Narrator's Nook: Recording an Audiobook
I promised to write a blog about my recording habits for audiobooks, and here it is.
I normally try to do my recording sessions on the weekend, and that gives me enough to edit during the week after work. I once tried doing two books at once and learned quickly that takes the fun out of it, so now I’m back to one book at a time.
In general, it takes me about 1.5 to 2 hours to record an hour’s worth of audio. Then another 1.5 to 2 hours of editing / proofing means that when you listen to a single hour of an audiobook you are hearing the culmination of around 4 hours of my work. That's pretty standard, which is why narrators generally prefer to be paid up front, or for royalty share deals they want to pick books that will sell well so they can recoup their labour costs.
When I’m getting ready to start a recording session, I go through a little routine to make sure I’m primed and ready to go. I imagine every narrator has a slightly different process but I think they are pretty similar.
Step 1: Wake Up / Vocal Warm Ups
First thing in the morning my voice is a little husky and scratchy. My wife says it’s because I do little “love purrs” in my sleep (which I think is code for snoring). My first order of business on a recording day is to wake my ass up, drink some coffee and talk / sing / repeat tongue twisters until I stop sounding like an old man with gravel in his mouth. Unless, of course, my main character is an old man with gravel in his mouth, in which case I am on POINT.
I find singing my fav pop tunes is a great way to both wake up, get the blood pumping and warm up my voice. Anything by Tegan & Sarah, old school Ani D, Hayley Kiyoko, Pink or the Gaga will get me going and eventually into the booth.
Step 2: Get Set Up in the Booth
My booth is a DIY construction made by my gorgeous wife (and is the subject of my first blog post if you’re interested) and once I’m in with the door sealed it is a pain in the proverbial to go back out again for something I forgot. So there are certain things I always have in the booth; a large bottle of water with a cap so I can stay hydrated, reduce mouth clicks and generally not sound like a zombie on the mic. I also keep Chloraseptic throat spray (the cherry kind) to help when my voice starts getting tired or my throat starts to get a little sore, some slippery elm throat lozenges for the same reason, and nasal spray in case I get stuffy sinuses. It’s all about making sure your voice sounds smooth and isn’t stressed too much.
Once I’ve got all my accoutrements I switch on my laptop that lives just outside the booth, go inside and seal the door. The laptop connects to my internal monitor, keyboard and mouse via extra long cables through tightly sealed small hole in the bottom of my booth. This means that I don’t get fan noise from my PC / laptop in my recordings and is one less headache for me in post production. I also have a tablet on a little stalk holder-y thing, that’s where I read the manuscript from, and I use my monitor for controlling my recording software, Studio One (the forever free version).
I’ve marked my mic stand so if it gets knocked / moved I can put it back in exactly the same spot, and my chair in the booth stays in the same spot at all times, helped by marks on the floor. That way I can keep my sound consistent by not being too far / too close to the mic.
Step 3: Start Recording
Once my mic is hot, I’ve got Studio One ready to record and the manuscript up on my tablet, it’s time to don the headphones and get recording. I use a clip to keep my headphone cable from touching my body – I’m quite active when I’m performing the cable can make a slapping noise that the mic pics up so I try to keep it out of the way.
When I make a mistake I stop for a second, move the curser on Studio One back to top of that line / section, and start again. I get 4 seconds of the previous audio played in my ear so I can speak along with it before it starts recording, making sure I’m better able to match intonation, volume, pace etc and the listener can’t hear the transition.
Every 5 minutes or so I’ll stop for a drink of water, and I keep going for around 2 hours at a time – that’s my current limit before my throat starts to give out. Then I’ll take a break, eat some food (to keep my stomach from growling in the background of audiobooks!) and rest my voice. Then (if my wife is still out fishing!) I can normally get another 1.5 hours recording done.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
How do you prep for your recording – similarly, the same? Let me know in the comments below!