Audiobook Narration with Ilyana Kadushin

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    Want to narrate audiobooks? Award-winning narrator, Ilyana Kadushin shares insights and tips on audiobook narration, specifically for the genre of Children’s Fantasy. Hear male and female narrators read excerpts from George MacDonald’s classic, The Princess and the Goblin. Along the way, you’ll learn about the importance of connecting to a genre as a narrator, what the role of a narrator can be and how to most effectively use your voice to connect with the text and your audience.

    About Ilyana Kadushin

    Ilyana has taught at New York University, The New School, Heidi Marshall Studio and privately. Ilyana’s career as a voice performer includes: numerous national commercials, being the promo voice of Nick Jr. Television and performances in video games, animation and awards for her narrations of audio books. You can enjoy more of Ilyana’s musings on her podcast NO, I KNOW with artist interviews and concerts with her husband and composer James Harrell, available on iTunes and Spotify.

    Her website: www.ilyanakadushin.com

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, Julianna Lantz, with special guest, Ilyana Kadushin.

    Inspired? Get your practice on with Voice Over Sample Scripts, including the one featured in this episode:

    https://www.voices.com/blog/category/tools-and-resources/sample-scripts/

    Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and Engineered by Shelley Bulmer; Scripting by Niki Clark; Chantelle Henriques and Keaton Robbins.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, hi there. Welcome to Mission Audition. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And I’m Julianna Lantz.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Today we’re going to be talking about audiobook narration. We have a wonderful special guest with us. It is Ilyana Kadushin. She’s a narrator. She’s done a lot of work that you’ve probably heard. We’re just so grateful that you’re here with us today. Ilyana, welcome to the show.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I was doing acting in theater and film and TV and also in music in New York, but I started a voiceover career doing commercials and promos and all sorts of various types of voice performance. I remember the first day that I heard The Alchemist read by Jeremy Irons, and I just suddenly became aware of this whole other arena and universe of voice performing, which was audiobook narration. I said to my agent, “That is something I think I would really like to do. I love telling stories, and I love this idea of playing all the characters and points of view. What is this?” This is the part of the story that people can’t quite believe, but my first audition was for The Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer’s first of the four series, Twilight. Went in and auditioned and booked it. That was my first job which led to doing the whole series, which changed not only my live personally but as an actor and voice performer because it became globally known. It definitely made me fall in love with telling these stories through audiobooks.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow, what a great first credential to have under your belt, eh?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    It’s a pretty unusual entrance, I will admit.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It would be a really high profile, one at that too. As we go through the show, I just want to set us up to understand that there’s not just one winner in this episode. There are two. We’re going to be hearing from male and female narrators. They’ll be reading two different excerpts from the same book. The book is The Princess and the Goblin. It is by George MacDonald. We’re looking at a book that comes from the late 1800s. The author was Scottish. There’s a bit of that air to it. So as we’re listening, I think we’re in for a treat. There might even be some accents if I’m not-

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, there are some good ones.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Children’s fantasy is the genre of this book. That’s a specific genre. Every genre of audiobooks asks for something different from the narrator. So there’s a lot of things that fall under children’s books. There’s more realistic children’s books. There’s fantasy. There’s teaching lessons and education. So there’s so many nuances of genre. What I hope to help unearth today is just what this genre specifically asks of the narrators.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, I’m excited, very excited to hear these auditions.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Just to give you guys an idea of what we’re doing for the creative direction, you should take on the style of a narrator and read it in an enticing and entertaining way to captivate a young audience. It should be read in a whimsical way also, and you should differentiate a character’s voice from that of the narrator. So look for that. The author of the book was Scottish, so we are open to hearing any talent who speaks English regardless of accent. All right, let’s role the first audition.

    Male – Audition 1:
    Perhaps my readers may be wondering what the goblins could be about, working all night long, seeing they never carried up the ore and sold it. That’s what I have informed them concerning what Curdie learned the very next night, they will be able to understand. For Curdie had determined, if his father would permit him, to remain there alone this night, and that for two reasons.

