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Slammed by Sibilance

Sibilance. For those of us who know nothing about the mysterious world of audio recording, it’s a thing that happens. Listening devices emit searing static, usually when the vocalist speaks the letters S, C and sometimes T.

And I have the most sibilant voice on the planet, Dear Reader.

I’ve recorded my entire book.

And it’s FULL of sibilance.

I thought I could get rid of it in processing. But I can’t without distortions that are equally annoying. Basically, I sound like Cindy Brady from The Brady Bunch when I de-ess my wave. (Please, be impressed with my mastery of the freaking lingo.)

So.

I’m at an impasse with an audiobook. I know some of you want it, and I know people who refuse to read might buy it. But to record the book without sibilance means a pretty radical vocal adjustment. I’m not saying I can’t make it. I used to change my voice all the time onstage.

But.

My husband will complain that I don’t sound like me. YOU will complain that I don’t sound like me. And people who don’t know me will still give the book two stars because I don’t sound like a professional vocalist, regardless of how well-written the book is.

I’m a writer.

I’m going back to writing for the balance of my writing retreat.

To hell with this.

(And I appreciate everyone’s suggestions, advice and helpful commentary, but right now, today, I really need a hug and a million drinks. Forgive me for sounding like a grouch. I will gladly accept jokes or virtual gin.)

58 Comments Post a comment
  1. Virtual shots and a way to go. Art your way is the way it was meant to be first and foremost. Pretty old school actually having to look at actual words on a page huh? My honest opinion? Audio books are cool. Especially for long car trips, but even the best leave something “Lost in the translation”

    December 17, 2014
    • On the upside, I’ve read this book aloud enough to know it has no typos, weird sentence structure or odd word choices.

      December 17, 2014
      • oh don’t get me wrong. It does have it’s upside. I sometimes read my poems aloud to feel flow. I am just old school when it comes to books I guess. I hope you were not offended by my comment. And should you find a way to make it work to your satisfaction, I hope the audiobook is a tremendous success. Cheers.

        December 17, 2014
  2. It sounds as though you need the help of a professional recording technician. A couple of hours in an editing suite would iron out the sibilant sounds. In the time I spent making TV commercials I realised that their was no magic that could not be weaved by those technical magicians:)

    December 17, 2014
    • I wish I could afford a professional, Roger, but between MTM’s shattered collarbone, my being almost blind in one eye at the moment, and everything I’ve already spent on this writing thing to date, hiring a professional isn’t possible. I wish I knew one who would help me out of sheer pity, because right now, I feel like I’m at milepost 167 on the Natchez Trace. But I’m going to write the day away and come to the end feeling better, if not physically, at least mentally.

      December 17, 2014
  3. rod #

    I recorded and edited actors for many years. Sibilance is a problem, as are plosives. Hire an actor?

    December 17, 2014
  4. Sending a hug and a virtual brandy and Babycham. 🙂

    December 17, 2014
    • Thanks, Heather. I’m virtually drinking at 7:30am. Great way to start the day.

      December 17, 2014
  5. Virtual hugs, shots and/or joints…whatever helps.

    You can tell a lot about a woman’s mood just by her hands. If they are holding a gun, she’s probably angry.

    December 17, 2014
    • If I were at my parents, I’d likely be holding several. Guns. Not shots or joints. 🙂

      December 17, 2014
  6. Kir Piccini #

    Hug!
    A sweet Raspberry martini (I had one on Sunday in NYC..next time we meet we’ll toast with one.)

    And… a giggle. Why did Bono fall off the stage? He was standing too close to The Edge. 😉

    It will all be well my friend. Xo

    December 17, 2014
    • Hahaha. I know. Everything always turns out in the end.

      December 17, 2014
  7. tarakianwarrior #

    Your silence is golden, but my eyes still read….ha! See what I did there? 😀. Massive hugs to you my friend.

    December 17, 2014
  8. Get out the gin martini…I have jokes for you.

    How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?
    One that’s deep pan, crisp and even!

    Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
    A mince spy!

    What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
    It’s Christmas, Eve!

    *Toast*

    December 17, 2014
  9. Alice #

    Impressive lingo. A nice gin, with a slice of cucumber and some boiled peanuts imagined for you my friend. And maybe a side of Scott’s. Hang in there.

