You can create a wonderful-sounding audiobook by properly preparing your voice! Recording and narrating an audiobook, especially a long one, is an athletic event. Below is a list of steps to prepare your voice before recording and narrating an audiobook.
- Create and Practice the Audiobook Script
- Eat Foods That Help the Vocal Cords
- Stay Hydrated Before and During Narration
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before Recording
- Pamper the Voice on the Day of Narration
- Do Voice Warm-Ups Before Recording
- Bring Water, Lip Moisturizer, and Small Snacks During Narration
Below is more information on exactly how to create and practice with audiobook scripts, which foods help and hurt your vocal cords, the importance of a good night’s sleep, and much more.
Create and Practice the Audiobook Script
A few days or weeks before you begin narrating, create your audiobook script. I have written an article “How Do You Write An Audiobook Script” that includes more in depth information about creating production notes, 3 methods to markup a script, and types of annotation marks you can use to efficiently add notes to your script.
Once your script is created, you need to practice. Read your script out loud, annotating the script as needed. Every professional narrator has a different way of going about this. With time, you will settle into a routine that really works for you.
If you are the author of the book, this step will be very straightforward. You have created the work, and you’re already familiar with the characters and their backstories. However, I still recommend that you do the following steps:
- Either print a copy of the book or get an electronic copy that you can edit. Annotate instructions that will help you as a narrator.
- For a fiction book, add annotations that will remind you how each character sounds. Include notes on accents or unusual voices.
- Add annotations that provide directions for yourself. An example sentence might be, “ ‘Don’t leave without me,’ Jane whispered.” However, when you start reading the beginning of the sentence, you’ll need to know that Jane is whispering. Leave yourself clues so that you can change your voice as needed.
- For a nonfiction book, you might need to make small changes to the text. For example, a sentence might say, “Looking at Table 12 below you will notice…” However, your audiobook listener won’t be looking at the book. Therefore, it would be a better listening experience to hear, “Look for Table 12 in the audiobook companion materials. Notice that …”
I don’t know how long it will take you to go through an entire book and make notes for the narration. That’s why I recommend starting this step anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before narrating. It completely depends on how comfortable you are with markups and the length of the book.
Eat Foods that Help the Vocal Cords
A week before narrating, include foods that will help your vocal cords. Below, you’ll find a list of foods that help your vocal cords and list of foods that hurt them. Why should you do these recommendations, a week before recording? If you normally ingest the foods in the “harmful” category, you might need a week to get used to cutting them out of your diet before you start the reading.
An example might be caffeine. I personally always start the day with 2 cups of coffee. If you wait until the day of recording to cut out the caffeine, you’ll have to do the reading with a caffeine headache. So, it’s better to cut the foods that will harm your vocal cords in advance so that your body has time to adjust.
Another reason for starting a week or several days ahead of time is to get into a routine for narrating. Depending on the size of your book, you might need several days or weeks to record the book. So, it’s better if you’re in the routine of not eating cheese, not drinking coffee, and not drinking alcohol.
Let’s start off by listing the foods that are safe to eat. Please keep in mind that this list assumes that you don’t have a digestive issue that would make it difficult to digest some of the foods in this table.
- Fresh Fruits
- Meat (chicken, fish, pork, beef, seafood)
Which foods are harmful to your vocal cords? The following list includes the foods that you should skip while you are preparing to narrate your book.
- Any sort of dairy (i.e. milk, yogurt, cheese, or butter). This type of food causes mucus that will interfere with your vocal cords.
- Processed sugar (i.e. chocolate, etc.) These foods are mucus forming
- Caffeine. It dehydrates you which is harder on your body because you will lose additional moisture through your mouth when you narrate.
- Alcohol. It dehydrates your body.
- Any foods that upset your stomach or cause heartburn. Heartburn may interfere with your vocal cords. It could cause your voice to be hoarse in the mornings and may lead to excessive coughing.
Also, during this week and during the time you are recording, don’t introduce any new foods. For example, sometimes herbal tea is recommended because it helps your vocal cords. There’s nothing wrong with drinking tea except if it’s going to upset your stomach. These are things you need to test 1 to 2 weeks before you start recording to make sure they don’t cause digestive issues.
Stay Hydrated Before and During Narration
A week before narrating, drink plenty of water. I gave this topic its own section because it’s so extremely important. Water is very good for your vocal cords, and it’s very good for your health.
Plenty of water depends a bit on how large you are. The recommendation is 8 to 10 cups of water per day but that’s usually for an average adult male. If you are a small person, maybe you need a 6 to 8 glasses of water. You can experiment.
However, I do think that once you start narrating, you’ll find that you need to drink more water and more frequently.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before Recording
The night before narration, get a good night’s sleep. Your voice is more prone to injury if you try to use it while you are tired according to Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Assoc. P.A. (CEENTA). It’s not just the limited amount of sleep, but the poor quality of the sleep that affects your vocal cords. If you are not able to get a good night’s sleep, please discuss this with your doctor.
When you get a good night’s sleep, you’ll awaken feeling refreshed with lots of energy and ready to start the day.
Pamper the Voice on the Day of Narration
The morning of your recording, take it easy on yourself. You’re going to start the first leg of the marathon — narrating your book. It could take a few days to a month depending on the length of the book.
Your first step is to pamper your voice. If you’re in a cold area keep a scarf around your neck. Don’t go to any loud places where you may need to raise your voice. You really don’t want to put any additional strain on your voice, so just take everything easy.
The second step is to make sure you wear soft comfortable clothing. These are the reasons:
- Your clothing won’t rustle and make noise as you move during your recording session.
- You won’t be distracted as you narrate if you wear comfortable clothing.
The third step is to eat lightly. You’re getting ready for an athletic event, and it’s important to eat. But, it’s very important that you don’t over eat. You need to have plenty of room for your lungs to expand as you inhale to start a new sentence.
Do Voice Warm-Ups Before Recording
One hour before narration, do voice warm-ups. This is a topic that could be expanded to an entire book, but I will present a condensed version here. You might be surprised to know that if you’re just going to narrate a book (instead of sing), you need to warm up your vocal cords.
This step is extremely important because it will help protect your vocal cords and extend the amount of time that you can narrate each day. There are 3 main parts to warming up your voice.
Part 1: Stretch your upper body
Your neck, shoulders, chest, diaphragm, and back all support your ability to narrate your book effectively. These light stretches are an important step to preparing your body for narration.
You’ll want to do these stretches standing up. I want to mention that all the stretches are slow and gentle. If you are experiencing pain or dizziness, then you’re stretching too much. Stop and rest. If the pain or dizziness persists, go and see your doctor.
- First, stretch your neck by turning your head slowly to your right. Go as far as you can without causing pain. Then, turn your head to your left as far as you can without causing pain. Finally, bend your head forward and try to drop your chin to your chest. Just go as far as you can without causing any pain.
- Repeat the neck stretch 5 times slowly and gently.
- Roll both shoulders slowly and gently forward 5 times.
- Roll both shoulders slowly and gently backward 5 times.
- Take a deep breath and then gently bend forward while exhaling. Go as far as you can without pain or dizziness. Then slowly straighten back up.
- Inhale and then lean to your right while you exhale. Go as far as you can without pain or dizziness. Then straighten backup.
- Take another deep breath and then exhale as you lean to your left. Go as far as you can without pain or dizziness. Then straighten back up.
- Repeat bending 5 times.
Part 2: Yawn
I know this sounds strange, however yawning relaxes your vocal cords, which helps prepare you for the athletic workout that is narration. Morgan Freeman says it’s the secret to his narration and acting success. This is from an article in the National Post.
You might even want to yawn a few times during your breaks after you start narrating. Relaxing your vocal cords helps keep your voice consistent.
Part 3: Practice exaggerated letter enunciation
Practice enunciating consonant sounds like “D,” “P,” “T,” and so on. Next practice enunciating vowel sounds like “A,” “E,” “I,” and so on. Then practice putting together consonants and sounds like “ABAD.”
If you would like a routine to follow, I found this fantastic YouTube video featuring Gary Terzza who has years of experience coaching voice over students. Vocal Warm Ups for Voice Over gets your mouth and tongue ready for a great sounding recording.
Part 4: Practice tongue twisters
Practicing tongue twisters also gets your mouth and facial muscles moving. For example:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked,
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
If you would like more exercises, I found this great book on Amazon written by Rodney Saulsberry who is a vocal coach with many years of experience. “Tongue Twisters and Vocal Warm-Ups” prepares you for narration with fun and challenging tongue twisters and it teaches you how to eliminate mouth clicks, plosive words and more.
Bring Water, Lip Moisturizer, and Small Snacks During Narration
When you start recording, your goal is to be as comfortable as possible. It’s probably obvious why you need water. As you speak, you lose a lot of moisture as you exhale and when words flow out of your mouth. So, sip water frequently and during breaks.
The second thing you’ll need is lip moisturizer. Again, your body is losing a lot of moisture just by talking. That means your lips can become dry and cracked. Keep your lips moisturized so that you can remain comfortable as you narrate.
The final item I recommend is small snacks during breaks. What makes a small snack depends on you and what you can easily digest. You may try small amounts of fruit or vegetables. Experiment before you start narrating to see what works well for you while you are narrating.
You’ve now gone through the steps that I recommend for preparing your voice for recording. What is your routine to prepare for narration? Please let me know in the comments below.