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Who We Are

The Volunteer Nation is a community of over 1,000 individuals across the world who graciously support Learning Ally’s mission. Volunteers share their talents to create human-read audiobooks and provide support in roles that help us reach the 30 million students who struggle to read. Join the Volunteer Nation in smashing the literacy divide and bring equitable education for all.

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Interested in sharing your volunteer story or writing a blog post for us? We welcome your ideas! 

Email us: volunteer@learningally.org 

 

 

 

Volunteer Nation Blog

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Stay in the know with your fellow volunteers, read the latest volunteer spotlight, and learn about current events happening in the Volunteer Nation.


Plosives: What They Are and How to Keep Them Out of Your Recordings

Our audiobooks at Learning Ally aren’t exactly live performances—such as panel discussions or story telling events—and they aren’t footage captured from out in the field. However, some of the issues that podcasters and public media folks encounter in these instances also apply to the recording process for you, our volunteers in your virtual studio spaces. The issue we’re going to look at today is plosives. Jeff Towne has a terrific article that covers what plosives are, how to avoid creating them in your recordings, some gear recommendations, and techniques for breathing.

See the full article on Transom [ imbed: https://transom.org/2016/p-pops-plosives/]

 

What exactly are plosives?

Getting close, about 3-6 inches from the microphone, is usually suggested for voice recording. This helps to capture an intimate and warm sound from the “performer,” or narrator in this instance. There are some negative effects that arise in trying to capture that warm sound, however, specifically plosives. Towne describes them as,

“…a bassy, often distorted sound, that results when an air blast from the mouth goes into the microphone. The most common source is the letter P, which is why plosives are sometimes generically referred to as P-Pops.”

 

It’s best practice to position the microphone off to the side, instead of directly in front of your mouth, to avoid some of the air that occurs when pronouncing those words that start with P, S, B, or F sounds. Towne also mentions the option of positioning the mic slightly above your mouth with the grille pointed towards you. This allows the air from your voice to go underneath instead of directly into the mic.

Right now you can practice breath control that will help eliminate plosives in your recordings. Put your palm up in front of your mouth and pronounce words like popcorn, sister, or friend. Being aware of the air that you expel when pronouncing some of these plosive offenders will help your recording narration. The goal is to get to a point when you pronounce these plosive heavy words with less air. Towne also mentions how some of our exhaling through our nose sends air out in varying directions, and why positioning the mic slightly off center can help avoid capturing plosives in our recordings.

 

Technical ways to get around plosives.

Wind screens can make a tremendous difference in eliminating plosives. Towne provides several options, and the article includes some test recordings. I encourage you to visit the link to hear the with and without sound bites to learn some of the differences.

Although suggestions for how to edit and EQ audio waves is also included, we strongly suggest that you coordinate with some of our engineers at Learning Ally prior to performing any severe treatment on your audio. Our post-production process is fine-tuned, and we have discovered that getting a wonderful performance from the narrator first and foremost, rather than drastic editing during the recording process, yields the best audiobook product.

 

What is working in your virtual studio space?

We would love to hear some of the ways you are mitigating plosives in your recordings. Share in the comments some of your own techniques so we can all benefit from shared knowledge.


One small step for man...Es un paso pequeño para un hombre...

Spanish-language Weekly Reader pages discussing the Bill of Rights

Raise your hand if you remember Weekly Readers, those wonderful little newspapers we used to get years (and years!) ago in Social Studies class.  I don’t know about you, but I absolutely loved them: the content was varied and interesting, presented in language I understood, with plenty of illustrations to pique my interest.

 

But...what if you can’t read print material?  What if your first language is Spanish? Or what if you’re attending a magnet school for Spanish, with all materials in that language?  What then?

 

da-da-da DAH!  It’s David Alper to the rescue!  David has been reading Spanish language materials for Learning Ally for nearly eleven years, first with the Athens (Georgia) Studio, and now with the Foreign Language Community.  Over the past year, David read 192 (!) of these gems, all in Spanish, spending hours and hours (over 200!) making sure every detail was executed perfectly.


Spanish-language Weekly Reader cover showing kindergarten girl smiling her biggest smile while hugging an inflatable globe of the world; the topic of this Weekly Reader is The Earth.

The Weekly Readers, along with many other projects Learning Ally records, are part of our contract with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which supervises primary and secondary public education in the State of Texas.  According to Ed Bray, National Director of Government Relations and State Initiatives for Learning Ally, volunteers (maybe you?) who work on these projects “help us provide a comprehensive collection of Texas-adopted educational materials, including these Weekly Readers.  The collection ensures students can access this broad set of curriculum materials.”


Volunteer David Alper enjoyed reading the Weekly Readers!  In this photo, he is smiling a big smile and holding up a fifth-grade copy about the 1969 moon landing

David, who has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, works long hours each week, traveling across three counties to serve as a School Psychologist for multiple schools.  He first heard of Learning Ally through an ad in a local paper. He found that he really enjoyed combining reading aloud with helping others improve their reading comprehension and reach their educational and life goals.  Volunteering with Learning Ally gives David a great deal of satisfaction, and being able to use his Spanish skills to help others, either through reading or quality control work, gives him a sense of purpose--and, he says, helps him maintain and even improve his Spanish through consistent practice--a great bonus!

 

David’s message to other volunteers:  Work on what gives you pleasure and is a priority in the studio.  Be positive and show appreciation toward your fellow volunteers. Attend live and online volunteer events as you’re able, and participate in the Hangout chats.  Spread the word far and wide about Learning Ally!