The voice is one of the most important tools an actor has at their disposal. The voice is what lifts a script up from its pages to the stage. It has the power to bring communities together, to inspire, emote, relate, alienate, storytell… the list is endless. Character work can often start with the voice, this offers an instrinsic look into what a character thinks and how they process and communicate their thoughts. Established voice coach, Richard Ryder has worked in a variety of settings, whether it be for West End shows, Drama Schools or Corporate environments. Richard explains more about what his role entails.
Hi Richard! You’re a successful voice coach, can you explain what the job role entails?
Depending on the requirements of the show and how many actors are involved will depend on what I need to do. If I’m the voice coach then I will support the actors with the text and make sure they can be heard in the theatre space. If the actor has less experience for stage work I will give more support with the text and with the voice in the space, checking in with clarity and volume, especially if they are used to working in TV or film. For more experienced actors it will be giving them feedback on what the audience are hearing and letting them know if certain words can’t be heard or where to place the resonance for a particular theatre space. As dialect coach, I would be listening to make sure the accent is consistent with the character voice they are developing and give support at the beginning of the rehearsal process as well as suggesting accent samples that could work for the character.
You’re currently the voice coach for West End hit, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What types of warmups and vocal techniques do you use with the cast?
During rehearsals I did lots of 1-1’s with all the cast, going through warm ups specific with each member if relevant and going through understudy roles too. I did some character voice work with the company and took a couple of general warm ups in order for them to get those muscles of support working to fill the theatre and to develop the stamina for five hours of performance. Now they do their own warm ups before the show.
You’ve enjoyed a varied career, having worked both creatively with productions and corporately with businesses. What are the similarities and differences in terms of working with these sectors?
The similarities are that ultimately everyone wants to communicate their own story as clearly as possible. The differences are that performers have longer to develop character or voice work for a particular performance and business people have limited time to do that, therefore results need to be seen much more quickly in the corporate sector.
Why did you choose a career in voice coaching?
I was a singer and then became an actor for a short time and then went into teaching. I’d always been good at accents and loved the voice so when I began to teach it I realised there was much more to learn, so I went to RCCSD to do the MA Voice Studies course and it changed my life! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I love my job.
You created The Accent Kit app after a conversation with the ‘Big Gob Squad’ Jan Haydn Rowles and Edda Sharpe. Why did you feel there was a need for the app?
Jan and Edda have written two fantastic books which every actor should have. How To Do Accents and How To Do Standard English Accents. These books were the foundations of the app. We realised that when an actor has a last minute audition where they have to know an accent, there are limited resources to be able to help. They are either very expensive, or don’t give enough succinct information required at short notice or they can’t afford an accent coach. The idea then was to create a resource that you could have on your phone and build your own personal accent library, also to find the accent required and find a couple of things to help you feel confident in the audition to get the job. This was so you could forget the accent and be the character.
What can performers expect from the app and where can it be purchased?
The app has 5 sections: free speech, practice text, foundations, vowels and consonants. You can also record yourself reading the texts so you can listen back and compare the differences from your accent to the new one. You can download it for free for i-phone and android, then once you’ve navigated through the app you can go to the Accent Store and buy an accent relative to your playing age or gender for about £1.40. We try to update the store with new recordings as regularly as possible, however because we are all so busy working in the profession we don’t always get the time to do this, so on average it’s about once a year.
Why could anyone, whether in the creative or corporate industry benefit from voice coaching?
Voice coaching helps you develop a sense of how you communicate in the wider world and to give you skills to develop different ways of communicating depending on the circumstance. As a theatre actor you need to know how to remain truthful in a large theatre space by getting those breath support and articulation muscles tuned up and for business people knowing how to use your voice in different office or presentation situations.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to secure a particular accent?
An accent is part of a character’s voice. Know your character and develop consistent qualities with the accent. It doesn’t have to be the ‘perfect’ accent as there is no such thing. It’s about being authentic and believable with your character voice.
What advice would you give to aspiring voice coaches?
Do the MA Voice Studies at Central! And see where that leads you …
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
To find out more about Richard’s voice and accent coaching, visit here…
To find out more about the Accent Kit App, visit here…http://www.richardrydervoice.com/the-accent-kit/