Finding the Right Tone

by : Isabelle Larin

For those of you who do not know me, I’ve been working in recording studios for over 30 years. Throughout that time, I have had the great pleasure of working with professional voice artists and I can honestly tell you, they made my job recording them a whole lot easier. I didn’t have much editing to do to make their performances sound impeccable.

Now I’m the one in front of the mic. I wasn’t expecting to be as good as they were – that bar is pretty high – but it’s been quite a challenge, to say the least!

Finding the right tone is not easy. You have to think about pacing – not too fast or you’ll sound hyper, but not too slow either, or you’ll sound sedated or drunk; having enthusiasm in your voice is essential, but too much and you sound like a used car salesman, too little and you’re boring; projection is important but don’t be aggressive; dry mouth is a bitch; pronunciation and accents can be touchy when English is not your first language; always keep in mind your intention, because you have to remember what you’re saying, why and to whom (super important!!); and finally, after thinking about all that, try to make it feel natural…

Since the texts for my videos are scripted and not improvised, I use the same method I used with singers. I record four different tracks of my scripts all the way through without stopping to make corrections. I don’t think about getting every word right, I focus more on rhythm and feel. Just like a singer, it’s very easy to be so focused on saying (singing) every word properly, that you lose touch with the meaning of what you’re saying. So to be mindful of this, I put up a picture of one of my students above my script to remind me who I’m speaking to.

Once my four performances are done, I listen to each track and mark down which ones I like best for each phrase. I do this in small sections of about a page, a page and a half of my scripts so that things stay fresh in my mind. Then I do a composite of the best parts that I edit together on a master track (it’s a good thing that I enjoy sound editing, because it takes way more editing to make me sound half decent compared to my professional friends!). When I’m done, I do a final run through, adjusting volume and timing.

Voilà! And that was the easy part!!
Now I have to make the videos…..

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