Random Thoughts

Voice‐over course so far…

I’m sure I mentioned this, but I’ve been doing a voice‐over course at City Lit in Holborn.

City Lit logo

The main reason is that I have to do this course otherwise I’m not allowed to move onto other ‘voice’ orientated courses, like ‘Character Voices’, ‘Voices in Animation’ and ‘American Accents’. Supposedly these are too advanced unless you have passed a course such as voice‐overs.

So here I am. The other reason is I actually find voice‐overs really interesting and wanted to do the course anyway.

And how’s the course going?” I hear you ask…

Well it’s been simply brilliant. I’m loving all of it so far. Yes the reading is a massive stress with the dyslexic part of me, though as long as I practice the text and know what’s coming next, then I can relax, focus and get into the characters much more. Instead of the constant fear of get those words wrong. This probably sounds quite alien to anyone who can read as it’s just reading, but a dyslexic individual it’s a bloody nightmare!

Luckily reading words is only half the battle, the overall goal is to tell a story and get the listener engaged.

Today we are doing audiobooks and I have to be honest, I am quite nervous. More nervous than going on stage! I have chosen the Gruffalo, a children’s book.

The Gruffalo

This book is actually more of a sing song rhyming poem and involves more characters than I originally realised. It involves sudden changes from a neutral narrator to a character, then another character, before back to narrator again, as if it is several different people in the recording booth at once.

In practice I have accidentally bled the previous characters accent or energy into the following character, also I have found myself doing a Welsh accent on a word when it was supposed to be a Scottish accent!

As I walked toward the recording room, I felt my throat dry up and my face become rather hot!

It’s a weird experience sitting on your own in this compact room, which is clad in spiky foam to deaden any rebounding noise. It’s just you, a chair and a mic. The mic is standing there all intimidating. “You better be f***ing good mate … otherwise it’s game over, sunshine”.

With pieces of paper shaking in my hands, all I can think is: ‘Shit, how the hell, am I going to switch from page to page without causing a huge paper noise.’

I wait for the instructions from the director. He’s sitting in another room surrounded by buttons, levers and other highly advanced toys.

Levels, please” the director says calmly.

Right, yes” says a calm/panicking Dan.

A mouse took a stroll, through the deep, dark, wood. A fox saw the mouse, and the mouse, looked good” said Dan now in a blind panic, I tend to instead of reading, hope for the best and pray.

Ok that’s all good, so when you’re ready” the director says, now laughing… (this is a good sign…right?…right?)

I looked at the pieces of paper, shit. I couldn’t remember a thing. “How did the narrator’s voice go? Oh yes it’s my own voice… shit, how does that go again?!”

Before I could answer, the words just started coming out of my mouth.

My wife had mentioned that when I read it sounds quite flat, like I’m not too sure what is coming next. I was determined to prove that was not the case here.

Before I realised, I was well into a ‘South Wales’ accent and then into a ‘Squeaky Mouse’ voice, now into the ‘Narrator’ and back into a ‘South Wales’ one again. (Intentionally obviously. Christ, imagine if I just kept changing accents for no reason!)

Holy shit balls, I was doing all the different voices and jumping between them happily, this felt great. The energy was good, and the flow was feeling good too. Christ was I enjoying myself?

As I came out of the tiny booth everyone listening was clapping and grinning. Wow, I even got a few hand‐shakes and someone saying: “That was brilliant”.

I couldn’t believe it, I had done it, and so far the response was good. I will get to hear it back next week, so I am quite excited about hearing the variety of voices as in my head they all sounded the same. The excitement of getting into the story and characters is a great feeling, and something I want more of.

The bottom line is simply… preparation, preparation, preparation.

Dan Tambling is a stand-up comedian, sketch comedy writer, actor and producer of ‘12 sketches in a London house’. This is his blog.

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Cartoon of Dan holding a typewriter