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Archive for September, 2011

Articles

Just a little patience

5:35pm on a Monday afternoon. I had just plucked my garment bag off the carousel at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, boarded the bus to the parking garage, and merged onto the busy on-ramp. I was heading 40 minutes north on I-17, to my comfy home in the foothills after a jam-packed and very successful weekend in Los Angeles. Home – where I would find my loving wife, my favorite chair, and my loyal and faithful dog – who always acts as if I’ve been gone for months when she greets me at the door.

I was tired; the good kind of tired that you feel when you know you’ve really done something worthwhile. I had gone to LA to study audiobook narration with the amazing Paul Ruben, who had flown in from his home in Brooklyn for what turned out to be a terrific workshop. I learned a lot, made some new friends, and reconnected with some old ones. It was a great trip. But in this day of tight schedules, and strip-search airports where bottles of water are considered potential weapons, but ballpoint pens aren’t, travel is pretty exhausting. Even short trips like this one. So I was ready to head to the house and melt into my chair with a cool one. Anxious, even.

As I merged into traffic, I suddenly realized that I had timed my trip perfectly to enjoy the afternoon rush. I’ve lived in cities where it’s much worse than Phoenix, but still, I suddenly felt my heart sink as I realized that my 40 minutes just turned into and hour or better. Having been here many times before, I began my inward journey to my happy place, plugged my iPod into the dash, and tried to enjoy the 15 mph trip.

As I did so, I noticed something almost immediately. Most of my co-commuters did not share my attitude. In fact, many seemed to grip their steering wheels as if wielding a medieval weapon, weaving in and out as if in the final lap of a Cup race. They weren’t anxious to get home, they were desperate to get there – and get there first.

This observation is anything but profound. But as the relaxing, folksy sounds of Ellis Paul kept me centered and mellow, I began to reflect on the break-neck speed of our culture today. Everything has to be now. Everyone wants to be first – even at great personal risk. And for me, as the owner of a one-man voiceover and narration business, it’s very seductive to get in a big hurry, too. Indeed, like the traffic example, running a business – particularly a young one – at a hell-bent-for-leather pace can be outright dangerous.

A very well known narrator friend of mine gave me some great advice recently. He said that if there was one critical skill that he could teach to audiobook narrators, it would be this one: patience. Patience with your training and skills. Patience to let healthy business relationships develop. And the biggie – patience to see the work start flowing in. Patience – rather than panic. Staying the course – instead of freaking out and going nuts.

And yes – even patience to wait for that long lane of traffic in front of you to unwind and begin moving forward.

Articles

The music of voice acting

One of my regular rituals as I start my day each morning is making music. I have one of my guitars next to my nightstand. My piano is just around the corner in the den. Making music is a big part of how I wake up. It’s my way of getting my creative juices flowing each day.

I learned to read music as a small child, but as I matured as a musician, I began to see that there’s more to music than playing or singing notes on a page. A lot more. The process of “making music” is immensely intimate and creative. It’s really about getting inside the head – or really the heart – of the composer. Trying to tune into his or her muse. Indeed, the notes themselves become almost secondary to me. Recreating emotion takes center stage.

One of my best friends in the world is Dr. Scott Ferrell. Scott is a gifted musician, conductor, and teacher in Texas. I studied choral music and theatrical performance with Scott and learned so much about this process. Scott is one of the most passionate and emotional men I have ever met. He’s willing to open himself to the art in front of him, drinking in all of the musical subtext that the composer injected straight from the heart. He taught me about “honoring the art first, rather than just banging out notes.” I saw his ability to strip away everything else around him – contaminants that would interfere with the performance – and be completely vulnerable to where the music would take him as a performer.

In voice acting, the same process applies. While I’ve never had a client deliver a script to me with actual musical notes on the page, I see them. They are there, underneath. Because when the writer sat down to the task of communicating their message in text, they also included emotion, color, mood, flow, tempo, and more. In the Bible, the Psalms were originally written to be sung.  When they are, they take on a whole new depth of meaning.  The work of William Shakespeare is undeniably musical.

We do the same thing without even knowing it when we communicate verbally. When I’m talking on the phone and someone says those often heard two words, “I’m fine,” it’s immediately obvious to me whether they really are or not.

When I approach the task of voice acting, my natural tendency is to find the music underneath. Tempo, crescendos and decrescendos, staccatos and legatos, swells and troughs, ebbs and flows. I’m not embarrassed to confess that sometimes I’ll actually stand there in the booth and sing it. How would I sing this script if it was a song? Because the truth is – it IS a song. This exercise can help you find the “juice” that the writer had when it was written. And that’s the goal of a truly great acting performance, voice or otherwise.

Allow yourself to go there. Regardless of your own musical background or ability, you have the music in you.