Accents & Voice Impressions - From Beginner to Pro | Charlie Hopkinson | Skillshare

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Accents & Voice Impressions - From Beginner to Pro

teacher avatar Charlie Hopkinson, Accents, Impressions and Youtube!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Collecting Assets


    • 3.

      The Art of Listening


    • 4.

      The 5 Basics: Pitch


    • 5.

      The 5 Basics: Accent


    • 6.

      The 5 Basics: Rhythm


    • 7.

      The 5 Basics: Body Language


    • 8.

      The 5 Basics: Defects


    • 9.

      Exercise 1: Dissecting the voice


    • 10.

      Exercise 2: Facial expressions


    • 11.

      Advanced 1: Mouth Shape


    • 12.

      Mixing targeted and untargeted practise


    • 13.

      Practise with and without visuals


    • 14.

      The Top up


    • 15.

      Spaced repetition & 'The Marination'


    • 16.

      Following the clues


    • 17.

      Impersonation vs Impression


    • 18.

      Talent vs 'Circumstantial' advantages


    • 19.

      Muscle memory and actionable sub skills


    • 20.

      Working out your range


    • 21.

      Choosing starter words and phrases


    • 22.

      Hardware beginner


    • 23.

      Hardware intermediate


    • 24.

      Branching out


    • 25.

      Looking back with a critical eye


    • 26.

      Finding the Impression hook


    • 27.

      Advanced 2: Adding the laugh


    • 28.

      Advanced 3: Going conversational


    • 29.

      Technique 1: The jump


    • 30.

      Technique 2: The trigger


    • 31.

      Technique 3: Layering up an impression


    • 32.

      Technique 4: Voice first, character after


    • 33.

      Advanced 4: Drawing on emotion


    • 34.

      Mastering the base


    • 35.

      Pitfall 1: The changing voice


    • 36.

      Pitfall 2: Presenting too early


    • 37.

      Deep dive: David Attenborough


    • 38.

      Deep dive: Gandalf


    • 39.

      Deep dive: Morgan Freeman


    • 40.



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About This Class

Do you always find yourself trying new accents and impressions? Or just enjoy impressions and wondered how people get started? Then this may be the class for you! I’m here to help you along the way and formalise the process a bit so you can take it to the next level!

Who am I?

I’m Charlie, nice to meet you! An Impressionist, voice actor and standup comedian with over 390,000 subscribers over on youtube. Handily, I am also a fully qualified maths teacher with 2 years of experience in the classroom. So I know how to break quite complex skills down into manageable chunks.

In this class you will learn:

  • The 5 fundamentals to any impression.
  • Techniques for deconstructing any voice and how to recreate the building blocks with your own voice.
  • How to manage your practice and motivation effectively.
  • Adding layers of polish and little tricks to really give your voices the ‘wow’ effect.

You’ll be working on an impression of your choice as the class project and at the end you’ll have the opportunity to upload it for some tips on improvement. I look forward to seeing you in the project space!

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlie Hopkinson

Accents, Impressions and Youtube!