    December 17, 2014
    • If you’d like to go get Christmas pedicures Monday afternoon (and won’t be freaked out by my dilated eye), it would be the perfect tonic. I have appointments until around noon, including one at the eye doctor. 🙂

      December 17, 2014
  10. And THAT, my friend, is why the Dobie Brothers sang ‘Jethus is Just Alright With Me!’

    December 17, 2014
    • Ha! I never knew that. I could just put a disclaimer at the beginning of my amateur de-essing and compare myself to them. 🙂 Good to know I have recognizeable company.

      December 17, 2014
      • you betcha!

        what’s the prognosis on your eye?

        December 17, 2014
      • Go to the retina specialist on Monday. I have ocular toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite that lives on the retina (to completely gross you out first thing in the morning.) It flared up for the first time last November and stayed stable for more than a year. It is now either getting bigger or moving to a more prominent quadrant of my retina, blocking more of my head-on vision. (I’ll know which on Monday.) Unless the patient is severely ill or the blockage covers the eye enough to cause almost total blindness, most doctors like to let the body’s immune system fight this off……..which generally takes around five years, with the potential for multiple flare-ups and changes in vision along the way. Standard treatment is a combination of powerful antibiotic and steroid, usually for six to eight weeks, though I have a European friend who took almost a year of that stuff to eradicate it. And that combo has its own nasty side effects, both short and long term. Probably more info than you wanted, but thanks for giving me the copy-and-paste response the next time somdbody asks. 🙂

        December 17, 2014
      • 5 years! OMG!
        We can totally sympathize, Becca’s been fighting an immune system disorder in her right eye that she has to take periodic shots for. (Eyeball shots are not – as I’m sure you can well imagine – nothing to write home about!

        Sending prayers and good wishes! Keep us posted!

        December 17, 2014
      • What is it about women and their right eyes? Please tell Becca we can compare notes the next time I see her, which will hopefully be in March. I’m scheduled to be in MA/NY March 24 – April 3.

        December 17, 2014
      • YAY!!!!!!!! its in my calender!

        December 17, 2014
  11. Here’s a hug and I’d be happy to share gin with you 😉

    December 17, 2014
    • Thanks, Marie. When I raise a glass of Death’s Door much later today, I’ll think of you.

      December 17, 2014
  12. now I’m trying to figure out who would get the joint and who would get the gin out of your mom and dad… lol

    December 17, 2014
  13. So sorry this audio thing is being a bear. Maybe, with a break to regroup, you’ll feel like taking another crack at it later. And if not, you wrote a brilliant book, and that ain’t nothing to sneeze at! Personally, I don’t listen to audio books. Not because they aren’t great, but they put me to sleep. I find them that relaxing. And I want to soak in every word you write. 😊

    December 17, 2014
    • I don’t listen to them, either, but a ton of people will only listen to books. It helps them multitask, which has never been the point of reading for me, but I’ll miss that (usually very active/athletic) market if I don’t offer this book in that format. Unless they know me personally or are told by a billion people to read a specific book, people simply will not alter their habits and oreferences to read. It’s why I was determined to get my books published beyond Amazon Kindle, because if a person prefers Nook or IPad or paper, they’ll pass on a book. I’ve always called offering all formats “removing excuses to purchase.” It’s one of the primary reasons I wrote a memoir. “Oh, you don’t read fiction? Well, no problem! I’ve got this juicy non-fiction title for you right here! And a book of pictures! Everybody likes pictures! How many would you like??”

      Of course, the default for that excuse is going to be, “Oh, I really just don’t have time to read.” I’ve got several author events coming where I will be sitting in a booth, and I’ve got to find some way to make those people understand at the beginning that all those responses are really cowardly ways of saying, “No. I don’t want to buy your book.” Because people do not like to say no to other people.

      December 17, 2014
      • My mother in law who passed away in May preferred audio books. That was how she “read.” And she’d been a lifelong reader. I know some older people whose eyesight has declined so much that audio books are their primary way to read.

        December 17, 2014
  14. I’m tho thorry! Thibilanthe thuckth!!

    December 17, 2014
  15. Personally, I love the sound of your voice, sibilance or not. On the other hand, with rare exceptions, I do NOT enjoy being read to; spoils the “sounds” I put on the written words inside my head! 🙂 Hence, I’m only a candidate for the hold-in-my-hand variety of your books (or what I can read here on the PC [Yes, Elizabeth, I DID master that Kindle for PC thing]).

