The Pigeon Race

Jeff Letellier demonstrates how to hold a pigeon. (Photo by Nicolas Tanner, courtesy the Salt Archive.)

We talk everyday. But, step in front of a microphone, and everything goes to heck in a handbasket. We forget how to talk and, instead, launch into “reading voice.” What’s the secret to avoiding “reading voice”?

Rachel James has some answers. Last spring, Rachel was a student in the radio program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. She’s a natural. Put her in front of a mic and ‘poof,’ no “reading voice.”

On this Saltcast, we’ll hear examples of Rachel’s work — her first ever, by the way — and she’ll reveal a couple of her secrets to a natural sounding read. You may want to t take notes!

Best, Rob


  1. 2 Responses to “The Pigeon Race”

  2. By Andrea Muraskin on Jan 20, 2012

    Wow, it is no surprise that Rachel got an internship at Radiolab!

    I think I remember Rob saying the thing about putting a smile on your voice when I was at Salt. But what about when your topic is solemn, for example when narration a piece about a young kid who was shot and died for no reason. Do you put a frown on your voice?

  3. By Rob Rosenthal on Jan 20, 2012

    Hi Andrea,

    A quick answer to your question: The narrator reads it like they mean what you are saying. Rachel also talked about being present in the moment and feeling what you read.

    The “smile in the voice” recommendation is not for every piece. And, it’s something I typically recommend for narrators who sound flat and disengaged.

    Hope that helps. Best, Rob

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