So THAT'S Why Singers Lose Their Accent When They Sing

It all makes sense now.
Philipp Schmidli via Getty Images

There are always exceptions ― Lily Allen, Biffy Clyro, even Bugzy Malone. But in general, you may have noticed that no matter where they’re from, many pop stars lose their accent when they sing.

In fact, a lot of the time, a neutral-to-American singing voice can belie a hyper-regional speaking voice (think Adele and Cheryl Cole).

If you’re anything like me, you might wonder why this happens. Is it for mass commercial appeal? Or does it just kind of happen when you start belting?

Luckily, music artist and vocal coach Joey Dean enlightened his TikTok followers on the topic recently ― so we thought we’d share his wisdom.

So what’s happening here?

It’s all about vowels, Dean shared ― or at least, a lot of it is. After all, these are usually the first letters to change when accents diverge, so can be the first signs of a different dialect.

And “trained singers pronounce vowels with the Latin pronunciation,” the vocal coach said. That can lead to a pretty unified accent across the singing world.

That’s not all, either ― “Singers need to change the way they pronounce a certain vowel depending on how high or low they’re singing,” no matter what their usual accent is, he says.

“When you sing in your higher register, you need to open up the space in your mouth,” he added. But for “tighter vowel pronunciations, this gets tricky.”

He explained that, for example, “a” is a very open vowel, in comparison to the tighter “e”.

“The higher I get when I sing, you’re gonna hear the vowel change,” he explained before singing to reveal that at a certain pitch, singers have to adjust the “shape” of their vowels no matter what.

Londoner Billy Bragg spoke on the shift that he finds happening to his voice when he sings. “You can’t sing something like Tracks Of Your Tears in a London accent. The cadences are all wrong. It’s also difficult to sing harmonies in a London accent. And you can’t sustain syllables for long,” he shared.

In other words, to some extent, a lot of trained singers ― especially belters ― just end up sort of... sounding like that (vaguely American, that is).

Anything else?

Yep ― there’s the societal expectation of what a pop song “sounds” like to consider, as well as how singing affects your voice.

Linguist David Crystal wrote in his blog that “Some singers want to drop their regional accent, because they want to sing like the fashionable mainstream. This has been especially noticeable in popular music since the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.”

“Singers everywhere imitated Bill Haley and Elvis, and many still do. A mid-Atlantic hybrid quickly emerged, which levelled natural regional features,” he added.

So, to go back to my original questions ― does singing just make you sound like that? Or is it all about commercial appeal ― it seems the answer is “yes.”


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