    Male – Audition 1:
    First, he wanted to get extra wages in order that he might buy a very warm red petticoat for his mother, who had begun to complain of the cold of the mountain air sooner than usual this autumn. And second, he had just a faint glimmering hope of finding out what the goblins were about under his window the night before. When he told his father, he made no objection, for he had great confidence in his boy’s courage and resources. “I’m sorry I can’t stay with you,” said Peter, “but I want to go and pay the parson a visit this evening, and besides I’ve had a bit of a headache all day.” “Well, I’m sorry for that father,” said Curdie. “Oh, it’s not much. You’ll be able to take care of yourself, won’t you?” “Yes, father, I will. I’ll keep a sharp lookout. I promise you.”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, what do we think? Ilyana, you’re up first.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I just thought I would tell a little bit of the frame which I’m going to be listening to people’s narration today just so people understand how I’m responding, that I’m listening to their overall approach to the narration, their distinction and agility with creating characters and being in dialogue with them, and then just their overall appropriateness of their voice and style for this genre. That’s what I was listening to. This narrator has a lovely voice, I mean, a beautiful, rich, bassy voice which does seem very appropriate for the genre. I did feel that, in the overall narration, there was a choppiness in the pacing. Not knowing this narrator very well, I don’t know if it’s a technical issue, meaning lack of breath support that made their read a little choppy and maybe too many breaths or that they just didn’t have enough inflection or smoothness to that overall narration.

    Julianna Lantz:
    When you’re talking about breath support, what does that look like for someone who’s performing?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Audiobook narration is a marathon as opposed to a sprint, so with marathons, your breath has to really sustain. It has to allow you to not do a lot of choppiness, let’s say, on a line or an idea or an interaction. You just have to have more sustain than you would in commercial copy. So I just felt that overall the narration just needed some more support and a little bit more inflection. When he got into the characters, there was some change in the voice, but I did feel it could have been a little bit more distinct.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, I had a hard time knowing which was one the character and which one was the narrator.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yeah, I think that overall this narrator could have benefited from letting the genre guide him a little bit more. More specificity of the child fantasy genre would have brought his voice maybe into a different place. Again, a lovely bassy voice that could be very appropriate for this kind of book, but it just needed some more technique.

    Julianna Lantz:
    One of the best pieces of Facebook that talent gave us is they love to hear examples. So when you’re thinking like, “I would like it to sound less choppy,” could you give us an example of what you would like it to sound like?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Well, in the overall narration, you have to remember, I think sometimes people think narration is throwaway and that when they get to the characters that’s when they really give that timing and pacing and everything. Narration line after line happens sometimes with exposition, sometimes building suspense. You have to be just as in command of your tempo and your breath, and it creates… Every narrator’s going to do that slightly differently, but that sustain and that control makes you feel like they are in control of their voice. This just felt a little maybe too pedestrian. It needed some polish and more distinction of character. Every narrator is going to bring something different to the same story. There’s not one way of doing this, but there are ways and techniques that make narrators more engaging than others.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I guess my next question then, Ilyana, is when you’re narrating an audiobook, how do you differentiate the characters from the narrator? How do you make that switch in your brain?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Again, this is when genre and the style of book is very impactful in that kind of decision between the narrator and your director, if you also have one of those. Sometimes the narrator and the characters in more contemporary, modern fiction will be not so far apart, but when you’re in more stylized or fantasy or other things, there can sometimes be larger distinctions. But overall whatever is being asked of you, you’re going to make a technical shift in your voice. Meaning, you might pitch it to a different register. You might change the pacing, the way that character or that narrator speaks versus the character in the scene. Their point of view and their attitude and their emotions are different. The narrator may just be this omniscient god-like voice that’s telling the story, and then you get into a conversation between a mother and a daughter or two friends. So there has to be enough of a distinction that the audience knows but nothing too distracting based on the genre and what’s being asked. So it should be kind of fitting in the pocket of the book.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, those are great insights. I think it’s time to listen to our second audition.

    Male – Audition 2:
    Perhaps my readers may be wondering what the goblins could be about, working all night long, seeing they never carried up the ore and sold it. But when I have informed them concerning what Curdie learned the very next night, they will be able to understand. For Curdie had determined, if his father would permit him, to remain there alone this night, and for two reasons.

