Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ category

Call me Ignatz

May 29, 2009

I’ve encountered my first obstacle in choosing a text for my entry in Scott Brick’s audiobook narration contest

…finding a good book that Scott Brick didn’t narrate.

That’s not as inconsiderable a task as one might think. It is, from my perspective, an important one.

After all, if you were a contestant on American Idol, you’d be foolhardy to select a Journey or Westlife song as your audition piece, or a song that Kara DioGuardi wrote, or a song that Paula Abdul had lip-synched (did I say that?).

Why? Because you’re being judged by people who are intimately familiar with the material, have an emotional connection to it, and most significantly, have a strongly developed idea about the way the song ought to be performed. A way that — good, bad or indifferent — probably will be different from your own.

Therefore, I can’t imagine that a tyro like me would be well served by trying to out-Brick the master.

The challenge is that Scott has previously narrated books by many of the authors whose works I’d love to read — Harlan Coben, Dennis Lehane, Rex Pickett, and Isaac Asimov, to name just four. Even the book I’m currently using for my daily workouts — Erik Larsen’s The Devil in the White City — was recorded by Scott. (I am assiduously avoiding Scott’s version until I’ve finished with the text.)

Never fear, though. I have a handful of solid prospects in mind. I plan to make a final choice in the next week, giving myself ample time to select a suitable passage in time for the contest’s June 10 kickoff.

I’ll just have to hope that, whatever I pick, Scott doesn’t get to it first.

Advertisements

Positive direction

May 22, 2009

My four-week workshop on self-directing skills has concluded, and what have I learned?

That my self-directing skills need work.

Not that that’s a shocker.

Actually, I’m proud of the work I did during these four weeks. My script analysis, though still light-years from perfection, is improving. I’m getting better at asking the right questions about the copy in front of me, and coming up with answers that align with the copywriter’s intention (as opposed to what I would prefer to do). At the same time, I’m finding more success at not overthinking my way into performance paralysis.

I’m also finding myself more consistent. I’m having fewer truly wretched first takes, and more frequent final takes that would be strongly competitive in the marketplace. And with less adjustment needed in between.

So that’s progress.

I received an encouraging compliment last evening from another student who’s already a working pro: “You make good choices before you go into the booth.” If that’s evident to anyone besides myself, I must be doing at least a few things well.

Two months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that.

My audiobook workshop, originally scheduled to start next week, has been rescheduled for late June. That means I’m entirely on my own for workouts over the next month. I have a plan for approaching this time period that I’m looking forward to implementing. (One of the things I’ll be working on is my entry for Scott Brick’s audiobook narration contest.) I now have ample tools, gained in my classes since the first of this year, that I’ll spend focused hours sharpening each day.

Besides which, the extra month will give me time to come up with a plausible excuse for forgetting Lisa Baney’s name in front of Scott Brick.

In the Zone

April 19, 2009

It’s amazing what you can find when you aren’t looking.

The other day, I dropped in at the local music store. When I think “music store,” I mostly think of a place that sells musical instruments and related paraphernalia. And indeed, the last time I was in this particular establishment, I was renting a clarinet for my then-middle-school-age daughter to play in band class. (Given that the same daughter is now a sophomore in college, you can tell that it’s been a while.)

I had a rather vague idea that this particular music store also had a recording studio onsite, but hadn’t thought much about it. Imagine, then, my utter surprise to see a sign near the back door that read, “Free Studio Tour.” I didn’t need more invitation than that — The Mic Guy’s first rule being, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

Blair, the owner of Zone Music and Recording, welcomed me in. As it turned out, not only does he have a mighty sweet studio set-up squirreled away in the vast warren of his store, but he’s also a working voiceover pro who’s recorded narrations for Food Network and produced Dr. Phil’s latest audiobook. An entire wall of his studio is covered with awards he’s won. I considered genuflecting, but Blair seemed like a pretty humble guy. He’d have probably been embarrassed.

Standing in Blair’s booth, I found myself itching to grab some copy and perform. But I refrained. After all, I just met the man, and didn’t want to impose.

Instead, I wandered over to Zone’s Pro Audio department, and salivated over microphones there. They were in a glass cabinet, so I didn’t actually get any drool or fingerprints on them. A couple of them did speak to me, and ask me to call them “Precious.” A helpful tech guy chatted with me about my home studio setup, and offered some valuable suggestions.

Considering that I just wandered in because I stumbled upon a sale ad, my trip to Zone was a revelation. I’ll have to go hang out there again on a day when they’re a little less busy. Perhaps they’ll let me fondle a Neumann U87 or something.

Or perhaps not.

Another Brick in the wall

March 2, 2009

For me, a highlight of this past weekend’s WonderCon in San Francisco was meeting one of my VO idols: Scott Brick, perhaps the world’s most honored and respected audiobook narrator.

Scott had a booth at the con — how did I miss seeing that in the program? — promoting his self-published series of audiobooks. For the WonderCon audience, the draw was Scott’s recordings of Stephen R. Donaldson’s epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I enjoyed reading those books back when they were first published, so I’m looking forward to hearing what Scott does with them.

I’m always a bit nervous approaching people I admire — aw heck, let’s get real; I’m nervous approaching people in general — and my wandering by just as Scott was delving into his lunch didn’t help matters any. But I steeled my courage to walk up and introduce myself, telling Scott, “I want to be you when I grow up.”

Scott couldn’t have been more kind. When I told him that I’m a voice actor and that I’d love to get into audiobooks, he was interested to know where I was studying and with whom. I remembered to tell Scott that I’m taking a six-week intensive course in audiobook narration this spring… and promptly forgot the name of the instructor, even though I’ve taken a class from her before. (Please, everyone — let’s not tell Lisa Baney that I forgot her name. Or if we tell her, let’s be sure to mention that I forgot under the pressure of meeting Scott Brick. I think she’d be forgiving under the circumstances.)

Scott shared with me that he’s just begun a series of articles on his blog about getting started in audiobook narration. (Here’s a shock — I’ve already devoured Scott’s first installment, and am hungry for more!) He also handed me his card and offered to answer any specific questions I might have about the field via e-mail.

For my part, I smiled and nodded and tried not to sound like a blithering idiot.

It occurred to me as I was leaving Scott’s table — squeezing his card so tightly between my thumb and index finger that if it had been a lump of coal, I’d have created a diamond — that voice artists in the main are tremendously giving folk. Every working professional I’ve met or contacted has seemed genuinely eager to encourage and advise me in any way he or she can.

Given what one hears about the self-centered nature of actors and the highly competitive business we’ve chosen, this quality surprises me every time. And yet, the pattern continues to hold. Even the top players in the VO business — people at the level of Scott Brick or Pat Fraley — always take an interest in showing fledgling talent the ropes, and are astonishingly generous with their time and insights.

When I’m a big name in voiceover, I’ll promise to remember that.