Follow-up: Reading Services for the blind

This week I picked up where I left off two years ago as a volunteer reader at VoiceCorps, the reading service for the blind in Columbus OH.   After speaking with the volunteer coordinator to set up a time to come in and record, she asked me about doing a new 45-minute show they just added to read from monthly Columbus business magazine, and I was thankful for the opportunity.

Overall, my recording session went very well, and it was good to be back after being gone a few years.  Once again, however, I realized that the art of reading out loud and doing it well consistently is harder than it looks.

Once I sat down in one of the studio booths at VoiceCorps, operating the workstation and using the recording application was a breeze.   I don’t know the name of the recording app they use, but it’s a simple mouse-click on large icon buttons that are the same icons used on older cassette recorders – record, pause, resume recording, stop, rewind, fast-forward, etc.  There’s also a large running timer to let you know when you have to wrap up your show, and the studio engineer takes care of saving the file and uploading it to the broadcast queue.

The actual reading out loud was another matter – I had some moments where I missed a period, or implied a period, and then had an awkward pause before I realized it and finished the sentence.  And there were two sentences where my brain and mouth couldn’t synch up for some reason.   For the one sentence, I just said, “Beg pardon, let me read that again”, and kept going – that is perfectly acceptable, and it helps keep the flow.  The other one was bad enough that I just stopped recording, backed up to the end of the previous sentence, and punched “Record” again, and went from there.

I must admit, I have been spoiled using Adobe Audition in my studio and editing each little breath and tongue click at will, but that is not necessary when reading for VoiceCorps, plus it makes the time to record a 45-minute show much longer than necessary, so you keep editing to a minimum.   Mind you, the reading should be done reasonably well, but absolute perfection is not necessary.

What I find most difficult about the task is reading vertical columns, such as newspapers or magazines, because sentences are broken up into more segments.  Magazines are typically more challenging, because those writers construct much longer sentences, so your eyes are frantically searching for a key word to stress, or whether there is a quote followed by the words,  “he/she said”.  As a sighted person, when I’m reading to myself, my brain can automatically and quickly assemble and make sense of word chunks in that format, but verbalizing takes a bit more time.

While I was at VoiceCorps, I also listened in on the live feed while other readers were in a different booth reading from the Columbus Dispatch daily newspaper.  VoiceCorps has so many great readers.  They are deliberate and un-rushed, while speaking in a normal conversational voice.  Maybe one day I’ll be at that level – until then, I’ll keep striving for continuous improvement.

It was nice to chat with Chuck, the studio engineer once again.  He’s a voiceover guy himself, and records many of the promos and announcements for VoiceCorps that are heard in between shows.  Chuck was very excited to hear about me going into the voiceover business, asked me about my equipment, and then discussed several pluses and minuses of various condenser microphones.

The really cool take I got from all this?  Chuck asked me if I wanted to record my show at home each week, and then use a file transfer protocol to get the audio file to him so he can insert into the broadcast queue for the right date and time.  Boy, I jumped on that suggestion.   It will save on driving time and gasoline, because I would only have to go there once a month to pick up the latest edition of the magazine.  I can record my show at my leisure, whether during the daytime or evening.  And it will help me improve my studio recording and editing technique.  Call it win-win-win.

That’s it from me.  How about you?  If you have any comments or questions about this or any of my other posts, feel free to click on the “Leave A Comment” link.  I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next time, keep putting your best voice forward, and keep striving for continuous improvement.  Take care.

-Z-

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