to generate a demo.

I'm really, really fortunate that my dear friend, Mark, works in radio now and when I mentioned I wanted to do a demo he said he thought maybe the sound engineer he worked with would be willing to help me with it. He put us in touch, and Barry generously offered to do the demo for me.

So, we set up to do it Sunday afternoon. I came prepared with about three dozen different scripts - probably about 50 printed pages - of commercials and video narration. My friends, Martha and Jill, very generously shared scripts their companies had produced so I had a variety of writing. I wrote some things fresh, and also used copy I had written for other businesses over the years.

I had spoken with Barry on the phone when I did some work for the show, but this was the first time we met. It was a wonderful experience - at least for me - I hope it was pleasant for him.

First he spoke with me about what I wanted to do, and how the day would go. Then he asked to see the scripts and started choosing what he wanted me to record. He selected brief parts of eight different scripts and then we started reading. As we recorded, I made notes on the scripts too. I thought you might enjoy seeing what a script looks like at the end of a recording session. Bear in mind they were pristine copies when we started.

Barry was very gracious when he started cutting on the scripts and explained he was just choosing small parts of them. I assured him I was not going to be offended in any way. Maybe it's from years of working with editors when I write, or being in broadcasting and trying to give people what they want vocally, but for some reason it doesn't bother me at all to get that sort of direction. In fact, I welcome it, because I lose perspective. It's great to have another set of eyes or ears.

I learned very quickly Barry's ears were exceptional. He was very kind when giving me direction, but I told him to not hold back - to just give it to me straight and tell me how he wanted me to read the script and I would do my best to do it that way. After he saw I really didn't flinch when he offered suggestions, he became much more direct, which was fine.

Ironically, I get my feelings hurt very easily in daily life. There's rarely a day that goes by that I don't have something happen that hurts my feelings, but when it's voice work or writing I can somehow divorce myself from the "product" of what I'm doing. I'm not sure how that works in my brain, but I'm thankful for it. Because when someone is paying you to read their copy a particular way, you better be able to deliver it.

Barry asked me early on if I had any convincing accents - British, French, etc. I told him I did not. I wish I could say that I did, but I don't. He assured me it was okay, that most people don't have as convincing an accent as they think they do.

I did do one spot with a little bit of a southern accent, which is natural for me. At one point when I was doing that Barry's direction was, "Give me Happy Patsy, with a twist of Dolly," which I found funny. You can see where I've written "more Dolly" on the bottom of the script.

We did a couple of things that are a bit outside of my comfort range, but were easy enough to pull off. I wouldn't want to present myself as being able to do anything that isn't natural for me. There's no point in getting a job I can't deliver on. So, we kept things within a range I could easily reproduce.

But, as a good sound person will do, Barry directed me in a way that gave a number of different sounds so there's some variety. Years ago when I worked in radio I had worked with an engineer who could direct me in a very productive way and get a vocal range from me I didn't know possible. Barry was able to do the same, even though we were just meeting for the first time and he didn't have a history with me.

Some people just "hear" better than the rest of us. And I don't mean the number of decibels they perceive. They hear subtle differences that are lost on the rest of us. If you're in the audio business, those people are incredibly valuable.

Of that group, a small percentage of them - and it is very small - can go beyond that and describe what they hear to you in a way that makes it possible for you to be better. It's a rare talent and a gift when you experience it. Sunday I was very fortunate to be in that position, and I am so grateful.

Barry was very generous to offer his talents to help me out and I so appreciate it. I'm thankful to him, and to Mark, for putting us in touch.

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