Getting Started in Narration
and Audio Books

by Penny Abshire

Cathy writes:
I'm serious about pursuing voice acting but I notice most of the Internet sights (sic.) about voice acting focus on cartoons/animation. I'm really interested in Narration- industrial, audio books, etc.Is this area as competitive as animation? I'm signed up to study at VoiceTrax in San Francisco with Samantha Paris and know that it will take time to study and practice. Iwould appreciate any input you can give me on this... (Is James Earl Jones the only guy that gets narration jobs?)

Here's Penny's answer:

You're right when you say it will take time and practice.In fact, LOTS of time and LOTS of practice.Like anything else you may try in your life, if you want to be really good you have to be willing to devote the time, sweat and tears it takes to get there.Being patient (and never giving up) while this happens is vital. I applaud you for accepting and appreciating this - and good for you for studying with Samantha.I don't know her personally, but I do know she has a fine reputation as a teacher.

For the most part, I find that industrial narrations and audio books are far less competitive than animation. But then, even commercial work (radio and TV) are a bit less competitive than animation. Generally speaking animation is a highly competitive and extremely hard field to break into unless you are willing to live in L.A. AND you are an exceptional character actor!

A majority of my narration work involves reading medical and technical scripts. My best advice (if this is what you want to do) is to study some Latin and become very familiar with the way medical words are formed. This comes in handy if you are reading a script that will be heard by doctors or nurses. You must deliver the words as if they are part of your everyday vocabulary. You can't be stumbling over words or they'll know immediately your aren't "one of them" and you lose your credibility. The same is true of technical scripts. Your reading abilities are paramount when doing narration work. Also important is excellent breath control, and clarity of speech.

I have also done narrations which are more along the line of something you'd hear James Earl Jones do - those being narratives on the Discovery Channel or History Channel. I don't pretend to be of the same caliber as Mr. Jones, but the techniques I use and the techniques he uses are very similar.First, you become the character (which is incredibly important), then you tell the story.You never just read the words!

One of the best instructors I have ever had in the field of audio books and animation is Pat Fraley.Pat is a very successful voice actor in L.A. and also a great teacher. He has had a long career in L.A. animation and also produces and performs for audio books.I've learned so much from him over the years!Pat, and his partner, Hillary Huber, take his workshops "on the road".You can check his schedule at noticed on his site that he does have a few workshops scheduled for Sausalito in the near future.I don't see a date for his audio book workshop, but he may have that scheduled in the not to distant future.You can contact him through his website and ask him about that. Just tell him Jim and Penny say "hi".

I hope I've given you a brief look into the world of narration.If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to write.

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