Everybody breathes. Breathing is more regular than eating, drinking, walking, or speaking. We breathe in and out from the moment we are born until we take our last breath. It’s puzzling then that many audiobooks are completely devoid of breaths.
During a recent conversation with author and meditation instructor Susan Piver* about the importance of breathing in her audiobook recording, she told me to “Leave in the breaths, as many as you can. I don’t want this audiobook to sound lifeless”. Being a meditation instructor, Susan knows a thing of two about the importance of breathing. The breath is often an important focal point for meditation practice.
A big part of editing an audiobook is cutting out the breaths of the narrator. That said, hearing the narrator breath in an audiobook is still an important part of the experience of the listener. Having all of the breaths edited out of the performance will make an audiobook seem unnatural and dull. Nobody wants that. But having too many breaths (or breaths at the wrong time) is hard to listen to and will make an audiobook sound unprofessional and hard to listen to. So how do we get that beautiful balance of breath?
Here are 5 tips for audiobook narrator to help improve your breathing and breaths while recording:
- Remember to breathe! – First time narrators and author/readers often forget to breathe. They will get so focused on the reading that by the time they remember to breathe it’s too late, and they are gasping for air. Remember to breathe, and try not to race through the material.
- Plan when you are going to breathe – Reading a difficult book? The best narrators plan out their breaths ahead of time. Much like singing or playing an instrument, reading demands a good amount of air in the lungs to get the right performance. Plan out your breaths, mark up the manuscript with dashes or visual cues whenever a breath is appropriate.
- Breath from the stomach – This one is tough for beginners, but a deep down stomach breath is going to sound much better to your listeners than a top heavy chest or head breath. The goal is to make your breaths sound as pleasant as possible, which means you have to bring more discipline and attention to your breathing. Natural shallow breathing will make it sound like you’re turning a vacuum cleaner on and off.
- Leave Space and Slow Down! – Make sure you leave a good amount of space between your voice and your breathing. This will help your editor tremendously in making you sound good. Do not take a huge gulp of air and start immediately reading! This will make it almost impossible for your editor to make you sound good.
- Practice out of the studio – I took the opportunity to do some reading in the booth a while back to see what it felt like to be a narrator. The first thing I noticed was how hard it was to breathe while reading. I never practiced. Take it from me, you need practice. If you are a first time reader, do yourself a favor and practice what it will be like to read aloud for a couple of hours. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.
*Susan Piver’s book “Start Here Now – An Open-Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation” is published by Shambhala Publications and is available HERE. You can find her online at SusanPiver.com.