The Critical Compound: Character Voice, Acting, and Accents


    Join Voice Over Expert and award-winning teacher, Pat Fraley, in his lecture, “The Critical Compound”.  Pat explains how the three performance elements, which are character voice, acting, and accents, work together to create a compound. When studying these elements, it is of critical importance that you break them down individually before you put them back together again in your performance.  Learn how to develop each element, give your read subtext, and emotion by applying these skills to any script.

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    Download Podcast Episode 88 »


    Accents, Acting, Cartoon Voices, Character Voices, Hillary Huber, Pat Fraley, Voice Acting

    Transcript of Coloring Our Words

    [Opening Music]
    Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice over Experts brought to you by, the number one voice over marketplace. Voice over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It has never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
    This week, is pleased to present Pat Fraley.
    Pat Fraley: Hi. This is Pat Fraley with a brief lesson on the performance elements of character voice, acting, and accents and the importance of always performing them as a single compound. Yes, these three critical elements create a compound. To study them, we must break this compound back down to the separate elements. It’s necessary. But further study must address how to put them back together again as we must not be tempted to perform them separately.
    Let me demonstrate this. I can do a passable Scottish accent but when it’s devoid of character and acting, it’s a mere show. And I allow the listening audience to focus on the inevitable inaccuracies of sound changes and the lack of proper lutes. So, say I have a character who I have that’s a sad sort of fellow and I marry these two elements, character and accent. Now I’ve got some substance underneath. Now I add the acting to this character I call Ian whose objective now is to gain sympathy by playing the actions to commiserate or to share. Now, I’ve got something that’s integral.
    So now, the three elements of accent, character and acting are compounded. By the way, one of the ways I use this character has nothing to do with making money. It has to do with annoying my friend and colleague Hillary Huber. I love to take her favorite songs, record them with my most annoying characters and thereby, ruin the songs for her forever. Here’s a clip from what used to be one of her favorite songs until she heard Ian sing the lead.
    Pat Fraley: [sings] Little darling, it has been a long, cold lonely weekend. Little darling, it feels like years since it has been here.
    Ah, the joys of being really bad. One of the most important challenges of studying accent, character and acting as voice over performers is that we have little time to create at the work site. We work in minutes and hours, not days and months. For characters and accents, I found that creating accents and characters in advance of jobs and adjusting or adapting them to the specific needs of the script, an invaluable way working.
    This way of working allows me to focus on the third element of the compound, that being acting. Here’s an example from an animation track recording session for a series called Mr. Baby. I was a guest on the show. As with many animation track recording sessions, we had no rehearsal but worked on the fly. So, as it happens with guest performers, we got to the point in the script where I come in with my character. It was a scene on the Senate House floor and in my script, the character I was to perform was simply called senator. You’ll hear the director Jack Fletcher give me a suggestion as to what character to do and me respond. By the way, that’s Charlie Adler who is in the cast cackling at me in the background.
    What should I do on this one?
    Charlie Adler: [laughs]
    Jack Fletcher: You know, Strom Thurmond.
    Pat Fraley: Like old Strom Thurmond?
    Jack Fletcher: Yes.
    Pat Fraley: Okay.
    Female: 43 and forward, take 13.
    Pat Fraley: All those in favor of changing the age limit of the presidency from 35 years to 18 months, say aye.
    Participants: Aye.
    Pat Fraley: Now, how could I magically come up with the old Southern senator, an infamous racist Strom Thurmond from South Carolina on the spot? I didn’t. I used my old geezer character I created and polished years ago and carry around in my back pocket. It’s a character I know that is evocative, unique and I could perform in my sleep. Then, I slapped a slight Southern accent on him. This is an accent I’ve done for years.
    So, two of my three elements are together, the accent and character, allowing me to focus on the acting and the scene. Now, in the continuation of the Mr. Baby clip, you’ll hear the real advantage to this way of working. You’ll hear Charlie Adler come in late on his line, which was the word “nay”. Being the fearless pro and silly guy Charlie is, he just launches into a response that ends with a kind of weird cha, cha, cha, cha. Here’s what happened.
    Participants: Aye!
    Pat Fraley: All those opposed.
    Charlie Adler: Cha cha.
    Pat Fraley: The ayes have it over the cha-chas.
    Jack Fletcher: We made noise after Charlie’s 47 but Pat, please use your adlib there.
    Pat Fraley: Okay.
    Jack Fletcher: I’m going to force them to use it.
    Charlie Adler: [laughs] Yes, we force them …
    Pat Fraley: Does he have to do his cha-chas again or is he okay?
    Jack Fletcher: He’s fine.
    Pat Fraley: Now, if I had to concentrate on a new character and a new accent, I would not have had the presence of mind just to play the scene and respond to Charlie’s delightful mistake with my ad lib. You can understand how pulling the compound apart, working on the elements of accent, character and acting is necessary but also, learning how to put them back together again as a compound is critical for performance. This is something I want to address this year and why I’ve created the Great Character and Accent Event. For information and to enroll, just go to my website, and find my teaching schedule. Thanks for listening.
    Jack Fletcher: Please get – you’re channeling Katharine Hepburn a little bit.
    Pat Fraley: Well, well, well, I …
    Charlie Adler: [laughs]
    Julie Ann-Dean: To learn more about the special guest featured in this podcast, visit the Voice over Experts show notes at overExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
    If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes Podcast Directory or by visiting To start your voice over career online, go to and register for a voice talent membership today.
    [Closing Music]
    Julie-Ann Dean: This has been a production.

    Links from today’s show:

    Pat Fraley
    Pat Fraley Free Lessons

    Your Instructor this week:

    Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley

    Patrick FraleyPatrick Fraley has created voices for over 4,000 characters, placing him among the top ten performers of all time to be cast in animation. He has produced dozens of award-winning audiobooks, such as, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Very Easy Death, and The Light in The Piazza. Pat produced and performed all 100 voices on the award winning audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which People Magazine hailed as, “The best yet of this evergreen.” Patrick teaches events, workshops, and seminars on various aspects of voice over across the country, and has created a variety of instructional books and CDs, all available at He is a member of The Voice and Speech Trainers of America, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Professional Acting from Cornell University.

    Did you enjoy Pat’s episode? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


    1. Hi Pat,
      You really hit the nail on the head. Many Voice Actors do one or two of the elements, but so few can do all three! Great episode!

    2. Pat is an awesome teacher. I’ve attended many sessions and panels where Pat is a speaker, plus I took his narration class. He is definitely one of the best in the business. If you haven’t taken a class with him, do so. You’ll learn a lot and have fun at the same time.

    3. Another reason why Pat’s one of the BEST in the business of voice over! BRILLIANT segment, Pat. Thanks to you and for sharing in this great podcast!


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