Creating GREAT Performing VoiceOvers

"Telling someone about your experience breathes new life into it." (Mandy Aftel)
"If you connect with your own mind deep enough, it reverberates for everyone." (Natalie Goldberg)

VoiceOvers are digitally recorded from the author’s written story script. Think of the voice recording as a “performance” emotionally connecting with the content rather than a reading that records the words. IF the author is not emotionally connected, how will the viewer be any more so? The author’s voice provides a conduit to connect viewers with meaning, context and a relationship with the message. VoiceOvers are the heart of the digital storytelling form and should thus be honored with a clear, quality technical recording without white noise or other distracting sounds. The following equipment, software, and tips will enable you to organize very cost-effective but high quality recordings for all ages.

Clear Sonic Sound Booth.JPG
ClearSonic's Sound Booth - So useful in our classrooms.

Logitech Noise Canceling Microphones
• SpitGuards – Build Your Own @ $2.50 each
  1. Drill 2X4X4 wood blocks with 1 inch deep for the 1/2 inch round dowels
  2. Cut 1/2 inch round dowels into 11 inch lengths (this height may vary depending upon the actual microphone size but works for the Logitech Brand)
  3. Purchase 5.25 X3.75 oval embroidery hoops
  4. Use black knee high nylon stockings within the hoops using two layers of nylon
  5. Hot glue the dowel and hoop together with green flower wire allowing for the hoop to be high enough and slightly tipped over the microphone

Audio-Recording Software

Audacity Free Downloads (MAC and WIN)
• Audacity Exit Skills (MAC and WIN)

Performance Voice Tips

Let the emotional journey of the story [Living in the Story] shine through with performing voices!

Knowing the connotation and meaning intended for the narrative words about to be spoken is critical! See Voice-Coaching Warm-ups below for a bit of practice before beginning digital recordings. However in both oral storytelling around campfires or in front of audiences and creating digital voiceovers - a key success feature of a well-told story is how it is paced.

Pacing is considered by many to be the true secret of successful storytelling. View Ira Glass' Video sharing the art of any story being told with pacing to immerse your audience in even a trivial storyline. The rhythm of a story determines much of what sustains an audience's interests. A fast-paced story with many changes in a scene can suggest urgency and action. Conversely a slow pace will suggest contemplation, romanticism, relaxing, or suspense.

Changing pace even in a short short little story, is very effective. A narrative can have starts and stops, pauses, and quickly spurted phrases or sentences. Good stories breath. They move along at an even pace but once in awhile they stop for the audience to catch up - soak - ponder or hold the feelings being created before moving on. Then take a deep breath and proceed. Or if the story calls for it, they walk a little faster, and faster until they are running, but sooner or later they have to run out of breath and stop and wheeze at the side of the road. Anything that feels mechanical (storyteller voices that are disconnected from the connotation - just delivering the words out of emotional context of the storyline) soon loses our interest.

"Words are just words without the storyteller creating an emotional experience with tone and pacing the meaning of the story being told. Take time to prepare new storytellers to have powerful voice delivery of their narrative stories together - creating a rich memorable voice experience will reach their audiences."

Voice-Coaching Needs Warm-UPs ~ Try an Exercise in the Power of Voice Attitudes/Moods/Pacing

First, read a short paragraph of a story or poem, any one will do. If it is a group practice - use the same text for extra learning benefits. Keep your voice the same constant level. Don’t go high or low or loud or soft. Just say it flat without feeling or interest. Now count from one to ten (out loud or as a practice digital recording) in these different ways - use a partner to help coach you in delivering these moods:


√ As if you were an angry parent who said, "I am going to count to ten and if you're not in the bedroom by the time I get to ten, you're in big trouble."
√ As a very little child just learning to count
√ As if you were very sad because you thought everyone had forgotten your birthday, but then you walked into your living room and saw ten birthday presents sitting on
the floor. How would you count them?
√ As if you were a referee for a boxing match and you were counting someone out.
√ As if you were telling someone a telephone number when the phone was not working right.
√ As if you were counting pennies as you dropped them into a piggy bank.

Now Try Reading the Short Paragraph or Poem AGAIN. Have the SAME text for everyone but giving each group [2-3] a SECRET MOOD! This time, let your voice reflect the emotional attitude - the moods of the words. Coach each other until you can hear the mood. Can others "guess" your mood? Even using the same words as everyone else [that is the POINT of this warm-up] - the mood can be performed to express different meanings called "connotation."

Technical Tips for Coaching / Recording VoiceOvers

1. Find a very, very quiet area or organize for authors to take home the microphone and spit guard. Emphasize finding quiet private spaces with the least amount of distractions and most silence possible. Air fans, ceiling lights, phones and a multitude of other sound distractions need to be minimized. What is the quality of sound can be determined with a sound check - no noise, no echoing, no background sounds.

2. Use external microphones as the internal microphones generally pick up A LOT of unnecessary background (white) noise. TEST any direct recording to confirm the need for a microphone or not for your device!

3. Use a spit guard to eliminate natural mouth sounds like “pha- pha” found in many of our speech patterns. While these are generally ignored in real life speech – extra side sounds can really be annoying and distracting in sound tracks.

4. Break the text into several natural chunks in order to record and save EACH one separately. Each check should have an emotional mood or tone identified so authors can connect to the feeling of their reading before they record.

5. DO check the voice levels for each voice recording session. This is done within the Audacity or other recording software. Now is the best time to ensure the voice quality will be clear and audible TECHNICALLY! Normalizing later will actually increase the white background buzz or humming noise if the voices are too low or soft when recording.

6. Coach and rehearse the text-to-voice process before going to the microphone. Voices should be well -articulated (speedy, slurred or mumbled voice readings do not create quality listening for others) using well-delivered pauses, incorporating emotions, and overall encouraging the author to PERFORM the meaning NOT just say the text. Words that are simply read or even well recited do not create that important conduit for viewers to connect to the content and meaning of the message. If the author reveals a connection to their message through their voice delivery – then the opportunity to communicate meaning and impact is increased for the viewer. Performed voices are memorable!

7. IF USING AUDACITY - When each recording chunk is satisfactory – select all and "normalize" the voice to optimize the volume and clarity. Normalizing can be found under EFFECTS menu. This feature gives a depth and clarity worth the time and effort - not found in many other audio recording programs.

8. Now you are ready to save using a file naming protocol. Unless you have taken time to install the mp3 plugin, export as a .wav file. Ready to go!