So I spent more time working as a VO artist in the past year than I ever had previously and I wanted to sit back and take stock of the things I’ve learned over the past year with an eye towards the future and continuing to improve in this field – and I thought it might be helpful for those who are also starting out on this path, to read the lessons I’ve learned, rather than have to learn them themselves.

  1. Tape your space. Seems obvious to audiobook narrators, but if you record short spots it isn’t *all* that important. However I moved into audiobooks this year and quickly (not as quickly as I’d have liked) became aware of how an inch or two difference in space from your mouth to the mic can really change your sound and make your edits either more or less noticeable, depending on how you manage it. I taped my desk, my chair, the mic stand (feet and body) and approximately where over the desk the mic should be sitting. There is no better feeling than having your edits sit perfectly within the text you’ve already recorded. *contented sigh*
  2. Warm Up. Yet again – may seem obvious but it’s sooo easy to say “eh, I feel warm” and head into the studio feeling like a boss…amanda tanen catwalk GIF by HULU
    …only to hate every sound coming out of your mouth that day.
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    I’ve been going back to the Freeing the Natural Voice work I did in school, and when crafting characters, having that extra range that a good warmup provides is indispensable.
  3. Proper headphones. I don’t know why I resisted buying the Sony MDR-7506 in favor of the Bose QC. I edit in an imperfect environment and had an early experience of realizing I couldn’t hear the problems with my audio with subpar headphones, so I went…*ahem*…a bit overboard. (Like $200 overboard.) And they’re lovely headphones! But not ideal for this work as the eq in the headphones was interfering with the eq I was putting on my audio. And the Sonys do a great job at sound isolation provided your environment is reasonably quiet.
  4. It is possible to over-engineer your sound. Particularly in audiobooks. I’m mildly obsessed with editing out every dang click (and breath) and frankly, unless they’re really obtrusive, it is just not necessary and adding hours to your workload. After listening to a few audiobooks and hearing stuff I would have wanted to edit out, I’m trying to grapple with the possibility that I’m too sensitive and doing myself a disservice in the end.
  5. RELAX. (Related: don’t drink too much coffee.) I was having trouble with regulating my breath for a while. They were loud and gasping and just obtrusive. When I’m acting a character I have trouble still, as the characters are usually emotionally excited, but for general narration or commercial copy it is really distracting. Then I saw this video and the difference between someone breathing relaxedly and not just became so crystal clear. Humans are meant to pick up on far more than just the words coming out of our mouths. Inflection, speed of speech, the tightness or looseness of the voice box or the chest, if someone is breathing deeply or shallowly – we pick up on ALL of that. And an audience is so much more willing to relax and let you take them on a journey if you’re leading them with confidence and relaxation. I suggest meditation or putting up signs to remind yourself to check in with your breathing until it’s habit to breathe naturally and let your breath guide you through the text. As for coffee…well the jitters will do nothing good for your breath or voice – not to mention it dries you out, which leads me to my next point:
  6. Water. Don’t skimp.
  7. Sick Days. There are a million things you can do when you’re sick to further your career that don’t involve auditioning. Submitting to publishers or agents, writing a blog post, stare fourth wall GIF
    …researching and reading more about audio editing or storytelling, beefing up your demos with recently completed projects and updating your online presence and profiles on ALL THE WEBSITES, studying a new accent, or doing prep work for an upcoming book. I’m sure there are a million more things I didn’t even mention.
  8. Random audio editing stuff I’ve loved this year: SWS Snapshots, downward expanders, Booth Junkie videos, Reaper, RX6.

That’s all I got for now! If you’ve got any other things you learned this year in VO or anything that really helped you or your workflow – let me know!

 

Just an update as I’ve been busy working on my last two books The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque and the soon-to-be-released The Exile, Part 2: The Countess Returns to Longbourn. 

I have a new book I’m currently working on that I can’t wait to announce, but in the meantime you can hear my voice at Urban Stages in NYC as the off-stage voice of Arnaud in Life x 3 by Yasmina Reza, presented by New Light Theater Project.

 

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Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess are currently available on Audible and Amazon. The Keeper and The Exile are currently in production.

Exciting news! My first two books are available for purchase on Audible and Amazon!

Frankly, being my first books, I’m just glad they passed the ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) quality check process! These books are two novellas in an independent series so there’s a lot more to come – 6 full novels in fact, which I have the honor of performing.

These books situate the beloved Bennet sisters (creations of Ms. Jane Austen in the classic novel Pride and Prejudice) in locales from their home in Regency-era Hertfordshire to WW2 France, to 2013 London, due to their family’s possession of a wardrobe that allows the Bennet user to travel in time (à la The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe or akin to the flue network in Harry Potter – in this universe, time travel devices in Great Britain are unquestionably *a thing* with their existence supported by other famous British literary works.) The wardrobe sends them to a time in the future that it deems will teach them a lesson or help them in their personal development – but as Lydia Bennet is known to have said, “the wardrobe can have a nasty sense of humor…

I’m having a ton of fun in the Bennet Wardrobe universe and personally can’t wait for the rest of Don’s books! Check out his page on Goodreads!

You can listen to samples and purchase them below:

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess on Amazon and Audible.

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War on Amazon and Audible.

 

 

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Not my journal. Mine is considerably messier. Insta: @goodnotesapp @karenz.study

 

This post probably constitutes heresy considering I’m currently typing on my Surface Pro (which I also love, Microsoft, thank you), but this work is made infinitely easier with my iPad Pro (with Apple Pencil – because, duh) and the note taking app Good Notes.

First off, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil – no, this is not a sponsored post, though my bank account sure wishes it were – are just the most amazing tools for writing short of an actual PaperMate Flair (the best pen, fight me) and Moleskine journal, and, it pains me to admit this, but they’re actually better. Not for writing quality, though it comes close, but for functionality. And that’s where Good Notes comes in. I’ve imported my manuscripts into Good Notes (under category “Audiobooks I’m Narrating,” as opposed to say “Auditions”), and am able to take notes in margins about pronunciation, definition, emotion, what have you. On top of that I can use a seemingly infinite number of highlighter colors that correspond with each individual character (29+ currently) for their lines and background info.

On TOP of all that goodness, I can create an infinite number of notebooks for whatever needs I have. Currently I have one for notes on each of the books – where I put questions I have, character notes, and can write out my IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and accent work, etc, as well as personal journals for morning pages, my Bullet Journal, a notebook for my Freeing the Natural Voice work, as well as miscellaneous accent work. Being able to have all these notebooks without cluttering my personal space is liberating. Being able to keep all my work on these books (currently three books in the Bennet Wardrobe series, by Don Jacobson) in one place without having to have 29 different physical highlighters, flags, dog-eared books, etc, is just amazing.

I suppose I could write on my Surface – I do have a pen for that as well – buuuuuuttttt…the Apple Pencil writing quality is way better. Sorry Microsoft. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt a stylus come to writing on real paper, and I actually *like* the way it feels now. It’s way more responsive, less buggy, and flows so easily, I honestly don’t feel like I’ll need a physical notebook again.