Pat Fraley, audio narrator guru guide, is today’s guest in an Audiobooker series that reveals just how those voices in your head learn the skills that lead to audiobook excellence. We’ve heard from audio producer/director Paul Ruben and narrator Johnny Heller. Next Wednesday, audio legend Bettye Zoller will add her perspective. Patrick Fraley has been teaching, producing and performing audiobooks for about 20 years, and is a multiple Audie Award nominee and winner. His instruction and demo direction have guided more performers into book deals than anyone in the history of the audiobook industry. Here are the details:
Who is the audience for your workshops?
Okay, before I attempt to answer your question, know that my business adviser, Kristine Oller, told me that I am not allowed to call them “workshops” any longer. I call them, “events.” The difference is that in my events, I teach with other teachers, like Scott Brick, and allow more interaction with the participants. That way, every event is different. They are rather like a fungus: they have a life of their own.
Now to your question: the events are for those who want to advance their audiobook storytelling and dialogue skills. The participants are made up of working narrators or performers in other areas, and those who should be working. I approve all who want in so I know they are comfortable with the rigors of the events.
Why do you have the expertise to conduct the sessions?
That’s the first time I’ve ever had that question asked. I just plain don’t now why I have the expertise. I have hunches on how I got the skills to teach. Mainly, a gift from God, and totally undeserved. Also, when I was a young man I trained to be an actor, and have taught and performed for 40 years. That helped.
What range of previous training do you find in participants?
All over the place. Some have not trained much, and like me, are just plain talented. Others have trained as actors, singers, in improv and the like. The other bunch who are trained are interesting: Doctors, Firemen, Lawyers, Plumbers, Ex-Military. They apply their knowledge and training from one discipline to another. You get really interesting metaphors from people who spent a career on submarines or changing out cistern bowl floats.
What skills do you focus on and why will this knowledge advance a participant’s career in audiobooks?
I don’t teach how to advance a “career.” A career is a whole bunch of the same kinds of jobs in a row. I teach techniques, which get the narrator more skillful at storytelling, and doing subtle changes to their voices and hearts to populate a book with the necessary characters as needful. Also, I guide some of my students into how getting their first job, and then, go about another job. For my students who are already working, I try to get them a wee bit better.
How does the changing world of audiobook creation – digital technology, home studios, economics – impact the focus of your workshops?
Digital technology and specifically the advent of Downloadable Audiobook Editions have opened the floodgates to books being recorded. This means that all kinds of books need all kinds of skilled narrators. Old, young, black, white, fuchsia. It is my job to focus my students on realizing their personal style, and assist them in finding where the welcome mat is out for their set of skills and style.
Digital sound, both in recording and how people listen to the sound, demands subtle performance in many of the book styles and genres (slap me if I say “genre” again. I could have said, “categories,” but it’s French, and makes me sound so…you know).
Economics play a primary role for narrators who may now purchase home recording equipment at a reasonable cost. I guide them into getting the right equipment or usually connect them with the many who are much more knowledgeable than I.
Are there any other fun and interesting facts about narrator training that you’d like to share?
Well, I don’t know how fun this is. More like a mini-rant. Narrating is reading aloud. Most all who seek training have done this all their lives. It’s not rocket surgery. Compared to most all other areas of performance, it’s simple. Those that make it complex are those who want to hold “the keys to the kingdom.” I believe in encouraging performers to get going, get work and get better as they narrate their first audiobook project. The hard part, that no one can teach, is what it’s like spending 20+ hours in a closet recording “90 Days to a Better Prostate.” It ain’t all Hemingway.
Do you have any upcoming sessions? How can an interested person register?
Upcoming sessions? I have more lined up than Justin Bieber appearances. I do have free audiobook narration lessons at my website, patfraley.com. Look for my “Free “ page. Also, at my “Learn” page, there is information on where and what I plan on teaching next. All scheduled around Justin’s appearances, by the way. I have my priorities.
Thanks so much, Pat – plus thank you for your great free resources. And for those of you who want to see and hear examples of the narrators Pat deems solid examples of stellar storytelling, watch and listen to the clips in this 9 minute video – a virtual primer on what to listen for in audio evaluation!