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As digital offerings become more varied, users often look for ways to expand on or enhance existing features. A review of the existing features in audiobooks provides numerous options. Unlike text to speech or AI speech options, the narration of the audiobook is set to the original recording with only minor exceptions at present.
The voice of the narrator is carefully selected by the publisher of an audiobook to fit the sound which is to be portrayed. There may be more than one narrator, such as male and female voices. At present, the only change of voice on audiobooks is to accelerate the playback speed.
More and more apps are developed daily in the digital world. Artificial intelligence is also changing the way digital devices sound. At present, changing the sound of a male voice narrating a book to a female voice or vice versa is not a feature that is present in audiobook players. Some audiobook players may provide the ability to change playback speed, but the narrator remains the same.
Do audiobooks have different voices?
Narrators, sometimes called voice actors, perform narration for publishers of audiobooks. For the most part these actors have skills in both acting and voice control. When publishers hire narrators to complete the audible performance of a book, care is taken to get the best possible results from the narration.
Voice actors have experience and skills in pace of speaking, volume control, and breath control. These elements in narration can take many months of practice and preparation to do well. They study the book they are preparing to best portray the tone of the work that they perceive, as well as what the author, editors, and publisher may request. This is what is recorded and played from the digital files.
The most common presentation of audiobook narration is a single voice actor reading the entire book. He or she will adjust pitch, reading speed, accents, and volume to provide interest and variation to the words on the printed page.
Today, it is also frequent to use two different point of view voice actors–one for male characters and a second for female characters. While more voices than two do happen within one book, it can be confusing to the listener. It can be a challenge for one or two actors to portray numerous characters in a way that helps the listener distinguish between them.
What are the four most important elements of voice?
The sound of your voice is part of how others identify you. There are some aspects of the voice which can be controlled and which are important in the narration of audiobooks. The sound of the narrator’s voice is an important part of the immersion experience in listening to an audiobook. It has a significant impact on how the author’s work is viewed. By identifying four elements in the voice of a character, it is possible to distinguish one character from another.
Resonance is the quality of the voice which causes it to sound full, deep and reverberating. Resonance focused on the throat area sounds gravelly or muffled. Resonance from the nasal passages is higher in pitch. The skilled voice actor resonates the sound in his or her mouth, providing balance between throat and nasal sounds.
A tensed set of vocal cords will cause the words and tone to sound flat. The voice may be raspy rather than mellow. Voice actors can use this component to create a sound of a new speaking character, or to add emotion to an existing speaker’s voice.
The rhythm of the author’s words can be used to narrate the book. The staccato rhythm of some speakers can be compared and contrasted with a more flowing or gliding sound. Rhythm plays a big role in listening to speakers of different native languages. A person who learned English as a second language can often still be identified because of the rhythm they use, even when there is no accent at all.
Skilled narrators know how to use punctuation in the written word to pace the spoken sentences. Breath control is also crucial to provide the right pacing when narrating a story.
Disadvantages of multiple narrators
When you are listening to an audiobook with numerous characters and multiple narrators, there can be several things that provide a hindrance to the enjoyment of the audiobook. This is not as obvious with just two point of view characters, but beyond that, it may be difficult to find narrators with the same high level of skill when it comes to voice acting.
As a listener, you may find a change from one actor to another jarring, particularly if the skill level of the narrator varies. The more narrators which are involved, the more likely it is that one feels out of place. When something in the voice of the character doesn’t fit, regardless of the reason, it can interrupt full immersion in the story. The listener will tend to focus on the weak performance, rather than on the story or on the stronger performances.
Audiobook players and apps
There is an ever-expanding list of audiobook applications that are available for Android devices, iPhone/iPad, and other mobile platforms. Some are beautifully designed, while some are versatile. Some offer advanced playback options, and some have a built-in catalog of free audiobooks. Some of these are overly complicated or expensive, others do not go far enough to provide the basics. The earliest ones are long since obsolete.
Some players are stand-alone, some are linked to a subscription service. Others are more complex multi-purpose devices that allow for other media formats to be played.
One of the features which is currently available in audiobook readers is the ability to change the speed of the playback. This is a feature which is useful for an impatient person who wants to get on to the next chapter or the next plot twist quickly. Speeding up playback can also have the benefit of quickly reviewing material in a previously played book. This can be helpful when reviewing for a test over the material in the book.
The role of AI voice cloning
With the advent of AI voice cloning and artificial voice creation, the near future may provide multiple options to choose from when listening to a specific audiobook. At present, however, AI-generated voice narration often sounds distinctly unnatural due to odd pacing and occasional mistakes in inflection.
Other predictions and trends
Voice actors perform a service which at present cannot be fulfilled by robotic devices, even those with advanced voice cloning and learning capability. Voice actors and audiobook narrators rely on this type of work and they hone their skills to expand their opportunities. It may be that publishers and authors may purchase the rights to narrators with well-trained and popular voices. Those narrators might sign contracts which would give them royalties from each book that users listen to.
In conclusion, evolving technologies may change the capacity for individual audiobooks to have multiple different narrators, or a narrator fine-tuned to your personal listening preferences, but under current technological standards, any given audiobook only has the narrator or narrators it was published with. There is a fair amount of flexibility to tailor volume, playback speed, and other elements of the sound itself within existing audiobook apps.