More on the Whole Voice Business

When it comes to doing the voicework for the audiobook, I’ve found that there are definitely some dos and don’ts. If you’re thinking about doing the same, be sure to see if these pointers apply to you.

Clothing. Wear soft, natural fibres. It’s cold here, so I had on some heavy cargo pants and a polyester vest, and the mic picked up every little microscopic movement I made. Noisy clothing will quickly ruin your take, so ditch them. Do it in undies. Go naked if you need to, just steer clear of corduroy, nylon or any other noisy clothes. You’ll naturally shuffle in your seat from time to time, so don’t rely on just sitting still. That said:

Sit Still. No, really. If you’re fidgety from sitting down for a long take, pause, take a break, walk around, have lunch, go to the toilet, clear your head. Not necessarily in that order. Your body wants to move, but while you’re doing a take, keep still. On that note, keep your head at a constant angle to the microphone. The pickup for the mic will vary as the angle, so if you’re overly animated while talking, you’ll hear a change in volume.

Check your settings. Check and double check and check it again, before and after you record, and check it in between chapters. Want to waste a day? Don’t check it. It only takes a few seconds and it will save you time. Record in Mono at or above 44.1 kHz, at a rate of 192kbps or above. If your gear doesn’t support this, get new gear.

Have water handy. Stay hydrated. You think you can talk for an hour straight? Two? Five? How long before your throat gives out. Take regular breaks to drink, rest your mouth, stretch your lungs. Use lip balm (I had to after the third time around). I’ve read about not eating cheese or having milk, since this produces phlegm. I can’t say much about that, but I can attest to avoid eating spicy or oniony foods. I was burping so much, I had to stop every other sentence.

Mark your mistakes. Muck up? Say a short, sharp ‘Beep’ and start again. Speak too fast? ‘Beep’. Mispronounce a word? ‘Beep’. Want to say that sentence again, but with difference emphasis? ‘Beep’. Let out an unexpected belch? ‘Beep’. The Beeps might sound like you’re polluting your sound track, but actually you’re providing markers to yourself to draw attention to a portion of audio. Like underscoring a word, a beep shows up after to let you know that whatever just happened was probably wrong.

Go slow. If you need to pause between sentences, go right ahead. If you need to pause after a comma, feel free. If you need to swear, shake out the jumbles and flibble your lips back into shape, do so. The software editing part at the end of it all allows you to crop out the pauses quickly. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s even more work if you happen to stuff up a sentence because you didn’t take the time to read ahead or get your enunciation right.

Read ahead. It’s your work, right, and you know what you wrote, right, word for word, right? Nah. Not at all. You’ll be reading sentences that you’re only just rediscovering. Like reading a book, sometimes the clue to the character or situation happens after the significant fact. “Go away,” she mumbled. Oh, right, mumbling. “Go away,” she huffed. Hmm, huffing. “Go away,” she laughed. Mirth, got it. ‘Beep’, go back, do it again.

Breathe. Sounds obvious, but I reckon breathing was one of the hardest parts to overcome. There’s a natural tendency when talking naturally to take breaths whenever. It can be while talking, halfway through a sentence, halfway though a word. Do your best to overcome your desire for a breath by pausing, breathing a little more and resuming your speech.

I’m sure with plenty of practice, this will all become second nature. Nah, I don’t believe that for a second. More like, ‘with plenty of practice, your get better at spotting where you’re going wrong, and have the maturity and discipline to take active measures’.

Advanced Blowing Techniques

Blowing one or two eggs is not hard, really. You can have them done in time for dinner. When you have to do a bunch for Easter, it starts to get uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. Your mouth hurts, your lips go numb, and your back starts to give out from being hunched over a bowl for so long.

Advanced Techniques

The following are things I’ve figured out from trial and error to make your egg-blowing life easier.

Batches

No point getting your equipment out and cleaning it and getting set up… to do one or two eggs. Do a lot at a time. It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to do it, so you can sit in front of the News and see how many you can do in half an hour. You’ll be surprised when you get the hang of it.

Store your blown, cleaned, dried eggs in egg cartons, ready for use when the time comes. Don’t worry, they won’t go bad.

A Good Seal

Eggs are an inconvenient design for blowing. If they were straw-like, all good. But they aren’t. They’re smooth, and slightly rounded and it takes a bit of practice to make a positive seal with your mouth on the top of the egg.

Ever have Grolsch? You know that little rubber ring on the inside of the crown? Pick that out, wet it a little and use it as a barrier between your lips and the egg. Not only will it save you the embarrassment of making little fart noises as you blow, and not only will it improve your blowing power, it’s a good excuse to buy beer.

Grolsch rubber ring over the secondary hole
Grolsch rubber ring over the secondary hole

They last for yonky donks, too. AND you can use them for some advanced designs (but that comes later). You know what? Go and get a beer right now and then come back, OK?

Grinding a hole

Puncturing the primary hole with a stylus or pin is a little risky. If the egg is fresh and the shell isn’t thin, it’s not a problem, but take either of these two things away and you need to tread carefully (Insert your own walking on eggshells pun).

Do you have a drill? That’s a bit of overkill. Do you have a high-speed rotary tool like, oh, I don’t know, a Dremel? You do? That’s fantastic! Because if you get yourself a teeny, tiny drill bit, or pointed grinding bit, you can carefully grind a neat, countersunk hole for the primary, no sweat.

The other benefit is that you can use your Dremel for grinding patterns into eggs (later), or making holes to recess crystals (later), or cutting the top off for a egg-box (later).

Reverse Pressure

Blowing an egg relies on increase the air pressure on one side of the innards, such that it forces it out the other side. What if we lower the pressure on the primary hole, so that the air pressure on the other end pushes it through? Net effect: Goop comes out.

This is called sucking eggs. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t click that close button. You don’t have to do the sucking yourself. OK? In fact, it could be quite hazardous if the egg has anything nasty internally. I prefer to cook my eggs before I eat them.

So what to use? Wait for it: A breast pump! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Come on, give me a chance, here! It’s actually designed to do exactly what’s required: Lower the air pressure on one side, letting the pressure on the other push the innards through. And, to boot, the pumps have a collector that you can use.

Breast pumps can save you time and effort
Breast pumps can save you time and effort

No bowl! No mess! No fuss! You just look a little creepy, is all. Just be sure of three things:

  1. Clean your pump after each use
  2. Ensure that the egg is large enough to not get sucked into the aperture (these things were designed for something larger, of course)
  3. MAKE SURE THAT YOU DON’T USE ONE THAT IS CURRENTLY (OR EVER) IN USE FOR GETTING BREAST MILK FOR A CHILD.

All jokes aside, that last point is very important. I marked my pump with a permanent marker and keep it stored in my art supply cabinet. You don’t want to risk giving a bub raw egg, no matter how thoroughly you clean it.

Stands

You know those little tripod things that come on the pizza that stop the top of the box from squishing it? Let me find one…

A pizza box tripod makes a superb egg stand
A pizza box tripod makes a superb egg stand

There. One of those. Next time you order pizzas, keep these, turn them upside down and, presto! Instant egg holder! You can use these to stand your eggs upright while they drain, or to let them dry after painting, or even for showcasing (but decorate them first).Hmm, first beer, now pizza. This is a hobby worth pursuing.

Nasal Aspirator

Say what? ‘Snot Suckers’. Oh. Unpleasant name, it’s pretty much a rubbery thing one uses to clear mucous from a baby’s nose when they’re all clogged up. Normally one would use it in ‘suck’ mode but in this case you’d let the aspirator nozzle act as your lips. Squeeze the bulb (or push the plunger, depending on your model) and blow the contents out.

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