Friday, 18 November 2011

The voice of reason...

Narrating isn’t as easy as it seems and in studio, time is money – quite a lot of money - so it’s important to get it right. This week we ‘auditioned’ an author with a view to him narrating his own book. Happily, he was absolutely fantastic - fluent, warm, with loads of stamina - and we’re looking forward to being in studio with him. 

It got us talking about what makes a good narrator – and we thought it would be a good time to revisit audio producer and director Ali Muirden’s thoughts on the subject!

When people hear that I work in the audio book industry, they often want to know what the actors that I’ve worked with are like.

Personally, I feel privileged to have worked with some of the best talent in the country over the last few years. And no! I am not going to name names as that could get me into a whole heap of trouble! But I must confess I do have my favourites…

But what do audio producers look for when casting a reader and how do we go about it?

The first step is to read the script for the book you are producing and more often than not, before you know it, a “voice type” will spring to mind. Some books require a flowing, mellifluous voice, some require a quality which conveys excitement and drama, some require someone with a catalogue of character voices at his or her disposal.

Sometimes you require someone with a particular accent skill, or the ability to switch from accent to accent at the drop of a hat. (These people are also probably brilliant at rubbing their tummies and patting their heads at the same time as spinning plates on poles!)

As you read the script, it becomes apparent what kind of voice quality is required and it makes the casting process much simpler.

Sometimes you have a tricky project where you just can’t seem to find the right voice for the job. Then it’s time to get on the phone to your fellow producers to request some help.

Other producers are always hugely generous with their time and help on this subject and can be a great source of inspiration and advice. When we find a new talent, we always tell each other. Likewise, if we work with someone who has not bothered to prepare for the job properly, we also spill the beans! Wannabe audio readers beware: Don’t rock up and think you can just ‘wing it’ on the day…. Your future could be on the line!

Reading an audio book requires great stamina, energy and preparation in advance, if you are going to do justice to the book. Most of the really good readers say it can be one of the most demanding areas they work in, as you need to sustain the level of performance throughout a long recording day (anywhere up to 8 hours in one session) and any loss of energy or signs of tiredness are immediately obvious in your voice.

But they also say it is one of the things they enjoy doing the most and it must give them a great sense of satisfaction when they meet someone who has heard them read an audio book who then says “all my kids love your reading of that story… they make me play it for them over and over and over again!”. - Ali Muirden

Which audiobook narrators do you love to listen to?


  1. Lorelei, you are a fantastic narrator (as on "A Simpler Life" and many others). Even though he is in danger of over use, Stephen Fry is another superb voice to listen to.

  2. What a lovely thing to say, Lucy! Thank you. (And doing 'A Simpler Life' was so much fun - something different from the run of the mill!)

  3. Great tips! I will practice these as I read "The Lorax" to my son this weekend for the 983rd time. :)

  4. Ali says she's glad she could help! :oD