Kelly and Viviana asked if I might do a guest post for Audiobook Lovin’ 2016, suggesting that a “behind the scenes” post might be of interest. There are all kinds of videos out there of narrators recording in studios, so to do something a bit different, I thought it might be fun to give you a peek of what I do every day to get ready to record.
Most actors I know are creatures of habit. We have to go through all the same steps to prepare ourselves for each performance. And I am definitely one of those actors. I have to know that my voice and body and mind are prepared to spend 5 – 6 hours using the entire range of my voice, with steady focus, while sitting still. This involves a healthy breakfast (followed up by a second breakfast mid-morning to avoid stomach noises and dips in concentration) and exercise (while getting my kids out the door to school) and then, this schedule of practices:
- Yoga. From what I understand, one of the purposes of yoga poses is to prepare the body and mind to be able to sit in meditation for long periods of time. Makes sense that it would help a narrator out. I do a 20 minute practice every day to stretch and strengthen my body and help quiet my brain.
- Writing. I journal every morning, filling two pages with gratitude, descriptions of my environments, story fragments and any other random things I’m thinking about. This also clears my head and allows me to start recording from a blank slate.
- Meditation. Though I’ve studied meditation on and off for years, I am now a big fan of Headspace, an online subscription which leads me through a guided meditation every day. Andy really helps me focus and prepare to be present when I am recording. I’m very attached to Andy right now. Not very Buddhist of me, but there you have it.
- Tea. I also get very attached to the herbal tea that I sip all day while recording. For many years I drank Xiao’s Blend from Peet’s Coffee. Sadly, it was recently discontinued. Even after I sent them many emails letting them know how this was going to ruin my career. But I’m pretty happy with my current blend – I brew Tazo’s Sweet Cinnamon Spice and Wild Sweet Orange together.
- Neti Pot. Very important part of my prep. My husband strongly discouraged me from including me using my Neti pot in the video below as it’s kind of disgusting to watch. Basically you use the pot to pour a warm saline solution through your sinuses. Great for keeping things clean up in there and keeping my voice healthy! The Himalyan Institute has a great instructional video if you’re interested.
- The Warm Up. This also takes about 20 minutes, so you’re only seeing a bit of it in this video. I studied Vocal Production for at least five years in school, and then studied to teach it for another three years. Socialization and adolescence clamp down on the expressivity of our voices and it’s part of acting training to undo that. Most people only use a few notes and a limited range of emotion in their everyday interactions. (For good reason. Imagine if we all expressed every thing we felt all the time. We’d never get anything done.) But audiobook narrators obviously need our whole voice at our disposal, and it can take years of work to bring the human instrument “back in tune”. And to avoid strain, it’s important to warm it all up every day. My wonderful videographer Meg cut out a few chunks to keep this video short and sweet. What you don’t see is more stretching and humming and sighing. Note: when doing the tongue twisters, I like to have someone to actually “talk” to. Sometimes I use the trees outside. When I’m looking down in the video, I am talking to my dogs, who don’t seem to mind being used in this fashion. You might also notice that I use my left hand. I do the same when I’m recording – its really the only part of me besides my face that can really move!
Thanks to the folks at Tantor Audio, I have two download codes to give away to two lucky listeners. The winners can use their codes for any audiobook available at Tantor.com – of course I’d love it if it was one of mine… To be entered, just make a comment below. I’d love to hear if you have any rituals or “warmups” you do before you start work each day. Winners will be chosen at random. (18+ U.S. entries only, please.) Happy Audiobook Month,
Coming Soon and Recent Releases:
Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
Blissed by Jamie Farrell
Teased by Rebecca Zanetti
Fire and Rain by Diane Chamberlain
Title Wave by Lorna Barrett
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
AudioFile Magazine’s Best Voices and Speaking of Audio’s Best Romance Audio 2012, 2013 and 2014, she’s also a two-time Audie Finalist and has earned multiple Audiofile Earphones Awards and Library Journal starred reviews. She currently lives with her family in coastal NC and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.
Publishers Weekly says of Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, “Karen White delivers a stunning reading, her character interpretations are confident and well-rounded, and she forges a strong bond with the audience.”
Speaking of Audiobooks says, “Karen is one of my auto-buy narrators – if I think a book may interest me, her narration will sway me to give it a try.”
You can find Karen at
Now, go visit Kelly!!!