• Lilly Lichaa, M.S., SLP

Supporting our Client's Pronunciation in the Music Studio

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

By Lilly Lichaa

Axel Davis & Band in their video, "Route 66"

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my accent modification clients thrive while pursuing their professional goals. I am very proud of my local client, Axel Davis, who is the lead singer of Barcelona jazz band Axel Davis & Band. For two years, Axel has demonstrated a strong commitment to mastering the American English accent. His goal was to record the vocal track on his professional music video, and I was there alongside him in the music studio giving him guidance on his pronunciation.


Longing to sing with an American English accent

Axel and I first met in the summer of 2017 to practice lyrics of American jazz songs that he was planning on performing. He was the lead singer of a band known in Barcelona, Spain for its jazz-soul and bossa nova style, playing a variety of tunes from the 1940s through the 1970s. Axel had already mastered a proficient level of English fluency, and he decided that he was ready to improve his American English accent to give his audience an authentic experience when singing.


Axel described himself to be a perfectionist who had always enjoyed the American English accent. When I first met him, his pronunciation was characteristic of an English learner who had been taught British pronunciation. Notably, he dropped his "Rs" at the end of words (ex: "better" pronounced as "betta") and used different vowels for common English words such as: love, glad, about. Axel and I began our sessions with a special focus on vowel production, word stress, and some specific consonant production.


Strumming the Guitar in Pronunciation Sessions

Axel continues to work diligently on his American English pronunciation. To prepare for his live performances, Axel and I meet face-to-face to review song lyrics and to discuss how the rules of the American English accent apply to different words. We delve into certain topics such as why the word "for" is sometimes pronounced as "fer," and that "love" with an American English accent is different from British English pronunciation. We discuss the rules of stressed and unstressed syllables, rising and falling intonations, connected speech, and vowel pronunciation.


Axel's musical ear benefitted him aided him with learning new vowel sounds. He quickly learned new tongue positions for sounds that were not present in his native languages of Spanish and Catalan. I was impressed with his quick ability to imitate after my model. We practiced the "short a" sound as in "hat", which he picked up in a heartbeat. But speech practice was not enough, and it became apparent that a key ingredient was missing from our sessions. Axel's goal was to sing, and we realized we needed to add some strings to our sessions. It was time to incorporate his guitar.


Periodically throughout our sessions, Axel would pick up his acoustic guitar and begin to display his fancy fingering. With a quick strum, Axel dove into song, his brilliant pure voice singing with the new pronunciation that he had learned. Axel continued to work meticulously, learning the rules of American English and putting them into practice at local and nation-wide performances.


Studio Time with a Professional Singer and an Accent Coach

Axel’s commitment to learning and improving his accent paid off, and he decided he was ready to share his talents with the world by recording a music video with his band. Axel called on me for some guidance while he recorded the vocal track in his home studio. I was behind him (figuratively and literally) in the studio offering guidance on his pronunciation. Axel sat on a wooden stool with his professional sound equipment, microphone, and pop screen in front of him. With the musical track having already been laid, Axel was now re-recording his vocals: this time after several months of learning American English pronunciation with Prime Time Speech.


Editing the vocal tracks was an incredibly fun experience for us both. We sat together playing every word on his sound-editing software, re-recording sections as needed to improve the clarity of his pronunciation. I asked Axel to comment on our work together. Below is an excerpt from our interview.


Lilly: How helpful was I with your music video, Route 66?

Axel: It was a great experience. You're a very talented and very patient teacher. You are very focused on the things that I need to work on and very precise when teaching. Working on the vocals together was a very fun experience. Recording allowed me to hear my voice before and after correcting my pronunciation. That was a lot of fun.


Lilly: We've been working together for a couple of years now. How have my services helped you?

Axel: I understand the accent much more. I can classify the sounds much better than before. Learning tongue placement was really helpful and so was learning the phonetic symbols. Now I understand which sounds I have to produce when I hear lyrics. I know which ones are American English and which sounds are not.


Our dear readers, I couldn't be more thrilled to present you with their finished video of the classic song, "Route 66". Their video sure has me tapping my foot along to the tune.


If you have a goal of performing or singing with an American English accent, feel welcome to contact us any time with a description of your goals. Our online sessions are just as effective as working in person, and I would be happy to see you reach your goals.


To read more about why accent modification is important in the world of medicine, click here.


Lilly Lichaa is an Accent Coach specialized in teaching the American English accent. She has a background in speech-language pathology. She can be reached at lilly@primetimespeech.com

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