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What To List As US Dialects You Perform – And What Not To List

Hey, there!

Casting directors can smell fear, desperation, lying and newbie-ness.

And one of the smelliest places on a resume is the Accents and Dialects area.

I shudder sometimes at what I see (and hear) – so let’s get that area squared away, and your resume nice and spiffy, shall we?

I can always tell when someone really knows their accents and dialects, not only by their obvious performance ability in demos, but simply by the way they describe them.

As an example, if someone says they do a Southern accent, or a New York accent, I’m immediately suspect. There are several broad Southern accents, each with their own particular oddities. And someone from a specific place in the South can tell immediately if you’re a local – or if you’re from some other Southern area. Same thing with the NY metro area.

A Texan from Dallas is going to sound different than someone from Georgia, or someone from the Carolinas.

Likewise, there is not just one Joe Pesci-like New York accent, but rather very clear differences between a Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island accent (among many others).

And our goal with accents and dialects is to be able to get as close to native as possible. Not only in performance, but in calling those dialects by accurate names. Believe me, when writers start writing in dialect, they are very specific about what they want.

Luckily, a whip-smart college professor, Robert Delaney from the CW Post Campus of Long Island University, has given us some manageable guidelines, and I suggest that you review his work, see if you’re really capable of being indistinguishable from a local, and then, most importantly, placing these very specific names of dialects on your resume.

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[Click on the map to see it full size in a new window]

In addition to city-specific accents (Pittsburgh is a great example, as is the East Los Angeles Latino accent mentioned by Kat Negrete in the comments below), and the completely non-accented General American accent, here is a quick list of the dialects Delaney notes are most common, working our way across the map:

General Northern
Northern New England
Eastern New England
Boston Urban
(Boston) Central City Area
Western New England
Hudson Valley
New York City
Brooklyn
Bonac (Long Island)
Inland Northern
San Francisco Urban
Upper Midwestern
Minnewegian
Chicago Urban
North Midland
Pennsylvania German-English
Rocky Mountain
Pacific Northwest
Chinook Jargon
Alaska
Pacific Southwest
Southwestern
Hawaii (not shown)
General Southern
South Midland
Ozark
Southern Appalachian
Virginia Piedmont
Coastal Southern
Gullah
Gulf Southern
Louisiana: Cajun French
Louisiana: Cajun English
Louisiana: Yat
Louisiana: French Creole

Here’s the full article, called the Dialect Map of American English, on Robert’s site so you can really dig deep.

This is exactly why I exhort you in class to avoid accent reduction, to own your heritage, and use it to your advantage when acting on-camera or on-mic. Obviously, if you’re from a particular area, you’re going to have a distinct advantage in performing that dialect – but if you’re not, be aware that auditioning for dialects you really don’t know that well can be annoying at the least, and red-lining at worst for a VO casting director to endure.

So – ONLY PUT ON YOUR RESUME DIALECTS YOU REALLY KNOW AND PERFORM WELL. And be specific, not general, about those dialects’ names – even if the CD isn’t familiar with them. It gives you something to talk about.

Hope this helps.

David

9 Responses to 6 Steps to a Perfect VO Demo

  1. Kelli August 18, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I feel really good about my demo. It is a quick and fun process, even for someone like me who gets very self concious. :)

  2. David Britz September 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    The demos are great. Superb quality. Why go anywhere else?

  3. David Britz October 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Can’t wait to record my Narration VO Demo!! :))

  4. Mike Brang December 31, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Having a well-produced demo is one of the most important things in the VO business. I had a number of demos made from other producers in the past and they all had one thing in common — that manufactured, cookie cutter sound!
    What sets David apart from the rest, besides his affordable price and tremendously fast turn around time, is that all of the clips you record with him sound unique. Each spot sounds like an actual commercial you recorded for a job.
    My agent loved the quality and even asked who produced it to refer his other talent there!

    Thanks again, David for producing such a great, high quality demo for me. You made the process relaxing and enjoyable. I urge anyone reading this unsolicited reply to listen to David’s student demos to hear the difference for yourself. Anyone would be lucky to work with him

  5. Kristy Liles February 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I can not thank you enough. I worked so hard on 15 page IVR project, one day I cryed, look for answers, pull my hear (not really) but I was about until another VO send me this great tool. Thanks!

  6. Frank June 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

    David

    When v123 indicates the audition is for a student/ nonprofit are we to assume it is for $0. If so, why does the audition ask for an amount to be entered?

  7. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    David,
    I did get this scam through Voice 123. In our discourse, they offered me the gig and they gave me the name of a legit local place to record and the same runaround with the money. I didn’t send anything, but instead, I called the studio to make sure the booking was for the day we set up, and lo and behold, the people there had no idea what I was talking about. I then tried to call back my “contact person” who was setting this up and there was a fax machine beep on the other end. I immediately contacted Voice 123 and told them what had happened. You know what they say…if it sounds togaed to be true, it probably is. Thanks for the reminder!
    Shirley

  8. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    …too good…not togaed.
    The one time spell check didn’t work!

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