    Male – Audition 2:
    First, he wanted to get extra wages in order that he might buy a very warm red petticoat for his mother, who had begun to complain of the cold of the mountain air sooner than usual this autumn. And second, he had just a faint glimmering hope of finding out what the goblins were about under his window the night before. When he told his father, he made no objection, for he had great confidence in his boy’s courage and resources. “I’m sorry to say I can’t stay with you,” said Peter, “but I want to go and pay the parson a visit this evening, and besides I’ve had a bit of a headache all day.” “I’m sorry for that father,” said Curdie. “Oh, it’s not much. You’ll be sure to take care of yourself, won’t you?” “Yes, father, I will. I’ll keep a sharp lookout. I promise you.”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. I loved the separation of the narrator’s voice from the two characters there, Curdie and his father. Well, the accent. The accent always gets me.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah. That’s a good one.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Because that’s a technique, too, I’m sure that you know very well, Ilyana, is to separate between the characters. What do you think?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Overall, yes, the accent was incredibly charming and nicely consistent. But I also actually liked the timbre of his voice, the timbre, however you pronounce that actually. It was both bassy, but he had texture in his voice. So it wasn’t just general baritoneness. It had a texture in the throat. It was just an interesting voice to listen to.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I found the narration very inviting. It invited me in to listen. It drew me in, and it was playful with the material. That’s when a narrator and a genre get into a marriage with each other, when that narrator really lets themselves be enveloped by that genre. So there was a lot of playfulness. I thought the pacing was nice in this read. Nice distinction in his characters, like the ages of the characters. You knew if someone was older, if they were younger, what the attitude of that character was. I think just overall a very appropriate voice for this genre.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I would say just be careful with accents. You still have to have a command of your diction. The challenge is just that sometimes an accent can make certain words be less crisp. So I would say if there was any critique for this narrator of just really make sure that the diction is also there but great inflection and emphasis that left me very engaged.

    Julianna Lantz:
    In the just the direction, it says, “Read it in an enticing and entertaining way to captivate a young audience.” I genuinely felt like I was sitting beside my grandpa as he’s reading me a bedtime story listening to that. I could have just for hours just sat there.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Ideally, the voice should draw the ear of the listener. That is something you teach, but it’s also something that’s very innate. This is not just for audiobooks, this is for actors in theater and film because this is acting. Audiobook narration is acting like any other kind of acting. Some actors just really have a command of their voice and know how to draw the ear to them and what they’re saying. Other people just have to get more practice at it. People always say, “How do I know if I can do this?” I was like, “Um, go read to-“

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    You try.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I said also, “Go read to the blind-

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, yeah.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    … and at senior centers.” I was like, “If you can’t do that, you can’t do this.”

    Julianna Lantz:
    Oh, that’s such a great idea. You give back and you get to know yourself a little bit better.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    And they want it. Children, seniors, the blind and disabilities, they love being read to, so it’s a good thing to test out your comfort level. If you walk away from that and go, “Oh, no. I can’t do that. That was uncomfortable.” Or, “I loved that. I want to do more.”

    Julianna Lantz:
    Talk about an honest litmus test that if you can keep a child’s attention as you’re reading to them, you can probably do audiobook.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the big actor’s union. They send actors into the schools. So I, years ago, read at preschools through this… They call it the Screen Actors Guild BookPALS program. So I went in and read books, and these children were like little jumping beans. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to have to really pull out all the stops.” I read to them and created all these crazy characters. I was like, yeah, if I could keep their attention, we were good.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, definitely. Ah, that’s adorable.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, well done. I don’t know who that was, but it was quite well done. We have our third auditioner here.

    Male – Audition 3:
    Perhaps my readers may be wondering what the goblins could be about, working all night long, seeing they never carried up the ore and sold it. But when I have informed them concerning what Curdie learned the very next night, they would be able to understand. For Curdie had determined, if his father would permit him, to remain there alone this night, and that for two reasons.

