Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Microphone Is Your Friend

Today I taught a workshop at Northlands Confabulation! 

It was all about using the microphone. I've written about this in the past, but mostly to encourage people to ask for one, and why.

 Today I had the joy of playing with the mic with some storytellers.

Let's begin at the beginning -

Why should you use the mic?

It allows you to be conversational with a large number of people. It also allows you to get volume without having to do so much work. It saves your voice.

You only work as long as your voice is intact if you are a voiced storyteller. If you are in multiple venues, use interesting vocal work, or want any kind of nuance, you need a mic. Without one, you are likely to hurt yourself from overstressing your voice over time.

You also lose so much texture and tone without a mic.

I gave examples of how different something sounds when you move the mic away. Still, there are those who stress their voices.

There are lots of articles about the care and feeding of your voice if you do have trouble. You can check out my hot tips about that here.

Next, we talked about movement with a standing mic - 

The story happens in the space all around you. Whenever you move into that space, you break the storytelling illusion. Trust the story to fill the stage. Here is a deeper discussion about that.

Our next discussion was about sound effects -

We talked about sound effects with a mic

I started with a little bit of the Boo Hag, which is one of my favorite ghosty tales to tell.

I shared the scene where she spins off her skin. Very creepy.

Then, we talked about two different types of sound effects.

Unvoiced sounds - 

These are the sounds you make with your lips, teeth, and tongue. They do not involve your vocal folds. When you use unvoiced sounds with a microphone, the thing that adds volume is the air that comes out of your mouth and interacts with the mic. The more air you use, the louder the sounds, but none of it involves your voice! This often requires practice, but it is a very effective way to make great noises that don't stress your voice.

We also spoke of effective lip placement to get the most out of unvoiced sound effects.

This requires stretching your lips forward and parting your lips wide enough to allow the air to flow.

Voiced Sounds. - 

Voiced sounds require you to engage your vocal folds, and they are the animal noises, squeaking, walking, and any other kind of sound that involves adding voiced sounds that are not narrative or conversational.

Microphones allow you to exploit using a small amount of effort to achieve a great amount of sound. Some of these sounds could hurt your voice if you power through them.

Then, we talked about my absolute favorite thing....Jump Stories!

Jump stories happen when you lull the audience into complacency by creating a soft, even hypnotic
Antonio Rocha
mood and then you assault them with a sound. The "Boo!" moment.

How do you set that moment up to get the jump?

1 - Don't broadcast it.
2 - Slow down, move into a comforting tone.
3 - Use air and voice to make a loud enough sound to cause the jump.
4 - Use a far more quiet voice leading into the jump
5 - Don't just use your voice - Give your body a percussive moment as well.

One of the things we discussed was connecting your body, voice, and face. When you put all of these elements together, you will be able to figure out what parts of your story need sound effects and which do not.

Controlling Loud and Soft Sounds

We moved on from jump stories to talking about how you use the microphone to control how loud you want voiced sounds to be, and how you go through a story using the distance from your mouth to the microphone to make appropriately loud or soft sounds.

Some you make into the microphone, some you make away from the microphone.

Your body doesn't move away from the mic, your head does. Some sounds, like a crying crocodile, I make away from the mic, and other sounds like the wind or a whisper, are made right into the mic.

We ended our session by talking about how you control an audience with a microphone.

Controlling An Audience

If you are in front of two hundred kids, you can either use the mic to tell them to come back to center, or you can start speaking soft enough to catch their ears.

With really little kids, you can make odd noises into the mic that catch their attention.

Ultimately, what I recommend is that you think about the age group of the students, and tell age-appropriate material crafted in a way that makes it easier for the audience to consume.

Here is an admittedly dense post about using the audience. It has links to some of my posts about choosing and executing stories for various age student audiences.

To everyone who shared the workshop with me: Thank You! I had a great time, and as always, I learned many things from you.

To everyone who just checked in to see what we did: Welcome! I hope this little summary offers you a bite or two at the apple we consumed today.

Happy Telling!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

It's A Mystery: Traveling in Nowhere America.


I am in a teeny tiny town in Nowhere, NC. I am staying in a little Inn. No, I will not mention the name.

I was sitting in my room on the first floor when I started hearing water run. I didn't pay too much attention right at first, because I thought it might be the refrigerator. Those little things make all sorts of noise.

Then, I realized it sounded more like dripping than anything else, and it wasn't coming from the fridge.

I went into the bathroom to discover the ceiling was leaking. The floor was wet. I was quite surprised.

I went down to the front desk and rang the bell.

The hotel employee looked annoyed when I arrived, and she looked equally annoyed that I was standing there after having checked in about an hour earlier. I gave her my best smile.

Me: Hi! I need another room.

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She sort of glared but I kept speaking despite the look of annoyance.

Me: There is water leaking through the bathroom ceiling.

She raised her eyebrows slightly, shrugged, and went to her computer.

Employee: Well. There is a problem.

Me: Yes. There is water leaking through the bathroom ceiling.
Employee: No. The problem is I'll have to put you on the second floor. We don't have an elevator.

Me: Why do I need to move to the second floor?

Employee: There are no more singles on the first floor, only doubles.

Me: (Thinking that if you've checked me into a room with a leaking ceiling you should apologize, offer me a room on the first floor whether it is a double or not and I move one room over and we call it a day) I don't mind a double.

Employee: Well, it is more expensive.

Me: (I'm not actually paying for this room, and I don't think it is cool to stick the venue with an extra charge because this place has neither good customer service nor waterproof ceilings.) Fine. I don't mind going up to the second floor.

Employee: Okay. Just leave your keys in the room.

Me: Is this common? I mean, do your ceilings often leak?

Employee: No. I've worked here two years and it has never happened before.

The reason I asked is that she was taking it so calmly as if it were just part of what happens. She didn't look worried or surprised or even startled.

I was confused at her lack of affect.

She was making my new room keys and I tried again.

Me: I wonder why the ceiling is leaking.

Employee: I should probably make a note of it. She wrote something down on a piece of paper.

She gave me new keys, and I moved digs.

When I passed room 207, which was right above my old room on the first floor, I saw a "Do Not Disturb" notice hanging on the Door.

Now, I watch lots of procedural crime drama, so I am prepared.

When the police ask, I am going to tell them what happened and my suspicion that the lady at the front desk has done away with the person in 207.
Because I know that at some point, CSI is going to show up and ruin my night by dropping inappropriate one-liners about finding a body in the bath.

All right, universe. Let's do this.

Happy Travels -