How To Do Accents
Accents can be mastered with the understanding of rhotic and nonrhotic sounds, lexical sets, intonation, and voice quality. Study different accents and use these tips to improve yours.
Hello, I'm an actor and a voice coach.
com. Here are some tips for working on your voice. If you want to learn to do accents, that is any accent at all, then what you need to do is isolate the key sounds in the accent you're working on.
Let me tell you what I mean. All accents of English, all the ways of speaking English, can be broken down into two sets. Some of them are called rhotic and some are called nonrhotic.
A rhotic accent is one in which all the letter R's written down are pronounced. So for example, general American is rhotic, so if I say, "are there any birds in here?", you hear every letter R. "Are there any birds in here?" But British English is nonrhotic, so you only hear R's that happen before vowels.
"Are there any birds in here?" The only R you can here is on "there any". "Are there any birds in here?" Listen again. "Are there any birds in here?" and "are there any birds in here?" So perhaps the first thing you could do if you wanted to do any accent at all is find out whether that accent is a rhotic accent.
Listen to a native speaker and work out whether they pronounce their letter R's. Don't make a common mistake. Don't put extra R's in where there aren't any.
I hear a lot of British actors saying "Chicago" and "idea" with R's in them. There's no R in the word Chicago. You want to say Chicago.
Chicago and idea. That's one American accent that's very depending on the accent you're trying to do. In fact, this is what you need to do for all the vowels and consonants of the accent you're trying to emulate.
So listen to a speaker and work out how they sound, and see if you can manipulate your voice to sound the same. Actors and voice analysts use something called lexical sets. A lexical set is a set of all the words that have the same sound end.
For example, fair, bear, hair. All have the "air" sound. And oil, toy, boy, foil all have the "oi" sound.
These are different lexical sets. So if you hear someone in a southern accent say "it's not fair, it's not fair", then you know that words like "hair" and "bear" would also be pronounced the same. Fair, hair, bear.
So you don't need to listen to the person with the accent pronounce everything. As long as you've heard them say something that's in the same lexical set, then you can manipulate your voice to sound like that for all words. If you want to get a list of lexical sets, you can search online, and there are books that will list them as well for you.
But it's not enough just to change your vowel sounds and your consonant sounds. To do an accent, you also have to change your intonation. So some accents, like British English, go down at the end, like this.
Go down like this. You can hear. I'm going down, but some accents go up, like this.
We call it high rising terminal. Some people hate it, but whether you love it or hate it, if it's a feature of the accent you're working on, you need to put it in. But it's not just intonation, that is the up and down of the voice, it's also the general voice quality.
These vary from accent to accent. So British accents tend to be slightly breathy and dry. So listen to this, I can talk like this, very breathy, but that is probably exaggerated.
Most British speakers aren't that breathy. Or I can be quite twangy, like this. Now if you think of an American speaker, they are considered twangy.
So think about whether the accent you are working on is breathy sounding or dry accent or twangy accent, or maybe even nasal. Some New Yorkers are considered nasal, using the nose. So really listen, not just to the sounds of the vowels and consonants, and the up and down of the pitch, but also listen to the quality of the sound.
Is it nasal? Is it breathy? Is it creaky? Some Australians are creaky like that. Not all, but some parts of Australia are. So have a lesson, and if you need more help, look online.