Thursday, 30 January 2014

Cracking the Accent Code

How often have you encountered a job where an accent other than your own native dulcet tones is required? Well, this has been quite a month for me. I've been working on projects which require Welsh, Russian, Cornish, Dublin, Chicago-esque (not sure of the right word to describe this accent!) and Mancunian dialects. No mean feat, I can tell you! And they were all for projects with tight turnarounds. Accent work often then has to be layered with male or female colourings and intonation, plus allow for differences in characterisation, including age, class and personality. So getting the basics right, and cracking the code, is really important.

So when this occurs in your work, where do you go? Where can you find the 'way in' learning an accent?  The quickest answer, and the one most readily at our fingertips is, of course, You Tube, and many gems of accent examples can be found there. However, sometimes the video searches contain the most random of information, and irritatingly when you are in a hurry, they are by people trying to imitate the accent of a particular region, rather than by the native speakers themselves. There is, it seems, a trend amongst Eastern European teenagers to try to copy accents of the British Isles (and often very badly!) - not helpful when I have a chapter or two to narrate, and really need to get to grips with the correct mouth placements and sounds.

Videojug contains a few diamonds though. Gareth Jamieson, British Vocal Coach, and Actor, puts his thoughts and expertise into producing short Videos on a few main accents, such as this American one. He isn't always perfect, but he can give you an idea of where to begin, and makes you stop and think about your lip and tongue movements as you formulate vowel sounds.

I've also enjoyed fellow UK Voiceover Artist Jay Britton's Raise Your Voice Accent videos on YouTube. You can find one of them (his Australian version) here.

My favourite method though, if it is available for a particular accent is, Accent Help. Although it comes at a (reasonable) price rather than as a free resource, the work is thorough, and well worth it. You download the resource materials onto your PC or Mac, and can follow a series of tutorials in combination with numerous audio recordings of natives speaking set pieces. It has been designed especially for actors who need to conquer a new accent, and fast.

Where else do you look? Am I missing a vital piece of the Accent pie?

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