Thursday, January 24, 2008

From My Mouth to Your Ears

I believe I've mentioned before that I have used my voice to help earn my living for much of my professional career. Voicing commercials, television programs, PSAs, underwriters - and a few years spent as an actual disc jockey. I have been paid as much as $100 a second for my voice before - for a 5 second tag on a national commercial.

These days, it's just part of my job. I am the official "voice" of our public television and radio stations in addition to all the other stuff I do. It's a very casual arrangement. I don't get paid extra, as in job description terms it falls under "other duties as assigned". I do have the option of saying no to this part of my job - and I did after I quit smoking and my voice went to hell for several months as I coughed all that lovely crap out of my lungs.

But I enjoy doing this - it keeps my voice limber, which for some reason feels important to me. I sing to warm up, but you might not want to be in the same room when I do that. There are various "exercises" you can do to loosen your tongue and open your throat and sinuses before a big read, but I've never done more than sing to accomplish the same thing. And practice breathing.

Today I get an email from radio saying that they have a couple of underwriters they need voiced and could I please do it today or tomorrow. I answered that I'd be up there at three.

They treat me like a star. They set it all up, adjust the mic, the light, ask if I need anything - then they go away and let me do my thing.

I usually give them three takes - usually all three good, but that lets them choose. There is a fifteen second time limit on them, so once in a while some real effort has to be made to fit all the words that inexperienced script writers put down into that length of time.

And sometimes it's the words themselves that trip you up. Everything looks fine on paper... ANYONE can read that. But when you try to make them come out of your mouth - well, sometimes it's really, really hard.

One of the scripts had lots of words that started with "c". Cs that sound like Ks. My first take sounded like I was stuttering. I had to reconsider my delivery and finally, after 5 takes, we had something on tape that I was happy with.

Then came the second script. I'm not sure who writes these things.... but believe me - a thesaurus is not always your friend. Instead of saying something simple like "gardener" they had to write "horticulture provider". What? Stick that in the middle of a sentence and try to say it in a professional, smooth voice. Nope. That one took 6 takes and I still felt weird about it.

Realizing that it wasn't going to get any better today, I left the sound booth and handed the scripts back, saying that if I needed to come back and do it again tomorrow I would. They just sounded awkward to me.

You get what you pay for.


Oh, The Joys said...

You. should. podcast.

That girl said...

Well, How cool that this is part of your job! I've always wanted to have a radio voice, but just don't.

$100 a second?? Bloody hell, that is good money!

Sayre said...

OTJ - I wouldn't even know where to start. I don't own an iPod or even know how to download music from the internet. Putting something out there... well, it might be beyond me.

TG - I've had a microphone in my face since I was three. My dad was in the business and probably has the most recognized male voice in the area. I'm probably up there too, but no one knows who I am - which is fine with me. And my regular talking voice is different from my radio voice. There are certain ways to breathe and to move your mouth in front of a mic so that you don't just get lots of air and popping noises. It's a bit different from talking on the phone.

I only managed the $100 a second thing once - but it sure was fun to think about!

nikki said...

Used your voice to earn money? Oh, the dirty comments I could make, but I'm playing nice today!

Sayre said...

Nikki - wow, I'm not sure I want to follow where your mind is going...

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Amen. I want the Sayre Podcast.

Anonymous said...

Ah Yes, the incompetent copywriter, ably abetted, no doubt, by the underwriter who thinks it's easy. And Doesn't "horticultural provider" sound so much more important than gardner. Maybe you could administrate that. It is, after all, public broadcsting. Yuck!


Babzy said...

Sayre, you are always full of surprises. A radio voice! How cool is that?!