By Stephanie Ciccarelli
August 13, 2014
Did you know that you can grow your market potential by altering your voice accent? Toby Ricketts, a British-born voice-over talent who moved to New Zealand at age 14, managed to re-wire his brain in two weeks to adopt the Kiwi accent. In this podcast, Toby gives you a formula for how to tackle an accent and demonstrates the differences between accents such as New Zealand, Australian and British. Mastering an accent is vital before you go auditioning for projects requiring it, and according to Toby, the key skill to mastering an accent is listening. Start by listening to this episode of Voice Over Experts!
Originally from the UK, Voice artist Toby Ricketts currently resides in New Zealand and has over 24 years combined experience in the UK and New Zealand in voice work and voiceover recording.
Having been a sound engineer for most of his professional life he has been in thousands of voice over sessions and consequently knows exactly what works and what does not work when it comes to voicing.
Toby started voicing in a truly professional manner in 2001 and since then has recorded hundreds of scripts internationally, and been the voice of several multi-national and international brands.
Toby holds a Bachelors degree in Broadcasting Communications from the New Zealand Broadcasting School.
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Toby Ricketts: Hi there, I'm Toby Ricketts bringing you this episode of Voice Over Experts. Today I want to surprise you with the fact that I don't actually talk with this accent at all, I'm from New Zealand and work full time in three different accent market places worldwide.
In this podcast I want to show you how to grow your market potential by altering your voice and your accent. Now don't get me wrong, I don't suggest that you start auditioning for jobs with accents that you haven't mastered - that's just annoying. But at least start practicing as a side project so that in a few years you can break into markets that you never knew existed.
Now I want to stress this point of not poisoning the well for other voice actors auditioning with their native accents. I was asked to do an English read in a Nigerian accent recently which I politely had to decline because I just can't do that. I would have just ended up with an unhappy client, I would have had to try to redo it and it would have just turned into a world of pain. So it's really not worth it.
There's nothing to be gained from doing bad accents professionally, except if you build a career on it, like Dick Van Dyk did.
I'm originally from the UK, I moved to New Zealand when I was 14 years old and right at that time, when you're 14 years old, you're desperately trying to fit in at high school, and getting hassled for wearing the wrong clothes or looking funny. I got laughed at quite a bit for my British accents and over about two weeks, my brain rewired and suddenly I was speaking with a Kiwi accent, like I do now.
Interestingly though, whenever I spoke to someone back in the UK on the phone, my accent would revert to British and I wouldn't even realise. People told me afterwards that I was doing it.
The power of the brain at memorising things in the background, when you're not even aware of it, is quite amazing. The key to unlocking these skills is to take control of that mechanism and be able to switch it from voice to voice as required. And it's just like any other skill, all it takes is practice.
The key skill to master is one that, given that you're already a voice artist, you've probably already mastered - the art of listening. You need to find a good example of the accent that you want to master, listen to it, and hear what sounds are different to the way that you currently talk. Record yourself reading the same script in the desired accent, then listen back to that recording, noticing where you made a mistake or gave away the fact that you were imitating an accent. Repeat this process until you've mastered the script and then move onto another script.
I've included two scripts in the text of this podcast description, which include of the vowel sounds that you'll encounter in most scripts. Listen to me reading this script in four different accents. Note that most of it is the same but it's the little things that make the difference.
New Zealand. I had John fix the car. I had my hair cut. The teacher made the students work in groups. Our boss made us work extra hours. He got the mechanic to repair the machine. She got him to read more. Jane let her son go out. They let the children play in the yard.
Australian. I had John fix the car. I had my hair cut. The teacher made the students work in groups. Our boss made us work extra hours. He got the mechanic to repair the machine. She got him to read more. Jane let her son go out. They let the children play in the yard.
British. I had John fix the car. I had my hair cut. The teacher made the students work in groups. Our boss made us work extra hours. He got the mechanic to repair the machine. She got him to read more. Jane let her son go out. They let the children play in the yard.
And even though I'm not an expert, just for comparison, this is my US accent. I had John fix the car. I had my hair cut. The teacher made the students work in groups. Our boss made us work extra hours. He got the mechanic to repair the machine. She got him to read more. Jane let her son go out. They let the children play in the yard.
And now it's worth mentioning that when people do accents badly, it's usually not because they're not trying hard enough but it's because they are trying too hard. To master an accent you really need to relax into an accent.
If it's sounding weird, then maybe try less not more. And if you feel yourself not doing the right accent, then go back to the start of the line and try and do it again. I had to do it for that last recording a number of times.
Feel how the sounds come off your tongue, how your mouth feels with this accent in it. This is absolutely essential to make the accent instinctive. And you need to have an instinctive accent so that you do not have to think about it and you can concentrate on the delivery of the script, the inflections and tone, etc.
Now there's one more script that I'll read which has specific lines that are voiced differently for different accents. You'll hear what I mean.
Firstly, here's New Zealand. Lake, tree, pine cone, cool brown soil, fat pet pig got drunk, took walk, sharp thorns tear poor deer's fur. A hidden litter of little kittens.
Australian. Lake, tree, pine cone, cool brown soil, fat pet pig got drunk, took walk, sharp thorns tear poor deer's fur. A hidden litter of little kittens.
British. Lake, tree, pine cone, cool brown soil, fat pet pig got drunk, took walk, sharp thorns tear poor deer's fur. A hidden litter of little kittens.
And US, why not. Lake, tree, pine cone, cool brown soil, fat pet pig got drunk, took walk, sharp thorns - sharp thorns tear poor deer's fur. A hidden litter of little kittens. Now you can hear I kind of stuffed up on the US accent there.
It's hard for me to articulate those sharp thorns because I'm not used to doing that with any of the other accents.
It's interesting, once you start doing it, you'll hear all of these different little inflections which will make all the difference to your accent.
Now that last script is a great script for finding the feel of the accented words in your mouth as each line has a phonetic theme.
So here's your homework, should you wish to accept it. Go onto YouTube and watch a video of someone talking with the accent that you want to master. Transcribe the script, record yourself speaking with their accent. Then listen back and hear what you did right and what you did wrong. And repeat it until it drives you crazy.
Well that's just about all we've got time for today unfortunately. I run a voice academy here in New Zealand; you can find out more if you like at Voiceacademy.co.nz, and my voice over website is @tobyrickettsvoiceover.com, there's a link below. And if you're ever in New Zealand then do come and say hi, because I love meeting voice overs from all around the world so I can steal their accents.
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