    Male – Audition 3:
    First, he wanted to gain extra wages in order that he might buy a very warm red petticoat for his mother, who had begun to complain of the cold of the mountain air sooner than usual this autumn. And second, he had just a faint glimmering hope of finding out what the goblins were about under his window the night before. When he told his father, he made no objection, for he had great confidence in the boy’s courage and resources. “I’m sorry I can’t stay with you,” said Peter, “but I wanted to go and pay the parson a visit this evening, and besides I’ve had a bit of a headache all day.” “I’m sorry about that father,” said Curdie. “Oh, it’s not much. You’ll be sure to take care of yourself, won’t you?” “Oh, yes, father, I will. I’ll keep a sharp lookout. I promise you.”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So different than the last one.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    A classic example of people bringing different things to the table. This is obviously a very youthful sounding voice. A youthful male voice brought a higher pacing, more youthful energy to the read. I guess in his overall narration, I found that the youthfulness and the energy was nice. It was a different way of doing it, and it was nice. I guess maybe at times there was a little bit too much neutrality, and I wanted a little bit more of a point of view of the narrator. Now, a narrator can sometimes be very matter of fact, or sometimes a narrator is the voice of a character in their head. Narrators are many things. But I think in children’s fantasy, like this is, this narrator still needs to have… Even though it can sound omniscient and it’s giving you the overall plot and action, I just felt like maybe he could have been more playful, a little bit more engaged. But he had a nice youthful energy.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    He did a nice job with the son. I liked his son because he has that nice youthful energy. The father, I heard him starting to find the father in his voice, and I think he just needed to perhaps discover: “Where is that mature sound in me?” Everyone’s mature sound is going to be different. Everyone’s youthful sound is going to be different. So for some actors, it’s just a matter of they need to do a little bit of that work of, “If I am going to play a mature character, how does that sound?” Because we don’t want a stereotype of older. That character, that father has a point of view and an attitude, so you need to play how he’s feeling, not a stereotype of an older person. That’s something to think about. But overall I could see this narrator being good for maybe a young adult series, maybe a more modern children’s book. I’m not sure about a classic children’s book for this particular narrator. Again, there’s a lot of different approaches you could have.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Something that struck me as you spoke was about the point of view and how a narrator can have one. Sometimes we get the impression that the narrator is supposed to be so removed from what’s going on that they have no opinion or that they aren’t biased. I’m just wondering if you can share with us what that actually means for a narrator to have a point of view, and where that point of view does not cross over into bias.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Well, I’ll start by giving the example of in a book, in a specific genre where there can be narrators that are just giving you exposition: “The vase was on the table. It was a dark, cold night. He drove up in his car.” They’re giving you exposition. They’re just telling you the unfolding action, setting the scene. In that case, a sense of just a clear, neutral voice that’s in the style of the book is fine. There doesn’t need to be emotion and a point of view.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Then, as I mentioned, you might have a book where the narrator is the inner mind of, let’s say, the lead character. Let’s say that we’re reading a book about a woman named Karen and her life story and her relationships with men. Then the narrator is like her inner thoughts, and then you hear her in dialogue with people. The inner thoughts, as a narrator, you can’t play matter of fact. It’s inside her head, and you’re hearing her thoughts, so you have to connect with that character emotionally. Again, it’s asking yourself what the genre and the story is asking of you, and then making those adjustments: Is it just exposition, or do I need to have emotional input of this point of view of what I’m saying? Is that distinction clear?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah. This might sound like a strange question, but do you read the book before you voice it?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Absolutely. Depending on the book, you want to have at least one full pass of the book where I will go through and mark down what the whole course of action is, what’s happening during this book, who are the players and the characters. I make my decisions: What is my overall narration going to be? It’s the time if I need to do research on what things mean or pronunciations of words. So there’s a lot of prep that goes in. Then there’s a lot of improvisation. You do your preparation. Then when you get on the mike, there’s going to be a certain amount of improv. So the more prep you do, then you can relax on the mike in the moment in the studio recording because you go, “Well, I know what I’m going to do with my narrator, and I know who the characters are. Now what comes out of my mouth, I can let go a little bit and be in the moment of telling the story that this author has written.”

    Julianna Lantz:
    Like, if you were Karen’s inside voice, you know that she can be a little bit sassy or something like that.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yes. Who is this person? Are they a defeated person? Are they angry? Are they on top of the world? Just like you would prepare a character for a play or a film, you need to know who they are and what’s their point of view because then the voice needs to convey that tone. If it’s too just generic and matter of fact, the audience… I do agree that we need to also let the audience project on to what they’re hearing, so it can’t be too heavy-handed, but you have to put something in.