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: "Sometimes it makes me say no, it had to be a no. But then I have to remind myself that some brains aren't meant to be kings." Hello my friends, my name is Charlie, and I am a professional voice impressionist. Over the last 10 years of doing impressions, I've built a YouTube channel with over 370,000 subscribers, as well as being the Recurring Narrator for Channel 4 and Netflix television show, Lookalikes. I do impressions like Robin Williams, of course, yes. "Oh, 10,000 years gives you a real core creak in the neck, yes." "Maybe Severus Snape from Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Information Technology." "I'm possibly Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service. [inaudible] "Hi, I'm Gandalf the wizard from Lord of the Rings [inaudible]." Today I'm going to pass on everything that I've learned in the last 10 years. This course will cover my individual process for learning accents and impressions. We'll start by giving you the five fundamentals of impressions. Then I'm going to impart on you, every tip, trick, and insight that I've learned in the last 10 years. While impressions aren't an exact skill, unlike mathematics, which I taught in the classroom for two years, my time in the classroom has given me the understanding of scaffolding and chunking, and overcoming frustrations and psychological hurdles. I'm going to stress in this course the importance of actionable sub-skills. By breaking it down to smaller sub-skills, we can make our approach more systematic and comprehensive. I'll also be giving you some fun activities that we can do together to help you along the way. "But Charlie, impressions are a talent, you've either got it or you don't." Well, I started learning impressions when I was 19, so why was it lying dormant for 19 years? Strangely, just as I started practicing, that was when those talents came to the surface. Strange. So whether you're an aspiring actor, impressionist, hobbyist, or you just want to learn a party trick, there's something in it for everyone. I look forward to seeing you in the impression's workspace, so grab a coffee and I'll see you in Chapter 1. 2. Collecting Assets: Before you start learning an impression, you need to build up a bank of assets. This comes in the form of clips or video and audio of the person talking. I tend to specialize in films and Netflix style voices. So the show or film itself that the actor is in, would be one form of the asset. I also like to use YouTube videos where someone has cut together the best clips of that actor to cinematic, emotional music is generally the characters best quotes. If there aren't any on YouTube, I've started to do it myself. So I gather my favorite clips of that actor and some cinematic music, get some basic editing software, and cut together your own asset that you're going to listen to over and over again. Because you're going to be spending so much time with this asset, it's worth making it as good as it can be, so that it's enjoyable to listen to. The more enjoyable it is to listen to, the more fun you're going to be having as you're going through it and the more willing you are going to be to put the time in required to learn the impression. Next, you want to find a way to access these assets whenever you have some dead time. If you have a smartphone, uploading to that is probably going to be your go-to. If not, a laptop. 3. The Art of Listening: Impressions are foremost a listening, memory, and observation-based exercise. From when you start, you want to be listening to the person you are trying to impersonate in both abroad and a narrow sense. You listen to these small passages repeatedly so that you can latch on to the small things that that person does and says. If you go too broad in the initial phase, you'll find that you're not going deep enough. That's why we want to utilize the narrow assets in the beginning. But you also want to be listening to the broader assets, the assets which are longer passages of speaking for the longer-term development of the impression. Eventually, you're going to want to move past those few narrow phrases and have a wider bank of quotes and rhythms memorized, ready to go to the next phase. Generally, you can listen to the broader assets just by watching the show that they're in over and over again. I tend to watch a show once for pleasure, and then two times for work, the two times for work with a much narrower focus on exactly what they're saying and how they're saying it. Doing narrow and broad listening at the same time also stops you getting stale. If you're listening to the broader assets as well, you might spot, say, a pronunciation of a word that you can apply to the small, narrow phrases that you are trying to perfect. It's just a way of breaking you out of the listening to the same two phrases over and over again. It can help stop your game tunnel vision. If you find that you can't play exactly how the word sounds in your head like a tape recorder, I would say this is an indicator that you haven't done your prep thoroughly enough. This happens to me a lot of the time. I'm sad that I'm doing an impression, I'm wondering why am I not getting it? Then I realize, I don't even know what this person sounds like thoroughly enough. I must listen to someone in a talented way 100 times before I feel like I'm getting an impression. 4. The 5 Basics: Pitch: I split an impression into five basics, which I'm going to take you through. The first basic is the pitch, which is how high or deep the voice is. When you're sitting down to practice an impression for the first time, you want to be listening out for whether the impression is higher or deeper than your own natural voice timbre. I want you to just repeat the lines that they are saying in your own voice at that timbre. You're calibrating it to the point where you're getting it at the timbre, but you're not focusing on any other aspect of the impression. Forget about everything else, just hit that pitch. For example, if I take someone with a lower timbre than my own voice, James Earl Jones, this is an impression of James Earl Jones, nevermore, for my sweet Lenore. This is me using my own voice but at that timber. Lenore, but my sweet Lenore. Nevermore, but my sweet Lenore. To try and reach the lower part of your range, speak from the chest, tilt your head downwards a little bit, and try and produce the noise at the bottom part of the mouth. Simba, everything the light touches is the prime man. To speak at a higher pitch, you want to speak with what is called the head voice. This is producing the voice from higher up and allowing the voice to come through the top part of your mouth. It's basically the register where your voice breaks. With your impression that you have chosen for the class project, I want you to practice just saying the words that they are saying at that pitch in your normal voice. Go lower, go a bit higher, find your way to the middle to reach that pitch. 