For voice actors, a regional accent can keep you from winning auditions that are out of your local area. You may not be aware that you have any regionalisms because you sound like everyone around you. Sometimes people only notice their local accent when they travel. Voice over professionals should be aware of their local sounds and be able to modify their voice so that they speak a Standard American Accent. What exactly is Standard American is debated by many voice coaches, however there are some basic sounds that are generally accepted. A few small changes can go a long way toward modifying your delivery and expand your chances of getting jobs in a wider market.
When someone comes to me for accent modification the first sounds I listen to are their open vowel sounds. These are exactly what the name says, they are vowel sounds made with the mouth open, such as, “aw”, “ah” and “oo”. You will notice that you need to drop your jaw to make these sounds. Also notice that they are very emotional sounds, so you want the audience to pay attention to the feeling you are trying to communicate rather than noticing that you are saying the word in a way that sounds strange to them. Let’s take, for example, a word that inspires a strong emotion in most of us – chocolate! The Standard American pronunciation for that word is “ch-ah-klit”. The first o is pronounced “ah” as in “ahh, that tastes good”. However, it is very common for New Yorkers to pronounce that o as “aw” as in “aw, that is fattening”. I have coached many New Yorkers who have eliminated most of their accent, but that word will slip by. It is a simple fix to substitute the “ah” for the “aw” once they are aware of it and they have increased their chances of advertising chocolate to the rest of the country.
Another time that open vowels are noticed is when our Canadian friends send an audition somewhere in the USA and forget to change the “ou” in “out” to the Standard American pronunciation of “ow” as in “how “ from the Canadian pronunciation of “oat”. To Americans the phrase, “out and about” sounds like, “oat and a boat” when spoken by a Canadian. Again, it is a simple change that makes a big difference.
It is difficult to hear your own accent. A coach can make you aware of pronunciations that may be getting in your way. One of my favorite aspects of my work is the immediate result. I give my clients their own short list of what I call their “red flag” sounds so they can mark their scripts and instantly change their delivery.