    Julianna Lantz:
    That’s good.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    It’s just about finding the right scales.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    What you said about improvisation is quite interesting, too. I know that in certain applications of voiceover, improvisation could be interpreted as, “I changed the words on the writer.” That’s more of an ad lib or changing things around. But in audiobook world, in narration land, obviously you’re reading something that someone has written, and it’s a book. They have the author’s intent, and it goes a certain way. There aren’t as many liberties, I would say, for someone to change things so far as what they are saying. But do you mean that it’s how you’re expressing those thoughts?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yeah, so good clarification. When I say improvisation, I mean do not change words. What I mean is how you’re going to say them, what you’re going to imbue those words, and how the character’s going to come out of you. To use The Twilight Saga as an example because that was my first series and those were so many characters: men, women, young, old, creatures. I got to play so many things. I didn’t change Stephenie Meyer’s words. The way that I express this is let’s say you have three painters that are all looking at the same sunset, and they’re all going to paint and render that sunset image in their own way. That is what a narrator is doing. They are taking the intent and the language of that author, and they are rendering it through their voice, so it’s going to have their style. That’s why some narrators work for some people and for some books and some don’t. It’s about that marriage of voice and material, voice and author.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    On that note, and I don’t mean to keep going on and on, but the idea that your voice could better suited for a particular genre, is it just experimentation? Is there a way to find this out? Does a coach tell you?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    When I work with my clients, that’s part of figuring it out: Your natural voice, where is it suited, for what genre? Because like any kind of acting, actors want to do everything. But when you want to walk through the door of any business, you need to find a foothold. You need to find a niche. For me, because my entrance was young adult, for a long time I did tons of young adult books because I had an adult voice that sounded youthful. I had an ability to be childlike and to be mature. So people heard that and said, “Ah, you’d be very good for young adult or children’s books.”

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Then as my voice kept maturing and changing, because I’ve been doing books since 2005, as my voice began to change, people would call me for different types of genres, and publishers or directors or casting kind of test me out and go, “Oh, well, she can also do sci-fi, and she can also do mystery. She can do romance, and she could do female-oriented fiction. It’s going to take time. So maybe it’s about finding what genre you can enter the business in, and it should be something that makes perfect sense. When you open your mouth, they go, “Ah, yes. This is a person that can do children’s books, or this is a person that can do romance,” or whatever it is. When it’s too big of a stretch, they’re going to hear you struggling, and they’re not going to hear the story.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Those are all wonderful styles of narration, and people who put themselves out there, really grateful to everyone who auditioned for this job, by the way. As we know, and as we always know, there can only be one winner. So for our male narrators, Ilyana, who are you going to bestow this wonderful honor upon?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Well, I have chosen the narrator that I just felt was the most playful with this material and, again, had that voice for this particular genre. That was narrator number two.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Oh, the Scottish one, wonderful.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yeah. I felt just very engaged, and I was along for the ride with him.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    He did a wonderful, wonderful job.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Agreed.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Congratulations to narrator number two. Now we’re going to move on to our female narrators. Very exciting. Let’s roll the first one.

    Female – Audition 1:
    The princess and her nurse were the best of friends all dressing-time, and the princess in consequence ate an enormous little breakfast. “I wonder, Lootie,” that was her pet name for her nurse, “what pigeons’ eggs taste like?” she said as she was eating her egg, not quite a common one, for they always picked out the pinky ones for her. “We’ll get you a pigeon’s egg, and you shall judge for yourself,” said the nurse. “Oh, no, no!” returned Irene, suddenly reflecting they might disturb the old lady in getting it and that even if they did not, she would have one less in consequence.

    Female – Audition 1:
    “What a strange creature you are,” said the nurse, “first to want a thing and then to refuse it.” But she did not say it crossly, and the princess never minded any remarks that were not unfriendly. “Well, you see, Lootie, there are reasons,” she returned and said no more, for she did not want to bring up the subject of their former strife lest her nurse should offer to go before she’d had her grandmother’s permission to bring her. Of course, she could refuse to take her, but then she would believe her less than ever.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I find this voice incredibly charming. I like the maturity, the natural maturity and wisdom she has in her voice. She was very enthusiastic about the material. I have to say her natural voice was very charming to me. It drew me in.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    In terms of her approach to the narration, there were some technical issues. Again, I don’t know her. I haven’t worked with her in her voice. But I felt that there was something a little in the diction that was making it a bit unclear. There was something that at times the words felt garbled to me so we had to work a bit more on annunciation of our narrator. I don’t know if that was simply the way her mouth was impacting against the microphone. Sometimes that can just have a very slappy, mumbly sound for some people. I don’t know if that was a pacing or a breath issue, but that needed some technical work.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    She had great enthusiasm in the dialogue and the character dialogue. I think her choices had a nice energy, but her characters could have been more distinct. In fact, I think she was on her way to having a really interesting voice for the nurse. That really made quite good sense. But the reality is is that, as narrators, we’re never just playing one character unless they’re doing a multicast, and that’s a whole other topic. I’ve done several multicasts where I’m just playing one role, and multiple actors, where you’re just responsible for one thing. But typically, it’s a sole narration. So this actress had a nice thing going for the nurse but maybe needed more distinction for the child. Overall, her mature sound is nice and her enthusiasm. She choose not to do an accent, which is fine, but I just think there was some technical clarity issues. There were just times when I lost the crispness of words.

    Julianna Lantz:
    You know how we always talk about putting yourself in the mind of the character, and I felt like she felt like she was reading to a kid. You know how you make pauses and you’re a little bit more extra. I got that feel from her from time to time. It’s like she was so close to getting all of those things right.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Again, like a sweetness that a children’s and a children’s fantasy would need. It just needed some technical polish, and we needed to look at her instrument a bit because I’m not sure if there was something going on with her tongue placement or something that was creating an extra shushing sound in her diction.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And diction’s very important. If someone wanted to improve upon how they’re speaking, what can do they do right now to make a first step?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    It’s always a marriage of awareness and practice. If you’re not aware that you’re not having issue with your diction, nothing will change. Okay, so now I’m aware. Now what? Now I have to practice. There is such a thing of too much diction and too punchy, too much force, and then there’s where it’s not enough. So recording yourself and using recording tools as a mirror could be really helpful. Okay, I’m going to read this passage that we just heard. Maybe I’ll try to see if I crank my diction, when is it too much? Then just listening back and saying, “How is it? How am I doing?” So recording can be a helpful tool.

    Julianna Lantz:
    A little AB testing of yourself.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Get the better traction.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    That goes for diction. That goes for creation of characters. That goes for seeing how your pacing is. You could just do little tests depending on how much time you have to prepare for something. It’s very interesting what people think they sound like versus what they do. They think, “Oh, I talk really slow,” and they happen to be a fast talker. “Oh, I think my voice is really high,” but my voice is really low. Our own interpretation of our voice sometimes for some people is way off.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So the playback is really important.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I’ve heard you say a couple times now, Ilyana, that someone was in the midst of finding a voice for a character, you heard it unfolding, as it were, in their narration. How can someone find that voice and get to where they know it is going to be the voice? Then how do they make sure that they can remember that voice and they can replicate it every time?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Great question. I teach at NYU as well. I teach a voice and public speaking class, and I spend a lot of time with my students there talking about how to make things repeatable. Now, this goes for doing a character in a Broadway play or a film. You practice something, and then you have to have the chops to be specific enough to repeat what you’ve created. Let’s say with this actress, she was creating that nurse, maybe at home preparing. It’s really about tuning your own ear, like a musician, knowing the notes. So if I’m playing the nurse, let’s say she’s doing her down in her chest, so she’s making her sound more mature. Then she’s making her sound bothered and disgruntled and all that sort of stuff. So she’s got to hear what she’s doing, make note: “Okay, it’s in my chest. She’s disgruntled. She talks not too fast.”

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    You’re making choices. Your ear is going to make you remember it. That just takes practice. That just takes a career. Over your career you get better at that. I’ve interviewed narrators on my podcast and just in life, and they all say that it just took time. Like a muscle you build at the gym, it takes time to know how to do great commercial voiceover. It takes time to learn how to do good audiobook narration.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’ll definitely set a few light bulbs off. I can already see people writing down these notes and trying to create an archive, if you will, of all these voices and the muscle memory that goes along with them. So thanks for that.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Let’s listen to audition number two.

    Female – Audition 2:
    The princess and her nurse were the best of friends all dressing-time, and the princess in consequence ate an enormous little breakfast. “I wonder, Lootie,” that was her pet name for her nurse, “what pigeons’ eggs taste like?” she said as she was eating her egg, not quite a common one, for they always picked out the pinky ones for her. “We’ll get you a pigeon’s egg, and you shall judge for yourself,” said the nurse. “Oh, no, no!” returned Irene, suddenly reflecting they might disturb the old lady in getting it and that even if they did not, she would have one less in consequence.

