A Sound A Day – February.

Another month, another collection of sounds recorded.

The challenges of getting recordings that are good enough quality continue.When it gets to 7pm and I still haven’t recorded anything things can get dicey!

This month I’ve been surprised by what’s been downloaded from Freesound the most. The most downloaded recording of February has been from February 7th –

This is a short edit of the full sound, but on Freesound it’s the full 17 minute of the spin cycle, and it’s been downloaded 44 times at the time of writing this blog.

The most fun I had was on Feb 5th. Listen to this one with headphones. I found myself with a bag of suet treats surrounded by ducks so I set my recorder up on the floor and threw a few treats to my left, then a few to my right (you can hear my getting more treats out of the bag mid-recording).

March has started with some very interesting recordings and I’m having to diversify my approach to the recordings I’m making. But I’m still enjoying the project and I’m getting some very encouraging comments about it via social media and when I meet people who’ve discovered it.

 

Have another sound, just cos I quite like this one too.

 

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A sound a day – January

February dawns and I’m a month into my Sound A Day project.

I was a bit reluctant to take the project on because it is a bit of a challenge in terms of the time it takes and having to find new sounds every day when there are days when I don’t leave the house. But one month in and so far I’ve really enjoyed doing it. It has made me leave the house when I otherwise had no need to, and the technical challenge of figuring out how best to capture some of the sounds I’ve recorded has been fun (not all attempts have been successful, and those sounds haven’t made it as far as publishing, but further attempts will be made).

The most popular recording of January at the moment is from Jan 25th. This one isn’t available for download on Freesound, but most of the other recordings I’ve made are.

The most downloaded recordings (at the time of writing) are the airlock bubbles from January 24th, the robin from January 2nd, and the tram stop from January 19th.

But I think my favourite of the month has to be the recording I made of Holly – one of my rabbits – drinking from a bowl. She’s a noisy bugger.

Don’t forget that if you want to use these recording as a sound effect in your project as many as possible will be made available at freesound.org. My page is here.

A sound a day 2017

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter may have noticed me post ‘A sound a day’ since January 1st. I thought I’d write a short blog here to introduce the project more fully and explain the parameters I’ve set myself.
You’ve probably got friends who have done ‘a photo a day’ for a year (or whatever time period they’ve set themselves). I kind of like that idea, but I wanted to adapt it to be more relevant to me and my work, so I’ve taken on recording A Sound A Day for the duration of 2017 and am posting the results to social media. One of my intentions with this project is to highlight the beauty of what we hear around us. I am obviously very much motivated by sound, and I think we often overlook what our ears are telling us. I don’t want to go all John Cage or anything, but there is a rhythm and beauty to everyday sounds and maybe my project will help other people hear it. Listening to ambient noises with the attention to detail we listen to music with can be a fantastic thing, and very calming.

More than that I’m posting all I can to freesound.org to be used as copyright free sound effects (subject to copyrights and third party permissions). Freesound is a site I’ve used myself to download from, so I thought I’d give back to that community by uploading my recordings there. If you want to download any of the sounds I’ve recorded you can just head here and all that have been published are available for download. There is a bit of a queue for publishing though, so you may need to wait a few days between my sounds being on social media and appearing on freesound.
I will record a sound a day, but I may not post every sound on the day it’s recorded. There are some sounds I intend to record that only happen late in the evening, so I won’t be able to post them until the next day. And then there will be those times when I’m away from my computer for a few days…

Head here to hear the collection to date.

Studio Tickling Tours.

Those of you who follow me on social media may have seen posts where I announce that I’m about to do what I call a Studio Tickling Tour and ask interested parties to get in touch. I thought it was about time that I explained exactly what a Studio tickling Tour is so you can decide whether it is of interest to you.

studio20tickling20tour_zpsfiiptmfgSTTs (as I shall now call them, because I’m too lazy to type ‘Studio Tickling tour’ every time) are based around a geographical location – most of them have been London based – where I am staying for a few days. During the time of my visit I make appointments to go and see voiceover artists in their studios, where I can provide a number of services. The name ‘Studio Tickling Tour’ (Damn it! Couldn’t use STT there!) denotes that a lot of these appointments are to check people’s set-ups and make sure that everything is working properly and make minor adjustments to ensure the VO in question is getting the best out of their studio. Minor adjustments, hence just ‘tickling’ the studio. These visits will take an hour or maybe two and provide peace of mind to many of my clients.

But that’s not the only kind of service I can undertake whilst I’m on my travels. I can take on longer jobs as well. On previous trips I’ve spent longer at a studio troubleshooting bigger problems. I’ve taken time with VOs and provided training in software or editing techniques or advising on sound-proofing and acoustic treatment. I’ve even helped out with longer-term studio upgrading projects making several visits over a few trips (and providing telephone/Skype support between tours). Plus I’m open to requests and suggestions of how I should spend my time while I’m away from my studio, so if you have any requests please get in touch.

voiceover20studio_zpsoxqas73xAlthough these trips are sort of based in a city I will travel quite far if it’s viable to do so. I have been to the South Coast while on a ‘London’ trip. And I will always make stops while I’m en route to my location of choice, so if you live somewhere between London and Manchester you can always ask and see if I can pop over to see you while I’m getting from A to B – I don’t mind detours and have previously considered Bristol, Guilford, Chelmsford and Leicester as being between Manchester and London.

So if you have any needs for your home studio and you think I may be in the area soon please get in touch and I’ll do my best to come and see you. And even if you don’t think I’ll be in the area soon get in touch and I may be able to plan a Studio Tickling Tour around you.

 

 

 

Voiceover Showreels

For a pro voiceover one of the most important marketing tools is your VO showreel(s). This is where potential customers will hear your voice and decide whether your tone is what they’re looking for to represent their product or service. So whether you’re new to the voiceover industry or an old hand it’s always worth spending time – and even money – on making sure that you are being branded as well as possible with what you’re sending out or putting online to showcase your talents.

I’ve been a professional producer for 15 years and have listened to hundreds of showreels over that time and cast people for jobs based on them, most have been successful castings, but some I’ve felt have been mis-represented by their reels: I have on a few occasions cast a VO based on their showreel and been disappointed at the results, flip that over and how many VOs have I not used because their showreel was sub-standard? So today I want to think about what makes a good reel from a producers point of view in order that you can hit the spot when you’re next considering your showreel.

If you are new to voicing a showreel is as important a part of your initial set-up as a microphone, but you need to do it right. I would strongly advise against just sitting at home writing your own scripts and recording. There are a number of studios and companies who will spend a day or two with you coaching you on technique and teaching you some of the intricacies of the job and will put a reel together with you at the end of it. This will not only give you a produced reel, but give you a kick-start into voicing and hopefully break any bad habits before they get too imbedded. Ask around other VOs and see who they have used for this coaching/showreel service and listen to their results before you book anything. Make sure you like the general sound of the output. I would advise using a coach who is still actively producing, as technologies and fashions in voicing change and you need something that sounds current if you’re going to compete.

I always prefer to hear ‘live’ jobs. Hearing how you sound on actual campaigns and audio for real clients lends a weight to a showreel that ‘made up’ jobs just don’t. It proves that you are being used by other companies and agencies and that you can take direction and can work well in the field. If you have no live jobs don’t bluff them. I once received a showreel from a new VO with lots of big names in their reel, but unfortunately I knew the VOs who had done the real campaigns. Guess who I never hired? Whatever stage in your career you’re at it always worth asking a producer if you can have a copy of a finished job if you think it’s going to turn out well so you can use it on future reels.

Your reel needs a variety of reads on it. Not just in terms of characters or accents, but also vary the pace of the read, the tone of voice and distance from the mic. You’re trying to prove that you know what you’re doing, that you command the booth and that you know how to bring to life whatever turgid rot you’re given to read.

Reels should only be a maximum of a minute and a half long. People just won’t listen to more than that. So you will probably need a few reels doing. You may want a general one, but if you work in a variety of areas you will need more specific reels for each of these as well. Comprod is a very different skill set to television documentaries, and TV documentaries is very different to game characters. If I need a VO to read a disclaimer I don’t care how convincing you are as Eeyore, so send me a different reel.

How often do you put together a new reel? The short answer is ‘as often as necessary.’ If your reel isn’t getting you as much work as you’d like, do a new reel. If your reel has dates in it more than a couple of years old, do a new reel. If you’ve been sending out a same reel for what seems like ages, do a new reel. It isn’t always the most enjoyable part of your job, but it is an investment of time and money as it should be getting you work. If you value your career you have to treat your showreel as a premium item.

So having considered what we put on the reel we need to think about putting it together. Here I’m going to tell you to get a professional producer to do it for you. As I’ve said I’ve heard hundreds of reels, and the quality of the audio has varied massively. I know that when I listen I shouldn’t be listening to the production standards, I’m listening to the voice. But as a producer it’s really hard listening to a reel that sounds like it’s been filtered through a tramps sock. There are other implications as well. Firstly if I’m looking to do any kind of remote work (self-record, ISDN or other) I need to know that your home set-up is sufficiently good for my needs. A badly produced reel makes this harder to judge and therefore I’m less likely to hire you. Secondly, if second-rate audio is good enough for you to send out it implies that you don’t care enough about the quality of audio that represents you – and as you’re in the audio business that’s a huge problem.

Even if you regularly produce audio and are very competent with production I would still recommend getting a pro to produce your showreel. At the very least get a third party to do it for you (Let’s be honest here – I want you to give me a call and get me to do it for you). Having voiced everything that will be on your reel you have an emotional investment in the material, which others don’t share. A certain job you did may have been a personal triumph for you, but it may not be your strongest read to a third party who doesn’t have a clue about the history of the session – and your potential clients are all neutral parties who don’t know the history of any of your reads. Third parties can judge the end result, not the non-existent back-story and give you an objective opinion on what makes your showreel as strong as it can be.

So here’s the selly bit. How do I fit in with this? I may be able to produce your reel for you – I have produced reels for a many voiceovers and actors over the years. I am a very competent producer with lots of tricks up my sleeve, but I’m not a voice coach, so if you’re a newby there are better people than me to put together your first reel. But if you’re beyond that first stage you could do a lot worse than get in touch with me and let me put something together for you. See? That didn’t hurt did it?

So to end with an example of a fantastic reel. This is by the late lamented Mike Hurley and it breaks all the rules in the book. If you want to know why, then give me a call.

not a blog

So last month, with the best intentions in the world I was too busy to write a new blog. Sorry about that (well, sort of sorry. I was earning an income so I can’t be too sorry!). This month I  knew the same would be the case, but I didn’t want to miss 2 months in a row so I’ve collected a few links that hopefully you’ll like. Some are funny, some aren’t – you decide which is which cos, frankly, I find your sense of humour totally unpredictable.

 

Some great tips in here – honest!

Article about the evolution of language – and it’s not as dull as I’ve just made it sound.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/11/pronunciation-errors-english-language


Proof that as brilliant as the internet is, it’s given us all opportunities to make even bigger tits of ourselves than previously (sorry it’s from the daily mail).

I think it’s probably illegal to have a post like this without some cute animal video on, so here goes –

You’ve probably seen these before, but it’s worth a second look – 

the story at #9 is from my home town – but the paper isn’t. How dull is the town that the paper’s based in?! –

NSFW – creative swearing.

And finally, one that some of you may actually find useful –
Hope you enjoy!

Epiphany

It’s been a busy month this month, so I’ve not had opportunity to think about and prepare a blog. So here’s an account of my musical awakening instead.

I grew up in a musically fairly conservative household. My parents owned an average number of records which consisted of my Mum’s Beatles LPs and a lot of folk music. I hated the folk music and the Beatles didn’t do much for me either. When I was old enough to take notice of chart music I remember Gary Glitter on Top Of The Pops and Don Estelle and Windsor Davis’ recording of ‘whispering Grass’. Tony Blackburn used to do a request show on radio 1 which features lots of children’s songs from the 50s. These all informed my musical world-view and to this in 1980 was added Adam & the Ants who were the first band I really liked.

My Grandma and Grandpa lived in a little village called Ebberston which is about 10 miles inland from Scarborough. In 1981 Ebberston hosted 2 community discos. The first of which was to celebrate the wedding of Charles & Di, the second may have been for bonfire night. My family visited my Grandparents on the days these discos were held and so we attended.

I never went to many disco-type things. Still don’t. I watched with some interest and eventually urged (threatened even) by my Mum and fuelled by food colourings gained from too much fizzy pop I went and spasmed awkwardly on the dance floor in what I would have thought to be an acceptable form of dancing. I remember the kind of music usually played at these kind of events. There was ‘One Step Beyond’ and Dexis midnight runner’s ‘Oh Geno’. There may have been ‘March of the Mods’ and various Abba tracks amongst the rest I don’t remember. All standard fare so far and nothing to add anything to my limited knowledge of music and nothing to convince me that music was anything other than background noise. A pleasant evening to be enjoyed by all.

I think it was at the November disco that my epiphany occurred. Probably about half way through the evening the DJ muttered something into the microphone, put on a new single and cleared the dancefloor except for 3 or 4 teenagers who had been sitting around the edges all evening. They jumped up and proceeded to jostle and shove each other around the dancefloor while everyone else cleared out of their way. I don’t remember really what happened because I was transfixed by the noise. Whereas what was played for the rest of the evening was average pop music of its day this was something else – an explosion of sound; vibrant, passionate, aggressive and most of all very very noisy. I loved it. I had no idea what it was or what they were singing about but the proverbial lightbulb had gone on in my head and I realised that music could be so much more than I had previously thought it was. I remember being utterly awestruck, my little mind utterly blown by the the raw-ness of the sound. Suddenly music was mine. I had no idea what I was listening to (years later I figured out it was the Dead Kennedy’s ‘California Uber Alles’) but so began a lifelong mission to find music that spoke to me in that raw way, bypassing conscious thought and speaking directly to my soul. I was awake to the potential power of music and when I left that little village disco I went out into a world that was suddenly much much bigger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW8UlY8eXCk