    As for how YOU think you sound, just guessing here, but I’ll bet not nearly the way YOU hear it. Write away for awhile and quit beating yourself over the head — won’t help that eye. Hugs!!

    December 17, 2014
    • That’s one of the primary reasons I don’t enjoy audiobooks, Karen. I want to imagine the voices. I think I have a hard time watching movies of books I’ve read for that reason. The players never look or sound like I imagined.

      I sent samples out for listening. Heck, I could probably load it here just for kicks. Everyone noticed it. While no one said it sounded awful, they know me. A person who doesn’t won’t be so kind.

      December 17, 2014
  16. Sending you both virtually. You are wonderful!

    December 17, 2014
  17. Here’s a virtual hug. I’m sure you sound fine, but, from personal experience, I know I don’t like my own voice, a sibilant one if ever there was.

    December 17, 2014
  18. I feel for you. I really do. And I will be happy to buy you a drink.

    Oh, and isn’t it just cruel that the word “sibilance” is one of the words that would really cause the problem to be heard?

    December 17, 2014
  19. Microphone type and placement. You can cure it, but trial and error takes time. You’re flying blind both figuratively and literally. Fortunately, your giant brain will eventually sort it all out. In the meantime, drinking is acceptable. Wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze. That’s from me.

    December 17, 2014
  20. I send a hug and wish I could share the drink! Does MTM agree with your assessment? I just hope before you give up on this part of the project you have outside agreement. We are always so critical of ourselves, no matter what! Again…big, big hug!

    December 17, 2014
  21. A trip down the street to Jeni’s ice cream would be my suggestion.

    December 17, 2014
  22. Hugs and cheers my friend! Drinks are on me when we meet and maybe I’ll even share my one really awful joke. 🙂

    December 17, 2014
  23. Thank you for adding a new word to my lexicon.!! Hugs 😀

    December 17, 2014
  24. I think it’s a marketing issue. Use the “normal” voice for any scene being viewed by one of your historical characters and excuse the sibilance as historically accurate. Then that actor’s voice for Emma (of course a child’s voice would be more sibilant naturally or you could go to “Cindy Brady” and still be appropriate). The more you drink the worse the sibilance will get….. Wassail!

    December 17, 2014
  25. Sending you a hug and will definitely send you the book you won. (I emailed you at your readme email.)

    December 17, 2014
  26. I’m liking the expression to de-ess one’s wave, Andra. I hate the sound of my own recorded voice, so there’s no way I’d ever record an audio book, esses or not!

    December 17, 2014
  27. This made me laugh…and I found it by searching for virtual gin.

    December 17, 2014
  28. Here take this Tanqueray martini on the rocks with two olives and this Jarlsberg cheese chunk on a Stone Ground wheat thin.

    December 17, 2014
  29. my right eye is my weak one too, it is so weak and thank god for my strong left eye, which has always carried the load. last time i was at the ophthalmologist, i asked, ‘what if we just replaced it with a glass one?’ she just stared at me. with both eyes. and i’d love to give you a drink that would magically kill that parasite. hugs –

    December 17, 2014
  30. Here’s a virtual hug, and a toast! Slainte, Andra!

    December 17, 2014
  31. If it helps you feel better, my own voice is probably unrecordable, since I tend towards mumbling and I manage an accent aptly described as “well, he doesn’t sound like he’s from New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean he does sound like he is from anywhere”.

    December 18, 2014
  32. Hugs. And strong cocktails.

    December 18, 2014
  33. All the best Andra, why not put out two sample paragraphs one unadjusted, one adjusted and see which your blogger friends prefer.

    December 19, 2014
  34. Lance #

    I relate. I hate my voice. And I worked in radio for 7 years.

    Merry Christmas if I don’t get to tell you before the big day. I love your writing.

    December 19, 2014
  35. A virtual hug, ass slap, and a joke:

    Why couldn’t Dracula’s wife get to sleep?

    Because of his coffin.

    December 20, 2014
  36. I’ve been thinking of you, Andra!! Hope your eye is improving. I’ll take your Sibilance any day! I hope you and MTM get to relax some with lots of gin and good food. Feliz Navidad my good friend. xo

    December 23, 2014

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