Surmounting the North-South accent divide

I’ve never considered myself one for accents and impressions. I grew up with a mixed influence – starting life in a small, nicely spoken Buckinghamshire village before spending my most influential years at a somewhat less well-spoken school near Slough, yet still sounding slightly ‘posh’ at university in the Midlands. The majority of my voiceover work is close to my natural voice – albeit anywhere from polite RP to a sloppy, casual disregard for Ts and Hs. But the fact remains my accent is still distinctly from the south of England. 

So I felt a little daunted when I attended a one-off group session with voiceover coach Tanya Rich, who suggested that we should introduce the Northern ‘A’ when recording content that will be heard anywhere north of Gloucester. “Won’t that sound weird?” I asked, “Speaking in a southern accent but then saying ‘ANT’ instead of ‘AUNT’ and ‘BATH’ instead of ‘BAAARTH’?”

Apparently not! Tanya explained this isn’t the same as mimicking a northern accent. Instead, it involves using my natural voice but flattening the vowel sounds a little so the northern ‘A’ can slip in largely undetected. It brings a touch of familiarity to the voice, toning down the usual southern pronunciations which can sound overly formal to those who don’t hail from the Home Counties. 

It’s an especially useful trick when delivering learning material which requires the listener to engage with the content, and not be distracted by the way the narrator pronounces certain words. The technique is employed by a lot of voiceover artists so you might hear it more often than you realise – and it’s actually quite easy to do. But the tricky part is being natural and consistent. 

As with all vocal techniques, it takes practice, practice and more practice… Did you have a laugh with your Aunt from Newcastle? Would you like a lager after your bath? Sure, there’s a little more work for me to do, but it’s definitely going to be a useful trick to add to my collection.

For voiceover training with Tanya Rich, please visit https://richcraft.biz/

 Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash