Why do people who have accents while speaking, seem to lose them while singing?


Specifically, when singing in English, their speaking voice is accented, and their singing voice isn’t… As an example, I came across an Irish Youtuber named CallMeKevin, and he recently posted a cover of NIN’s “Hurt”. His voice is lovely, and he often sings snippets of songs while streaming, but as soon as he starts singing, his accent seems to drop off. I’ve noticed this for other artists, too. Can anyone tell me why this happens? Or is it just my perception?


I believe it’s because of two reasons:

1) They are trying to get as close as to the original version as they can, so they sort of mimic the original singer

2) When you hear someone having an accent, it (besides other things) means that when they produce a syllable, it usually is shorter/longer than you would produce it. But when they are singing, they need to phrase the syllables in order to maintain the same rhythm as the song does. So this factor is to disappear when one sings.

It’s pretty simple actually. Your voice follows an unconscious cadence that we call an accent. Even having “no accent” or an “American accent” is still following some unconscious cadence that tells your mouth how to say certain things or where to place emphasis in a word. In singing, that goes completely out the window because you now have to follow the cadence of the vocal melody and make VERY specific sounds for it to sound right. It doesn’t obliterate your accent, but you really need to listen for it. Here’s some examples:

Both vocalists from Sons of the East have notable Australian accents in many of their songs.

Steven Wilson’s accent isn’t especially noticeable except when he sings r’s like “car” in Open Car or when using British words, like “windscreen” in Arriving Somewhere But Not Here.

I’m not sure if it’s really an accent, but Radical Face has some pretty odd vocal phrasings in Welcome Home, The Mute, and Always Gold.

A lot of country artists over-emphasize their accents (especially in pop-country or bro-country) because the southern drawl is seen as more authentic. For more natural contemporaries listen to Colter Wall or Tyler Childers.

I believe in some cases, people also just train themselves a certain way, so they perform without their native accent. Gavin Dunne (Irish) and Thomas Winkler (Swiss) are two singers who I know have really heavy accents in interview, but not when performing.

That may not be the root cause but I see no reason it’s not a thing that may happen.

In addition to the rhythm thing people have mentioned, there are some customs of singing that help blur the lines (especially between British English and American English). In singing, you aren’t supposed to pronounce the “L”s and “R”s at the end of words. As my American voice teacher taught me, “R and L are dead.” Think— girl, but pronounced more like “guhhhhl” than “gerrrrrlllll”. You want just a hint of them—- which tends to make American voices sound more British. Along the same lines, the vowel sounds used in singing also tend to follow more British vowels because they’re softer and carry the notes better. It’s way easier to sing after as “ahfter” than “ayfter” like many Americans do.

Because inflection and annunciation are as much a part of singing technique as hitting the right notes

Different part of the brain controls singing than speaking. Most stutterers can sing, Mel Tillis for example.

I’m sure it’s not always the case but money. You’re much more likely to go big in the US if you don’t sound different

Am American, was singing karaoke with friends from Manchester. Oasis came up. After I sing Wonderwall or some shit they say, “Hey Protahgonist how come you sound like you’re from Manchester when you sing?”

Answer: I’m mimicking the pronunciation of the lyrics as I’ve heard them. If I were given the lyrics without ever having heard the song before I’d sing it in my native accent.

Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day sings with a British accent. He explained that he was influenced by British music so it just comes out that way. That’s a good enough answer for me.

Different parts of the brain for speech and singing.

For more a more in-depth, fascinating, rabbit hole on the topic, I highly recommend “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain” by Oliver Sacks.

Others have touched on this, but some of it is due to the way singers alter vowel sounds to produce a pleasing tone. For example, you’ll rarely hear someone sing a long “A” sound- it will usually be sung as more of an “eh” and the word “I” often has more of an “ah” sound. Your brain sort of glosses over the difference and you’re able to hear the word clearly despite the change in vowel sound, but these changes do help to negate the singers native accent.

Same reason why the voice in your head can replicate any accent you hear, but you can’t. Your mouth has to move a certain way.