Posted on October 14, 2011
I’m rubbish at accents. I can’t even do my own properly anymore.
If you want comedy Northern/Irish/Brummie I can do that; most people can. But to actually speak convincingly with an accent as if I was born in that part of the country is something I can’t do easily. I am quite good at animals, however. My llama impression is particularly impressive – just ask Greg Davies.*
As far as voiceover work goes, I don’t do accents or characters and plenty of voices don’t and get plenty of work. I’m not looking to specialise in either of these areas my self but I feel as a “Voice Professional” I should broaden my skills base and anyway. It might be fun – which is a good enough reason by itself for me!
To get me started I thought I’d try American, an accent so many British English speakers get horribly, horribly wrong. We might laugh at Dick Van Dyke, but there are plenty of equally disastrous British actors marmalising the various American accents. (Don’t you dare point a finger at Hugh Laurie. I love him. He can do no wrong.) Like British RP, American has an equivalent, the appropriately military sounding General American. (Can we have Major British, please?) I have been occasionally asked to if I would voice scripts with an American accent. I can only assume that it’s easier for the client – and potentially cheaper – to get the same voice, with the same delivery and similar inflections to voice one script for two different markets, but there are dozens of excellent native American Voice Artists out there, it can’t be that much of a stretch to hire one of those…
Anyway, I digress. Because everybody knows somebody I got in touch with a friend of a friend, Sarah Shepherd, an Accent and Dialect Coach based in Covent Garden. Serendipitously, we both have skills that the other is interested in so while she teaches me an accent or two, I’ll be taking her through recording scripts and setting up as a Voice Over at home.
So now I have some genuine tongue chewing phrases and exercises to work on. And wow, doing an American accent properly is HARD. My previous efforts had me slipping into a not-very-good Deep South sound, which Sarah explained is something women commonly do. Men tend to drift north to New York with their first attempts, which on its own is a Fascinating Fact, Folks. And GenAm only has one ‘L’ sound. In British English we have two. I had no idea.
After just one session, I’m already much better at it than I was and if you were to listen in to me pottering around the house most days you’d think me a madwoman, muttering one of the many phrases Sarah has provided me with to practice.
*Ah yes, Greg Davies. During his stint writing and voicing continuity scripts for Paramount Comedy, he introduced a number of extra characters into his links, played variously by me, Jane (my fellow Continuity Producer) and Toby the Sound Engineer.