Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Man of Only a Few Voices

The best storytellers are the ones who breathe life into the words of a book. The Bean loves to read and I hope that when Sprout gets a little older, she will be just as enthralled with stories. So when I read to my kids, I strive to be as entertaining as possible (energy permitting) and often use different voices for the characters in the books.

Growing up loving cartoons, I’ve always wanted to be a voice for a cartoon character. I have sharp memories of Little Kid Geekboy cracking his parents up with a voice or two. Deep down I’ve thought that maybe I’d be a good voice-over artist. But this parenting thing can illuminate some hard, uncomfortable truths—one of them being that I’m not very good at voices.

Creating different voices is hard. Most of my “voices” sound pretty much alike. I also have trouble keeping them straight. If there are a lot of different characters in a book, I will inadvertently give somebody the wrong voice. And if a character doesn’t speak for a long passage in the story, I will sometimes forget what voice I used.

Though unpolished as I am, there are a few voices that I’ve managed to cultivate:

The “Man”
This is pretty much my normal speaking voice, but in a slightly lower tone. It’s used for dad characters and the Man with the Yellow Hat. Honestly, this one hardly counts as a different voice.

The “Woman”
My falsetto. Not very easy on the ears. Used (sparingly) for various female characters.

The “Romano”
Somewhere between Ray Romano and Marvin the Martian. It’s usually used for background characters that make exclamations.

The “Old”
Similar to the “man” and “woman” voices, just shakier. Reserved for grandparent characters, obviously.

The “Kid”
Take the falsetto of the “woman”, lower the register by half a click and speak every line with a profound sense of wonder. It’s used for kids in stories.

The “Muno”
You know that guy from Yo Gabba Gabba who looks like a giant dildo? The voice is kind of like his. Used to voice Gerald the Elephant and other dim-witted characters.

And if need be for variety, these voices can be modified slightly with a bad country twang or a version of a Wisconsin accent.

Okay, Mel Blanc I am not. But you can't fault a geeky dad for trying, right?

While I’ve come to realize and accept the limits of my talent, thankfully the Bean and Sprout haven’t seemed to notice. But truthfully, I’m not even sure that they care all that much if their stories have voices or not. WonderWife™ says that my using voices makes her plain style of reading look bad. But I think she’s just being nice. If given a choice, I don’t think the kids have a preference which parent reads to them.

So all of this begs the question…who am I really performing for, me or them?


Super Mega Dad said...

Too funny!

I'm only able to do one voice, but it's enough for the kids. I do the Spanish accent for the Skippy Jon Jones books. Gets a laugh everytime. But now that I think of it, maybe because it's so BAD. :)

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Take the "kid" voice and mix it with a little bit of Speedy Gonzalez, and you've got my voice for SkippyJon Jones.

kanachick said...

It's good that you're making it fun for everyone - kids are pretty awesome as audiences because they already love you and you don't really have to win them over.

I'm a plain reader like your wife while my husband does the performance thing. I have the drama degree and he has the engineering degree...go figure.

Vancetastic said...

I am uncomfortable with the close proximity of your usage of the word "dildo" and your discussion of reading stories to children. Wait a minute ... a children's story about dildos. I can see that selling.

Andromeda said...

i do voices too. The Dictator prefers me to read to him over his dad because daddy isn't a very good out-loud reader and tries to do voices, but he doesn't understand inflection AT ALL. it's bad. really bad. But, he's reading to his kid, so i don't tell him how god-awful bad his reading is.

my favorite book to read aloud is "Paddington at the Tower of London" because i read the whole thing in a variety of bad English accents. it cracks me up!

SciFi Dad said...

I do a pretty decent Yoda, and an OK Darth Vader. Problem is it usually signals the end of the story because it freaks my daughter out.