Soft, loud, gravelly, silky smooth…
Appreciating the variety
Voices, like people, come in a whole variety of forms. Some are soft, some are loud, some are gravelly and some are silky smooth. Accents and delivery vary too, adding rich texture. Have a listen to three different excerpts which show how much a voice can vary.
Context: Susan’s mother, Julia, was ostracised by her Catholic family because she married her father, Errol, a Protestant, in the 1930s. Then when Susan was two, Julia died in childbirth having Susan’s brother. Neither side of the family would help Errol and he had to put the children in an orphanage for a time. 40 years later, someone from Julia’s family approached Errol and he arranged a dinner in the hope of a reconciliation.
Things to note: Susan is very articulate and expressive. Her voice conveys emotion and raw honesty. When she recalls her father’s pain, she breaks down and cries. It is deeply moving – we can feel her huge hurt.
Context: This is a moving story about an old man, Hector, who tries to forgive the man who raped and killed his daughter.
Things to note: Even in this short clip, we can hear how warm and likeable Hector is. He has humour and he sounds kind. This already makes us inclined to listen to his story, difficult as it is.
The Snowy - The People Behind the Power
Context: This was a series about migrants from 30 countries in Europe who came to Australia after World War Two and built the huge Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Scheme.
Things to Note: The mixed accents and voices in this short clip reveal the rich tapestry of ethnicities on the scheme. We hear from:
Ksenia Nasielski, Estonian
Charlie Salvestro, Italian,
Paddy Kerrigan, Irish
Frank Rodwell, Australian
Charlie Salvestro, Italian
Harnessing the Voice
It’s important to pay attention to the tone and volume of your talent’s voice because it can play a huge role in the way each character will be portrayed and understood during your podcast. You can enhance or emphasise what they say through the way that you mix voice with ambient sound or music, using these elements to punctuate (a short music sting can allow you to switch to a new topic or ‘paragraph’) or add mood (if your interviewee says something poignant or reflective, an appropriate musical interlude will allow that to sink in, before you move to the next section).
Similarly, the tone of your own voice is very important if you intend to host. Practise slowing your speech and giving it conversational intonations and lilts. (“Y’know, I was thinking about this and I reckon…”). Speak clearly but try not to sound rehearsed, as it can come across as wooden and insincere. The best way to speak when it comes to narration or hosting is to imagine you’re talking to a friend: it’s a lot easier to explain things and talk clearly when you have someone “listening” on the other end.
Each voice has a beat
Let each person tell their story. Glynn Washington, the host of ‘Snap Judgement’, shares his approach to storytelling.
You’re now ready to capture the interviews needed for your first episodes.
“…the interview can be all or nothing to writers, journalists and oral historians. A person sits across a table, with stories to tell, ideas to impart, facts to confirm or deny, perhaps a lifetime of emotions to convey – but our ability to perceive who is before us, and to engage with what we are hearing, will critically affect what ensues.” 
Take the time you need to capture the audio files you need to make your first episode or two. This includes scene-setting audio.
Before capturing your audio, you might like to map out how your voices and sounds will fit together in the episode. You can revisit this after you’ve recorded your talent to make sure your original plan will still work with the audio you have captured.
Want to learn more?
If you would like to read more before pressing record, take a look at Siobhan’s article on ‘The Aerobic Art of Interviewing’ attached at the end of the step.
McHugh S. Between Two Worlds [Internet]. Marrying Out. 2009. [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: Radio National (web link)
wnycstudios. Blame [Internet]. Dear Hector. 2013. [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: WNYCSTUDIOS (web link)
McHugh, S. Episode 4 [Internet]. The Snowy. 1987. [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: The Siobhan McHugh (web link)
McHugh, S. (2018). The aerobic art of interviewing. [online] Research Online. [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: Asia Pacific Media Educator (web link)
© University of Wollongong, 2018