    Female – Audition 2:
    “What a strange creature you are,” said the nurse, “first to want a thing and then to refuse it.” But she did not say it crossly, and the princess never minded any remarks that were not unfriendly. “Well, you see, Lootie, there are reasons,” she returned and said no more, for she did not want to bring up the subject of their former strife lest her nurse should offer to go before she’d had her grandmother’s permission to bring her. Of course, she could refuse to take her, but then she would believe her less than ever.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    So for this narrator it was really interesting because I felt her come to life on the characters. I found her voice on the narration that maybe she felt as if she had to be a certain way as the narrator. It was very pleasant sounding, very smooth, but at times the narrator felt a little on autopilot to me. I was missing just a little bit more engagement with the words that the narrator was saying.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    But when she was creating the characters, I felt her engaged with the material. They were more distinct choices. She went the route of making her characters even more animated sounding than, let’s say, the last. She had that lovely childlike quality in her voice for the young child, which is Irene, I believe, is the character. Overall, her youthfulness and her voice is very nice for this genre, very appropriate for the genre. I just think that her approach to the narrator could have been a little bit more I want to say natural because there’s something that just felt slightly robotic to me about it where I just felt she could have loosened it up a little bit and had even more fun with what the narrator was saying.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Is the assumption that the narrator has to be a certain way?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That they have to be this is the box that you fit in. But that’s not how it is as you described before.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I would love for people to walk away with that because I think people give emphasis to characters because that’s very clear. Oh, I’m playing a child. I’m playing an old woman. With the narrator, it feels like it has to be some sort of generic position that’s very formal or very smooth or very matter of fact. Now, that may be the case for a particular genre. But when you just go on autopilot with that, you may be missing some opportunity. The narrator is setting up the scene that you’re about to hear the character’s dialogue. So if a narrator does their job right, the narration will make the dialogue between the characters even more riveting with what they’ve just said. So it’s a setting up. It’s building a foundation that the rooms of the house will be on, which are the characters.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I never would have thought that the narrator needed its own character or its own point of view until you mentioned it. I love that tip.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think we’ve got… is it just one more audition?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Just one more. So here we go.

    Female – Audition 3:
    The princess and her nurse were the best of friends all dressing-time, and the princess in consequence ate an enormous little breakfast. “I wonder, Lootie,” that was her pet name for her nurse, “what pigeons’ eggs taste like?” She said this as she was eating her egg, not quite a common one, for they always picked out the pinky ones for her. “We’ll get you a pigeon’s egg, and you shall be the judge yourself,” said the nurse. “Oh, no, no!” returned Irene, suddenly reflecting they might disturb the old lady in getting it and that even if they did not, she would have one less in consequence.

    Female – Audition 3:
    “What a strange creature you are,” said the nurse, “first to want a thing and then refuse it.” But she did not say it crossly, and the princess never minded any remarks that were not unfriendly. “Well, you see, Lootie, there are reasons,” she returned and said no more, for she did not want to bring up the subject of their former strife lest her nurse should offer to go before she had had her grandmother’s permission to bring her. Of course, she could refuse to take her, but then she would believe her even less than ever.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Sometimes you just know. When a voice can take you somewhere and you don’t feel like you’re listening anymore, it’s just something that is happening around you and you’re experiencing it, I think that’s when the narrator’s job is really well done. When you’ve done a great job is when you’re not thinking about the fact that there is a narrator.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Look at what we were just talking about about the possibilities of the narration portion for the setup of the characters. This narrator did a beautiful job of that. She drew us in and engaged us with the narration so by the time these characters popped out of her mouth, we were in the world with her. Now again, we’re talking about children’s fantasy, so the rules here are going to be what they are versus another genre. So we’re talking about children’s fantasy specific because that’s the task. But I found this narration very charming. She had that storyteller quality. Her choices of characters were really distinct. She really engaged.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    The other thing was the agility between the narrator and the character. That’s something we haven’t talked about yet. One of the great signs of a pro narrator is their ability to be really agile between what they’re doing with their voice and the narrator and going right into the characters. This narrator seems to have a lot of knowledge about her voice and a lot of control and a lot of good breath and a lot of good pacing, so a very good fitting to this genre.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Yes, to your point, we are transported. As a narrator, you just always are looking and hoping for the perfect marriage between you, as the narrator, and the story. So when you get offered something that you know is just going to be this beautiful fit between your voice and the material, it’s a gift because it makes your job very easy. As the actor, you prepare, but then you just stretch out and let things come to life as opposed to really having to struggle and sell things because either it’s a badly written book or you’re just the wrong kind of narrator for it. So it’s very clear, as you said, when it just works.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I felt like I was reading along as she was speaking. I could tell where it was her and then the narrator. I can see where the quotes were around what the child was saying. Like, “Oh, that’s a new line.” This story made sense. Whereas with the other ones, I almost found I had trouble understanding what was happening because there wasn’t enough spacing between them, or there just wasn’t the right emphasis on something. I just felt like I was on the next page, on the next page. Like, I knew.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    One of the techniques I do with my clients or anybody that I’m coaching with audiobook narration is we talk about the idea. We do an exercise which is about creating lanes for each of these things, so the narrator has their own lane, and each character has their own lane. You’re like, “What does that mean?” Well, the only way to figure out what it means is to use your voice and to create such good distinction and to have such command of it that what you just said happens. The listener almost senses and hears that each has their space and lane so that the story is clear. You can follow along. You can relax. You’re going on the journey.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Now, a journey we definitely all gone. Now that we’re all back in the real world and outside of George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, it’s time to now pick another winner. Ilyana, the honor is to you.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Well, I chose the female narrator that, again, and this seems to be a word with me is that engaged me. Being engaged is such a great feeling. So I’ve chosen narrator three.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wonderful. Oh my goodness.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, she was delightful.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Just to tie this back, sometimes when a client is listening to auditions, they literally hear that one voice, and that voice sends shivers down their spine. They’re like, “That’s the one! That’s the one!” It’s like no contest. Everyone brings their own gifts the table, but not everybody can be the voice that that person is hearing in their head.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Because of that, here’s a great thing for anybody listening to walk away from in terms of auditioning for things whether it’s audiobooks or anything. When you know that at the end of the day somebody listening, like myself or a casting person that’s making that decision, when you know that they’re going to feel something in their soul and their spine because it is that right fit, all you can do is just give your most idiosyncratic, personal, clear choice that you can and not worry about the rest. Just do your part. Bring your natural voice into this project. Make clear choices. Be good technically. And just realize that at the end of the line the decision is the decision. You can’t control that. What you could do is give a distinct enough audition that that person hears what you were going for, and they will either know like, “Hey, that was the right fit, or that wasn’t.” It’s a great call to just not worry about the rest and just give a clear, good audition.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Easier said than done, but absolutely.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Of course.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We’ve all learned so much today. Thank you, Ilyana. This has been a great pleasure to have you here. Everybody, we’re going to give you a chance to learn where you can find out more about Ilyana. Where can we find you online?

