Accent-u-ate the accent

Does anybody else besides me have trouble voicing accents?

By that, I mean the broad area which includes characterizing the voice of someone who is not a native English speaker, or uses different regional pronunciations of English across the United States.

I remember being fascinated as a child by British accents that I heard on TV.  I was envious of my elementary school classmates who could do such an accent.  Try as I might, I could never come close.

It took me a long, long while before I realized there were two big factors in my friends’ success.  One, they had a parent or close relative from the UK who lived with them, so they heard it around the house every day.  And two, some folks just more natural ability than others to approximate or duplicate an accent.

And it took me even longer to understand that I could learn to do accents, it just required a lot of work.  Mindless repetition, as it were, much like learning to play a musical instrument.  I played trumpet back in the day as a younger lad, but deep down I wished I played the drums.  For some reason, I set myself up early for failure back then by deciding I could never play with the speed and dexterity of drummers I admired.

But as I approached my 50th birthday, I was determined to give it a shot, and not go to my grave regretting that I never tried.  I haven’t put as much time practicing as I would have liked, because of other life commitments, but I have noticed an improvement every year since then.

Practicing accents for voiceover?  Man, I got an even later start for that!   But like I said, I’m never going to know for sure unless I try.  Along my recent VO journey, I learned that I can do a few accents and characterizations, and my instructor Ron Allan helped me put together a holiday/character demo that I was very pleased with.  I’ve watched enough James Bond movies and Monday Night Football to do decent parodies of Sean Connery and Howard Cosell.  And I’ve watched “The Quiet Man” so many times that I can do a passable Irish leprechaun, who sounds suspiciously like Barry Fitzgerald for some reason.

Right now, the most popular voice characterization I’ve seen requested seems to be Morgan Freeman, aka “The Voice of God”, and for very good reason.  Somewhere along the way Morgan edged out George Burns for that role, but he definitely worked hard for that title.  Am I going to try learning to capture some of Morgan’s style and nuances?  If there’s a job in it for me, you bet – but it’s going to take a lot of work.  Mindless repetition, as it were.

How about any of you readers out there?  Do you have a particular accent, dialect, or voice characterization you can’t quite master?  Or ones you do well?  How do you approach this from a voice artist perspective?  Feel free to reply to this post and share your challenges, techniques, and successes, I’d love to hear from you.  (NOTE:  please, no spam or solicitations, those WILL be deleted)

Well, time to get ready to work the Circleville OH Pumpkin Show festival as one of the announcers for this afternoon, and get ready for week 9 of the high school football season tonight.  Gonna be a great autumn day and weekend.  Until next time, take care and put your best voice forward!

-Z-

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