Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen (includes 12 CDs) Paperback – 2012
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This easy-to-follow yet incredibly detailed 370-page book is the industry standard on accents and dialects of the English language. This is the updated, improved and perfect-bound 2012 edition. You get not only a proven system of instruction instead of mere voice mimicry, but an invaluable collection of 12 CDs, each containing two dialects/accents, for a total of 24 accents/dialects. Paul Meier, who speaks the entire text himself while also providing recordings of real-life speakers, is a leading dialect coach for theatre and film, and contained in this impressive publication is his entire standard repertoire of the 24 most valuable accents and dialects for actors: Afrikaans (South Africa), American Deep South (Mississippi/Georgia/Alabama), American Southern (Kentucky/Tennessee), Australian, Cockney, Downeast New England, French, General American, German, Hampshire, Indian, Irish, Italian, Liverpool, New York, Northern Ireland, Russian, Scottish, South Boston, Spanish (Castilian & Colonial), Standard British English (Received Pronunciation), Welsh, Yiddish, and Yorkshire. Coaching many famous actors (Tobey Maguire, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, etc.), Meier has also taught dialects at RADA, LAMDA, Webber-Douglas, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and other famous institutions. In addition to his user-friendly practice material, for each dialect Paul coaches you in two monologues (one male and one female) from a well-known play or film, and links you to the hundreds of online recordings of native speakers on his International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA). Further enhancing the value of the book are his interactive IPA phonetics charts, in addition to information on his unique show-specific dialect CDs for hundreds of plays and musicals, custom CD recording, and phone-coaching services. Easy enough for the beginner, rigorous enough for the experienced professional.
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Meier has selected twenty-four of the most called-for dialects and accents in dramatic literature and film, and uses a "Seven Step Method" for each, first laying out the phonetic "signature sounds" with witty sentence drills; the specific articulatory adjustments are adroitly described and modeled by Meier in the recording. Additional features (particularly unique linguistic characteristics) and the rhythm, stress, intonation and tone are then introduced and incorporated into coordination exercises and sample monologues, each including full and precise IPA transcriptions and references to the sound change lessons.
Meier stresses that listening to authentic speakers on the related IDEA website is "central to the study," and provides the links to online samples that feature the pertinent characteristics of the particular dialect/accent. The CD's and accompanying manual are extremely user friendly for a self-learner, and since all of the instructional text is spoken on the discs, one could easily brush up a dialect in the car on the way to an audition or rehearsal. The length of each lesson is well constructed, with ample pause time to mimic the sentence drills, coordination exercises and appropriate monologues--both male and female for each. The large pages and print, spiral binding and attached CD pouches holding the twelve discs make this a very attractive and practical instruction package.
The price tag on this collection is incredibly generous; if you tried to buy the same collection of training packages from the other popular methods, you'd spend $500 to $600 dollars for an inferior product. This package is one of the best investments any actor--veteran or beginner--can make in his/her career.
Mr. Meier incorporates IPA into this work, but you don't have to have prior experience with it. This is the only work I've come across that employs both an IPA and a "phonics-based" approach to dialects/accents with such fluidity, accessibility and effectiveness. Included in the book is an IPA chart, and stunningly, if you go to his IDEA website, you can hear the IPA (demonstrated by Mr. Meier) and practice working with the actual core sounds. This is a magnificent tool. I've worked with IPA as a singer before, not extensively (or even that successfully), but it's never been more accessible than with his work.
The seven-step process is highly effective: he begins with standard idiomatic sounds, develops the production of those sounds in (sometimes tongue-twisting!) statements, progresses to coordination exercises (sentences using a combination of the various sounds) and ends with two short, idiomatic and well-researched monologues in each dialect/accent. Mr. Meier is truly a master teacher of his material.
The CDs accompanying the book follow the texts perfectly. This allows (in my opinion) for three levels of working: read the text, follow the text with the CD, use the CD on its own. I've found that working this way gives a full immersion in the material and very quickly helps the actor to incorporate the principles into whatever role he or she is preparing. Mr. Meier's voice is engaging, accessible and intimate, as though he is your own personal private coach and his demonstrations are superbly performed.
It is without equivocation that I recommend this work to all actors and educators. We are fortunate to have access to Mr. Meier's years of experience, and his solid, effective, tested and practical method of instruction.
The authenticity of the accents and dialects is assured by the fact that the system is based on Meier's own International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA), a database of recordings of native speakers. Factors of age, gender, and geographical location are included for each speaker so that misunderstandings due to generalizations or stereotyping are eliminated.
Another major factor for me in choosing Meier's system was the dialects covered. As an accomplished actor himself with many British and American credits, Meier has selected what he feels are the dialects most often needed in the business: nine UK dialects (including standard British, Irish, and Scottish); six USA (including New York, Boston, and the South); Austrailian, Indian, French, German, Afrikanns, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and even Yiddish.
The days of big, sloppy Vaudevillian dialects are gone. Today's audiences are sophisticated, and authenticity is the key to winning them over and avoiding unnecessary offense. Meier's system is sure to please.
I'm not one to do reviews etc, unless something is exceptionally good or bad. In this case it's the former and at $99 is a snip!