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The 'Sweet Spot' To Voicing
Credible Dialects & Accents Is ...
By Doug Honorof
Dialect & Accent Coach

Ever wonder how to position yourself to book dialect work?

Many voices can mean many paychecks - and way more fun.
Yet whether a full-blown dialect is called for, or just a hint of something exotic, a voice has to be consistent from take to take and session to session.
You want to be able to pull that dialect out of your back pocket with no warning.
Fortunately, the science of phonetics provides the tools you need to gain control over those voices. And each phonetic sound has a name.
When something has a name, you can remember it, and learning to recognize the sounds and their names is the secret to dialect recall.
That training, and the hours you spend with the best native-speaker recording archives, can lead to really credible voices.
But credible does not always mean authentic. After all, the casting director can always track down a native speaker when authenticity matters.
If authenticity is not the goal, and consistency is not enough, what makes a voice credible?
Obviously, articulatory flexibility, familiarity with dialects and consistency are all very important, but they only get you so far.
Conviction is what matters most - believing that you are really from a place frees you to act past the accent.
If you believe, the casting director is more likely to buy it, too.
I like to get my students to a place where they are so good at switching into and out of a dialect that they can forget about the accent altogether and just act - or even improvise - in accent.
That's the sweet spot.
Finally, one very practical piece of advice:
You may be surprised at how quickly you can expand your range with the right training, but don't risk alienating a casting director by listing dialects on your resume until you have really worked them.
If in doubt, ask your coach.
Doug Honorof is one of the nation's premier accent and dialect coaches. Over the past 15 years, he has coached many voice and on-screen performances in dialects ranging from Pan-regional American to Onondaga. Based in New York City, his clients have included Disney, NBC-Universal and Sony Pictures, among many others. He has coached A-list actors and actors just beginning to invest in a voice over career, and has taught at the Yale School of Drama and CAP21 (NYU/Tisch). He also teaches a regular intensive series of dialect classes at Voice One in San Francisco (next classes, June 2-6).
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Comments (3)
bettye zoller
5/19/2011 at 4:46 PM
Truer words were never spoken. Everything coach Honorof says here should be heeded!

I believe we are colleague members of VASTA, Voice And Speech Trainers Association, yes? And our colleague Amy Stoller, my dear friend, is a mutual colleague too. Please indeed let's get to know each other better. I admire your work so much.

Bettye Zoller Seitz
Pat Fraley
5/19/2011 at 12:21 PM
Mr. Honorof is bang-on with this. "Conviction" or "Commitment" can get you through a marginal dialect effort. If the acting is strong, the audience is "busy" and doesn't have the time or inclination to "pick" on the dialect. A dialect is the frosting. The acting is the cake. No one wants a bowl of frosting.

I would suggest that one needs to have the essential dialect sound changes, which are accurate (not many of them, by the way), and the rest of one's time should be focused upon lilts and authentic sounds changes, which one may glean from authentic sources and just plain cool stuff one picks up.

Mr. Honorof is correct with "Consistency" being so important. You can always tell who the Masters are. They make things simple. Lessor teachers make things more complex so they can keep control over "The Keys to the Kingdom."

Well done, Mr. Honorof.
Alan Sklar
5/19/2011 at 8:06 AM
I have worked with Doug and have always found him to be an effective, reliable, insightful and resourceful fellow. I recommend him. His seriousness of purpose is admirable.
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