Voice coach Laura Carroll shares her top tips on how to learn an accent
There’s no quick way to learn an accent. Like any skill, it’s developed through training, practice and feedback, but once perfected, it will open up a whole new world for your voice work. Commercials, video games, audiobooks, narration – all of these opportunities are more likely to come to a voice over artist who can vary the way their voice sounds.
We asked vocal coach Laura Carroll, who was the Head of Voice at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, for her top tips on how to learn an accent.
Choose an Accent
Before you start, you need to decide which accent you want to learn. With so many varying accents to choose from, it can be overwhelming, but think about which accent will serve you best – as well as which is most suitable for the type of voice work you’re hoping to get. It may also help to choose an accent that you’re already slightly familiar with, be it through exposure to TV shows, films or the people around you.
Listen to the Accent
Listening is the key to mimicry. Laura Carroll advises that you should, “Listen to an accent as if it was a piece of music, the music of the area.”
The quickest way to get into the sound of an accent is to pay attention to the cultural stereotypes and icons of the area. Also pay attention to things like whether the area is urban or rural, and the physicality of the people who live there, etc. Gaining this understanding of how the accent has been shaped should help you replicate it accurately.
You should also take note of things like vowel sounds, facial expressions, mouth movement, tongue positions, and the stress and rhythm that native speakers of the accent put into their speech patterns. These are all attributes that shape an accent, and copying them as closely as you can, will help you get the accent spot on.
Practise and Playback
The way to develop any skill is with practice. Accents are no different. Laura Carroll recommends you, “Practis[e] it as much as possible,” and make sure you’re, “Recording and listening to yourself back.”
When you hear yourself trying to do the accent, it’ll be easier for you to identify what bits need more work. When you finally have that accent perfected, you’ll be able to hear it. If certain words are tripping you up, write them down phonetically as they’d sound in that accent. This will help you sound them out and understand their vocal shape.
It takes time to learn an accent, so it’s important to be persistent and not give up if you’re still struggling after a while. Keep listening, keep practising, and eventually you’ll be able to do it.
You’re not the only actor trying to learn a new accent, so look for fellow actors online or in classes who are at the same stage as you. Perhaps you could form an accent practice group with them to get feedback and share tips?
Or, if you’re struggling, or really need a certain accent for an upcoming audition, you might consider working with a vocal coach or joining an accent workshop or masterclass. Spotlight often runs accent workshops for members, so make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter to be notified about when we run events.
Image credit: Joanna Nicole Photography