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    I have a website which is my name, ilyanakadushin.com. That’s I-L-Y-A-N-A-K-A-D-U-S-H-I-N.com. Everything that I work on and also getting in touch with me as a coach is also available there. I’m also on all the social media channels like Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. If you just put in my first and last name, you’ll find all my sites and social media channels. I have an audiobook listening library on my website so people can hear samples of all the books I’ve done. Every book that’s on my library is a book that I’ve actually narrated, so that’s also on my site. People can hear when I’ve got new books coming out and what my projects are.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s all wonderful. As we know, we also have show notes for the podcast. So if you can’t remember or you didn’t get a chance to jot that down as Ilyana was speaking, you can certainly go to the Mission Audition podcast at Voices.com. Also, I just want to remind you all that we have these scripts, too, on the blog, so if you were wondering, “Oh, I wish I could have read from that book,” well you can. It’s in the public domain, and we’ve got that sample for you to find. Lastly, I do want to say that we want you to continue to share what you’re learning here today beyond just this podcast, outside of your studio. If you are in a networking group or voiceover workup group, then these should be part of your curriculum. You should be listening to Mission Audition whenever you get together with your friends. With that said, I want to thank you again, Ilyana Kadushin, for being on this show.

    Ilyana Kadushin:
    Sure, my pleasure.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Thanks again to my cohost, Julianna Lantz. We will be seeing you sometimes in the next couple weeks. It’s been a great pleasure. We love doing these shows. Again, keep listening and-

    Julianna Lantz:
    We hope you enjoy taking these tips into your studio and applying them on your next audition.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Happy auditioning.

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. I narrate my own scary stories from my website and as a woman it is difficult to understand what I’m supposed to do with male voices. Do I just use my voice and act it out as a guy would? I produce a story every week and I can’t pay so finding an actor to do it for me is almost impossible. Is there a way to get a review somewhere? Please keep in mind I am very amateur and my equipment isn’t the best 🙂 It’s mostly for fun. I simply want to entertain and have people enjoy my stories.

      Thanks

      • Hey Boo,

        I like the sounds of this! I’d say that one of the occasionally and unexpectedly great things about working with lower budgets is being forced to come up with creative workarounds for all that you can’t afford. There’s nothing wrong with you using your acting chops to perform a male character, and who knows? It may make your scary stories even more effective.

        If you’d like to hire male voice actors one day, then I’d encourage you to sign up for a Voices client account and begin perusing our vast directory of skilled voice actors.

        Happy recording,
        Oliver

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