How do I learn to Do Accents?

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Cori
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Post by Cori » August 22nd, 2008, 11:11 am

So, I am still learning how to Do Character Voices, and this week's podcast, and the next couple too, will have more on that topic. That's a lot of fun (though I am not good as yet.)

However, pairing with that in my mind is the ability to Do Accents. How does one learn to do that..? I'm fairly porous to strong UK accents, and if I listen to a long-enough recording of a particular accent, I can hazard a reasonable version of it myself. Sometimes. But global accents ... I haven't a clue where to start! And how does one "keep" an accent in mind ... for me, as soon as I stop listening to the accented voice, a very short timer is started on how long I'll retain any trace of it. Sooner or later, for me, anyway, *everything* ends up sounding like a bad attempt at an Irish accent.

Any hints..?
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Post by Jc » August 22nd, 2008, 12:02 pm

I'm not very good with accents, and can only do "extreme" accents, such as those really stereotypical asian accents, and for that, I usually have a phrase that I'll keep repeating, and I switch to accent mode.

(like for the asian accent, I repeat "thirty-four fifty" in Russell Peters style)
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Post by Caeristhiona » August 22nd, 2008, 12:21 pm

Cori, you HAVE an accent. :)

Honestly, I practice in public. For example, I wanted to have a character with a British accent in a book I'm reading for something else...so I just spoke in a British accent everywhere I went, until I finally ran into a British person who thought I was Australian.

I then politely explained that I was trying to be British, and asked him for tips. :D
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Post by sjmarky » August 22nd, 2008, 1:55 pm

Start with something like "Accents - A Manual for Actors" by Robert Blumenfeld. It explains the specific vowel and consonant substitutions for each regional accent, includes practice words and phrases, and 2 CD's with samples of them.
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Post by kristin » August 22nd, 2008, 2:34 pm

Cori, I want YOUR accent. I'll trade you one slightly used North American accent.

(Seriously. Any time you'd like.)

(I also want Ruthie's and Rachel's.)

We have such a great variety of accents here. I had suggested somewhere else (lost what thread it was in) that we skype or something and trade accents. Tapes are great if you don't have the real thing but from my experience there is nothing like hearing and working with someone with the accent you want. The real thing is a different experience than the somewhat generic approach taken to teach actors accents.
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Post by simonlarois » August 22nd, 2008, 4:56 pm

YouTube -> accent + scottish / spanish etc

Worth a try - there are some very lovely but slightly anal people out there who like to teach people how to do it proper! I found a grrrreat Scottish one - a very angry dude who was fed up with Billy Connolly meets Scotty-from-Star-Trek accents in the moovies. I used to 'inform' my mangled Donalbain! What larks!

Should imagine there are a few free podcasts out there too... And there's

Listen and learn, vowels. As for non-English speaking countries - try to learn a little of the lingo. Then you learn how eg French speakers will 'mispronounce' words in English ;)

Golden rule, IMHO: never act the accent.

Simon :)
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Post by annise » August 22nd, 2008, 6:21 pm

I think a large part of regional accents is to do with the pattern of speech , where the sentences go up and down, where the emphasis comes in words and sentences , and the way the words are used . So listen to a native.:D

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Post by puffin1 » August 22nd, 2008, 8:25 pm

Cori, aren't you the one who pointed me to this website:

http://www.soundcomparisons.com/ ?

Maybe I just dreamed that. Anyway, it might be useful.

Caet, people in the British Isles laugh at me if I ever say "British accent" because they know all the many variables, and so wonder which one I'm talking about. Yorkshire? Cornwall? Kent? Somerset? Highland? Received (from posh boarding schools)?
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Post by icyjumbo » August 22nd, 2008, 11:54 pm

sjmarky wrote:Start with something like "Accents - A Manual for Actors" by Robert Blumenfeld. It explains the specific vowel and consonant substitutions for each regional accent, includes practice words and phrases, and 2 CD's with samples of them.
I checked this out on Amazon, and found that it gets awful reviews, mostly because the CD samples are done by the author himself. The reviewers almost universally pan the accent samples with which they are familiar. One even says it is the funniest thing he has heard. Such a shame, as it sounds like a wonderful idea and would make a great resource.

However, on fossicking around Amazon (OK, I clicked one link :oops:) I found How to do accents: an essential handbook for every actor, which gets rave reviews from most. It does appear to come with a CD. One note of caution, however: none of the reviewers comments on the accuracy of the accents.

icyjumbo

Post by icyjumbo » August 23rd, 2008, 9:56 am

Mentioned this to my wife, and she pointed out a piece on the BBC from last month

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7509572.stm

A voice coach talks about how to "do" an American accent without doing a Dick van Dyke. Fascinating! I can see myself spending a little time playing with some of these ideas. Thanks for starting the thread Cori.

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Post by Cori » August 23rd, 2008, 10:50 am

There's also this Beeb Accents segment, which also leads on to a range of her CD-tutorials which I have been eying for a while.

It does seem like there's two aspects ... there's the technical side (what to do with one's mouth, where the voice is placed, and so on) and the artistic side (what an accent sounds like in practice.) Obviously I'm soooo in the right place to hear examples of just about everything on the artistic side, so I might go bookshopping for the technical side, thanks for the hints, Mark and Chris. And, Jc, the point about an "access phrase" is a really good one, I'd forgotten I did that with my bad-Irish accent during the Water-Babies, though I've no idea what phrase I used. Must take notes ... brain ... too ... full ...

Kristin, accent-swap, awesome, yes! I just need to get Skype sorted out, and I'll ping you to arrange something.
There's honestly no such thing as a stupid question -- but I'm afraid I can't rule out giving a stupid answer : : To Posterity and Beyond!

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Post by chocoholic » August 23rd, 2008, 10:53 am

How to speak Southern (US):

1. Rent most any movie set in the South
2. Listen carefully
3. Then DON'T talk like that

...with a few exceptions. A very few.
Laurie Anne

Cori
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Post by Cori » August 23rd, 2008, 10:54 am

PS. I thought this was so interesting ...
And I find the process very unnerving. "The voice is the soul and you are moving it," says Berkery.
I'm not quite on board with voices as souls, but it's definitely odd and even unnerving on occasion. More so with accents from further away, Brit accents, as I said above, are much easier to feel comfortable with very quickly.
There's honestly no such thing as a stupid question -- but I'm afraid I can't rule out giving a stupid answer : : To Posterity and Beyond!

Cori
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Post by Cori » August 23rd, 2008, 10:55 am

chocoholic wrote:How to speak Southern (US):

1. Rent most any movie set in the South
2. Listen carefully
3. Then DON'T talk like that

...with a few exceptions. A very few.
:lol: But ... but ... I'm so CLOSE to a Scarlett O'Hara accent already.

<ducks and runs>
There's honestly no such thing as a stupid question -- but I'm afraid I can't rule out giving a stupid answer : : To Posterity and Beyond!

chocoholic
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Post by chocoholic » August 23rd, 2008, 11:13 am

LOL! Shades of Vivien Leigh. :wink:
Laurie Anne

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