5. The 5 Basics: Accent: Voices with a strong accent are easier, they're more recognizable. It's easier for your brain to latch on to those pronunciations. Neutral accents are considerably hard. There's a greater number of words that you can pronounce in a way that is distinctive for your own voice. The first job of any impression is to not do your own voice. Just do a different voice, and then we can get to the actual impression later on. When you're learning the accent of the impression you're trying to do, I want you to pick out two or three words or phrases that really define that person's way of speaking. For example, when I first started learning Morgan Freeman, I chose these three phrases: How are you, sir? God's honest truth, rehabilitating, burn out the missy. Things went on like they're dandy. Things went on like they're dandy. In the beginning, I want you to try and find three phrases that can be really honed in on that you're going to master. Let's take Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. For what it's worth. I've been a cynic for as long as I can remember. I believe in you. Now take one phrase from your impression. I want you to write out phonetically. I think this is the best way to systematically learn accents. It's one of those key actionable subskills that you can do. Accents, you will pick up naturally to a degree. But if we have something concrete that we can come back to, it's going to make that process easier when we get lost. When you are writing out phonetically, you are adding or taking away letters depending on how you hear it, the Tyrion Lannister. For what it's worth. I have been a cynic for as long as I can remember. But I believe in you. For this, we can see that the accent of Tyrion Lannister can be achieved partly by adding a h at the beginning of words. This is now a rule that we can use going forward to add a Tyrion-ish vibe to our words. Cementing this, this gives us a rule that we can use going forward into other phrases. So we're looking out for those additional letters that have been added or taken away, and sometimes words that have been merged. As a side note, slang is incredibly useful when learning accents. If you're just learning an accent instead of an impression, or you're just practicing the accent for your impression, do some research into specific slang that people from that part of the world use regularly. Remember that if you're doing an accent, the acid test is if you can convince a person from that region that you're doing an accurate impression of them. Using their own slang is a way to really score some authenticity points. For example, if you were going to do an Australian accent, okay? You're not going to say things like "good day, mate," because not really many people say that anymore. You're going to say things like, "Oh, that's hate, mate. Grab your single and your tongues" because these are words that Australians actually use. It's also useful to think of accents as a spectrum. As you cross lands geographically, accents tend to influence and merge with each other. If you're struggling with an accent, think about areas around the same region as the accent that you are trying to do, and think, how are there any similarities there with the accent that you're trying to do, and maybe one that you can do that is nearby. 6. The 5 Basics: Rhythm: The rhythm of the voice is the pacing, the flow, and the emphasis of the words. You might have noticed the trained actors have a really nice melodic rhythm to their voice. I think you should imagine a piece of dialogue like a piece of music. Rhythm is where they're putting in the pauses or lengthening the duration or shortening the duration of the words. In fact in many ways, I think you can like and learning an impression to learning a piece of music by ear. Let's hear the speech from The Lord of the Rings. Darkness took me and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and every day was as long as a life age of the Earth. If I were to write it out as a piece of music, it would look something like this. Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and every day was as long as a life age of Earth. Now I'm not recommending writing out someone's speech in this way, but it is useful to think of their speech in terms of beats. They distinctively expressive and varying in their rhythm or they quite monotone and uniform in the way that they speak. That's another way that you can break down the impression into a manageable chunk and just work on the rhythm. When you're observing the rhythm, make sure you're looking for when it speeds up, when it slows down, where they're putting in the pauses and the emphasis on particular words and also when they're allowing words to run on consecutively without pausing. 7. The 5 Basics: Body Language: I want you to think of your body and face as an instrument. Take a trumpet, for example. You operate keys on the outside, but that changes the space and airflow on the inside, which in turn changes the way the air is released. Like a glass with a different amount of water and different volume and therefore shape, if you hit it, it's going to produce a different note. When the inside of you is manipulated even slightly, you're going to produce something different. If you think of your body as an instrument, the way that you can talk to is going to change it, which is what we're trying to achieve. Although like none of these five parts on their own do much when they're all together, you'll find that the last 10 percent that really adds the gloss to an impression is the body language and those facial expressions. Let's have a look at this clip of Jack Sparrow. What do you say to three shillings and we forget the name? Would you notice, to get the extra realism of a Jack Sparrow impression, you want to be doing those circular hand gestures, the swaying, the drunk swaying that he does. [inaudible]. If you're an actor and you are trying to sound more drunk, if you do these actions, your words are going to sound more slurred. In this case, you are drawing