Part 5: Voice Over - Dialect and Accent
Just when you thought progress was being made with your VOs (reading paragraphs into your iPhone recorder app) someone asks you, is that really you? In other words, it sounds like you’re from somewhere else - somewhere else being a euphemism for dialect.
A dialect includes a person’s grammar and vocabulary but mostly it’s pronunciation. An accent is the style of how that dialect is pronounced. For example, if you are from the Midwest you might say, we are having beef for dinner. But if you are from Texas (or your Sam Elliot the actor) you’d say, beef: It’s what’s for dinner. In essence, you are saying the same thing but trying to get your point across in a more folksy way.
Many studies have shown that Southern and Texas accents are considered “nice,” where Northern accents make the speaker appear “smarter.” There’s an old saying, whatever dialect your parents spoke, will seem the most pleasant to you. That may be true, but if you have a nasally Midwest (Chicago or Minnesota) accent and you are auditioning for a VO to be played in California, good luck with that. The California accent is neutral and highly trained by many vocal coaches who try to wash away a regional or even the highly respected and desired British accent.
The copy you will be handed to read as a VO actor will have the accent and/or dialect preferred. For the past few weeks, you have practiced VOs in your voice. It’s time to find another voice; a voice you may not know you have. Practice a British, Southern and Bostonian accent. Have fun with it. The goal of the exercise is to vary your breathing while slowing your speech down to pronunciate clearly.
Remember, there are four syllables in the word “pronunciate” and two syllables in the word “clearly.” Try to make sure you are not swallowing words. Project your voice by breathing out and making sure the end of each word is precise- if you are reading too quickly the words will run together. As Jay Leno has mentioned on his show “Leno’s Garage” numerous times, he used to tell actors before they came out on camera, “if you think you are talking too slow, slow it down even more.” Sage advice when it comes to VOs.
Related Articles Part 1: Voice Over – Introduction Part 2: Voice Over - Vocal Projecting Part 3: Voice Over - Vocal Pronunciation Part 4: Voice Over - The 3 P’s (Projection, Pronunciation and Pace) Part 6: Voice Over - Finding Your Wheelhouse