Welcome back to #VOnow. If you’re new, thank you for joining us (you can catch up on the first five editions here). Shhh. Today I want to discuss “Pillow Talk” — but it’s not what you think. I don’t leave home without it. I travel with a shotgun — microphone that is. It’s long and skinny and does an excellent job of recording my voice, just my voice, and not all the other ambient sounds in the room.
But, you can’t be sure of the environment you’ll be in when you’re on the road, so you learn to create the best possible remote studio wherever you go. And a critical component is, (wait for it), the pillow.
Currently, I’m in Edinburgh, recording an extended project for a client here. But, other clients have asked me to record for them as well, so I’ve done what any good voice actor would do, locate the quietest place in the hotel room/apartment/house where you’re staying (generally away from elevators, windows, and streets if possible), turn off all the fans, fridges and any other controllable noise, and attack the bed — for its pillows and blankets.
Now the fun part — remember when you were a kid and made forts? Yup, you do it again, building a little enclosed cavity in a closet, armoire, or quiet corner to dampen the area around you so the sound waves don’t bounce all over the walls or get lost in the ceiling. (A good trick is to clap your hands and listen for the reverberations — less is better!)
Ironically, there’s more outside noise coming from drilling at the location where I’m recording with the Edinburgh studio than there is in my “flat”! We’ve had to stop for extended periods and lay in waiting for an opportunity to get another phrase recorded (we’re recording 6,000 in all). Sometimes all we needed was 3 seconds, and that’s all we got before the drilling started again! You can imagine the frustration!
This reminds me of the time I was recording an audio tour at the sound studios of Carnegie Hall — you would think there’d be no better acoustic set-up than at Carnegie Hall — construction was going on in the building and we too had to wait for the noises to abate.
This past April I was staying in a renovated 18th-century Oil Mill in a remote town in Northern Italy, Ortonovo. One day while my sister and her friends set out to explore the little villages nearby — Sarzana, Carrara, and Pietrasanta — I stayed behind to record some projects.
With an armoire in my bedroom, I created a booth, using blankets, comforters, pillows, and hooks from the bathroom, and even a hair clip to hold my script up so that my hands were free to “emote.”
I’m the voice of Jennifer Convertibles and my client always likes to direct me in our sessions. Given the time difference of 6 hours, I had to wait until 4 pm in order to connect for our 10 am EST morning session. While waiting, I rehearsed and recorded auditions for other projects when all of the sudden there were sounds of people walking. I thought I was alone in the house, but the noise indicated otherwise.
Turns out, there was an apartment above the 30’ vaulted ceiling of the Mill and in it resided a 93-year-old lady. Given the noise, I heard she was either super spry or had visitors. What could I do to quiet her down? Knock on her door with a bottle of Limoncello and beg her to drink it? I had spent so much time and thought painstakingly creating my recording booth, but this was a noise I couldn’t control.
As she quieted down, and I thought the coast was clear, the birds started chirping up a storm and a stray dog found its way outside our door, barking incessantly, adding to the cacophony. All I could do was pray to the Patron Saint of Recording Sessions that everything would quiet down when it was time to record. It did, and so the pillow talk began.
I’ll be writing about building your business in next week’s edition of #VOnow. Until then, whenever you cuddle up to your pillow, think of me uttering sweet words into mine…far from sleep, but always loving the chance to #BeHeard