Here is a short story to start. Long, long ago I had a recording contract with the great EMI Record company. Me and a friend doing folky kind of music with an orchestra something like Simon and Garfunkel. We had Elton John’s record producer (Gus Dudgeon) and his arranger (Paul Buckmaster). The day came for our debut at the famous Abbey Road studios and we were were ushered quaking in our boots into a small box on the side of studio 1 that looked down on a massive 50-piece orchestra. We sang our little hearts out….and then there was silence for 2 days before I was called into EMI. They didn’t like my accent which was deemed too ‘posh’ and I was sent for singing lessons for 5 weeks to an expensive vocal coach to divest myself of it before going back for a second attempt. My parents were not amused!
My general accent is Received Pronounciation..or BBC English, Queens English, Estuary English, Home Counties English. Like most accents, it came from my parents who brought me up in Africa, and from the very expensive school they sent me to (Harrow where Winston Churchill was educated).
As in the US, there are a huge number of accents from every corner of the UK including a specific London one, but the one the world outside the UK knows as a British accent is that of RP. So, things have gone full circle and I can make use of the natural accent I have to earn my living. I am not talented enough to mimic other accents other than London and cockney and seem to have more than enough work coming in to just be myself.
So….what is the point of this essay? Well, I consider that unless you are a specialist in dialects and mimic, then it is probably best to just stick with the accent you were given as there is usually someone out there who will want it. I am quite often asked to sound American…..and my answer is ‘go find an American talent who will give you an authentic read’ (of course I will always suggest someone).
Hi David, I agree with your point. VO’s shouldn’t force accents into the their repertoire of skills, unless they’re really able to do them and more importantly, pull them off well. There are thousands of VO’s out there with those particular accents ingrained in them throughout their life time, and maybe these jobs should be left to them.
But in saying that, I do believe that mastering a number of different accents and dialects can work to a VO’s advantage. Not all voice overs are actors, but some very good actors also make good voice overs.