from your own experiences. You're adding the body language of someone who is drunk to aid the performance. Another example, let's take a look at Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders. I'm going to spin a coin for your yard, Charlie? You're going to what? If it's heads, Abe here take all of this with my blessing. Tommy. Feels a strong stance, legs apart, and a backward lean, that's gravitas through his voice. Here here that my hand is actually getting into position. That's muscle memory from having learnt it. This body language if you practice it will become muscle memory. Your body language has a big impact on the tone. As I've just mentioned, as you add this body language it provides a physical trigger and memory recall. But I'll talk more about that later. If you build up a bank of numerous impressions, you might find that once they're a bit similar start to blend into one. Adopting different body language reminds the brain which impression that we are trying to do. This will help you retain impressions longer. You'll find that if you adopt the body position, then muscle memory will take over and everything else flows from that. I want you to look at your impression and decide, are there any notable body languages that that person adopts? This can be hand gestures, the way they carry themselves, or anything that you observe. 8. The 5 Basics: Defects: Once you have the accent, pitch, rhythm, body language, you want to look for any defects that the voice has and any words where this is more pronounced. I'm going to take you through three classic examples, which is a whistle, nasality, nasalness, and a lisp. Ian McKellen playing Gandalf has a slight whistle on his S sounds. Now, I am quite lucky if that's what you want to call it, because I have a slight gap between my two front teeth, which pronounces that whistle. It's easy for me to achieve that effect. But to get to that whistle what you need to do is you need to push the air out through the top of your mouth, through those top teeth. Try it now. Say, she sells seashells on the sea shore. Yes, very good. A wizard is never late nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to. If you can get the rhythm and intonation of Alan Rickman's voice and then add that nasal quality, you're pretty much there. [inaudible]. To add the nasal quality, make sure that all the air when you're talking is coming out of your mouth, normal rate through your nose. Imagine you're jumping into a pool, what would you do to make sure that no water goes up your nose? It's the same muscles. Sir, I think adjusting your [inaudible] helps achieve this nasal quality. This is a slightly contentious one, but I believe that my Morgan Freeman impression is elevated by the fact that I add a slight lisp. Well, if you add the lisp by biting down on your tongue's tiniest bit on an S sound, so that it becomes that sound, it really just adds that little bit. Push it over the top. If you want to put it on a spectrum, Morgan Freeman, from zero to a super lisp, it's going to be here, 10 percent lisp. Looking at your own impression let's think, are there any many defects that you can add, one One these three or something else, that'll just give it that extra bit pop? As I mentioned, none of these five basic sounds particularly good in isolation, but when they're all working together in tandem, that's when the magic happens. When you're iteratively practicing and improving impression, you want to keep coming back to these five core ideas. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly voice off about an impression, but having something more tangible to come back to, this is going to make the process a little bit more manageable. 9. Exercise 1: Dissecting the voice: One exercise that I do when I'm starting to learn a new impression, is I create a mind map of observations. I want you to do this for your impression, but I'm going to do it for an impression that I do not so well, Donald Trump. I'd say it's about 50 percent of the way there. I've never really tried to properly get it, but I'm going to pull out the kind of things that you would observe from this clip, and I want you to do the same for your impression. It's worse, you have somebody in Philadelphia who is worse, right? Worse, in his manifesto with Bernie Sanders, that's what it is, Biden agreed to all these things. What did you notice there? The three main things that I noticed there is he juts out that lower jaw when he's speaking. He's got very wristy hand gestures and they're quite quick, they're not very exact they're a bit flowery. He finishes with okay, that's number 3. Then number 4, he tends to trail off at the end of sentences the way that he finishes sentences like, okay, that's really good. Yeah. They'll do it, they'll do it. It's great. Joe Biden. 10. Exercise 2: Facial expressions: As I follow-on from body language, when I have an impression really down, I can almost feel their face on top of mine. I can feel the facial expressions on their face. It's a really important finishing tool for an impression. The second exercise I want you to do is take the impression that you're learning, and I just want you, no speaking, just to practice the facial expressions. [inaudible] Take a moment, I want you to practice just the facial expressions of your impression. This is another classic example of what I mean by actionable sub-skills. It's something that you can isolate and practice on its own and then bring it together with the other ones to create the impression. You might not be able to do the impression yet, but if you getting lost, it's interesting that you can come back to and say to yourself, "Am I doing the facial expressions of the character? No? Oh, that's probably why it doesn't sound like them yet." 11. Advanced 1: Mouth Shape: To continue from the instrument analogy from earlier, every minute detail in an instrument is a factor in the noise being produced by it. But as you speak, the shape of the mouth, because it is close to the exit point of the voice, it has the biggest impact on how the voice sounds. The closer you are to the exit, the bigger the impact. One important advanced exercise is to compare the shape of your mouth naturally to that of the character. For example, if we watch this clip of The Witcher. The lesser evil. Evil is evil, strike them all, lesser, greater, middling. It's all same. I'm not judging you. I haven't only done any good in my life either. But now, if I have to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all. What do you notice about the mouth? He speaks in a very pursed way, doesn't he? There's very tensed tight lips. Evil is evil, strike them all, lesser, greater, middling. I'm not judging you. I haven't done only good in my life either. Your natural talking style and the shape of your mouth naturally, will tell you how much you need to change it to fit that character. Adapting my mouth shape is one of the first things I look for when I'm starting a new impression. The physical things that person does, I think, are more easy to notice if you know what you're looking for. 12. Mixing targeted and untargeted practise: Your time learning impressions should be split into passive and targeted listening and repeating. Passive listening is just listening to your assets, should be focusing on the rhythm, the pitch, and the accent. You're looking at getting your listening hours up. Maybe you're on the train, or in the car, or you have a spare half an hour here or there, if you're on your own you can repeat along with it. It's a little bit weird but even if I'm not on my own, say I'm on the train, I can still practice the mouthing along with there and the facial expressions. That's one way to be able to do targeted practicing when you don't have the space to just speak. You're practicing different elements of the voice so that when you bring it together it will be more in your muscle memory. You're trying to get to the point where you're shifting the skill from doing it consciously to subconsciously. But you want to mix this with targeted practice, where you're recording your voice, listening back, comparing it to the original, honing in on those five core aspects. Really focusing on the differences between yours and the original. It does require a lot more thought and mental energy. 13. Practise with and without visuals: You can split an impression into the five basics, but you can also split it into inside and outside the body. Axon, rhythm, pitch, and defects are the four fundamentals. You can pick these up just through listening. They occur internally within the body, and a good impression can be achieved with just these four. The mouth shape, facial expressions, and body language are external things and can only be observed through sight. You need these to get a great impression, just like the icing on the cake. This is why it's important to alternate between listening and listening and observing. 14. The Top up: You tend to forget or misremember certain impressions over time even when you think you have one nailed. A lot of the time, when I have a paid voice-over, I'll go back to my initial materials and re-calibrate. Often, I've actually misremembered the exact words that I said and it's completely different to how I remember it. This is a reminder that you're never really done with the source material. You do still need to go back and revisit them every couple of months to make sure that bad habits don't creep in. 15. Spaced repetition & 'The Marination': Spaced repetition is an evidence-backed learning technique for improving long-term recall of facts. I've tweaked it to apply it to impressions, and this is something that I do. I call it the marination process. It's possible to get too close to an impression to be able to see where you're going wrong. Sometimes using analogy, you have to run up the wrong mountain to be able to see the right mountain that you should have gone up. I suggest returning to your source material after a certain period of time, different intervals of increasing length each time. Spend an hour or two practicing, practice for a day or so, come back, revisit it. Practice for two days, come back, revisit it again, re-calibrate, come back after four days, re-calibrate. This allows you to come back to the impressions with fresh ears and eyes and observe the differences. Each interval, I suggest setting yourself a small challenge. This is what I do. A small specific challenge. This is the one thing that I am going to improve on. I'm going to improve the pitch, or I'm going to improve the pronunciation of this word. The small targeted changes tends to be what yields the best improvements in the long term. There is no real way to rush an impression, it needs time to embed and tweak. Most of the impressions that I do well, David Attenborough, for example. David Attenborough, I learned the impression, it was pretty good, and then I came back to it after about a year and looked at it with very fresh eyes and ears, and only then was I able to take it to the next level. For your impression that you're learning with the class project, I want you to write out a table like this; with an interval of one day, two days, four days, and eight days. When you come to each interval, I want you to set yourself a small targeted thing that you're going to improve for the impression. This is also going to help you see measurable progress so when you look back, you can see where you've come from, "oh, I've improved,'' which in turn will aid your motivation. 16. Following the clues: If possible, you should use an existing impressionist's impression to start learning your impression. The person has had to change their face and voice to match the original. Therefore, it's easier to see just how you need to change your face in order to match it. They will also, to some extent, be doing a caricature of the voice more so than the original person. They're probably hitting certain phrases that you can use as you get started. Then in the caricature first can be a great stepping stone to an impersonation because easier to overdo it and then dial it back. If there aren't any good impressions out there of the person you're doing, it's probably because that voice is quite odd, it's probably a harder impression. Unfortunately, there's no quick fix for that, you will just have to go the whole hog yourself. I probably wouldn't recommend doing that for your first impression. Do one that another impressionist has already done really well. 17. Impersonation vs Impression: An impersonation and an impression are two quite different things. It's the difference between a photo-realistic painting and a caricature. That's not to say that either is necessarily better than the other. An impersonation is trying to get the voice exactly the same as the person you are copying. For my impressions, they're really impersonations. An impression is exaggerating the known features of somebody's voice for comedic effect. [inaudible] Boris Johnson. That's more of an impression. I'm not really talking exactly how he says. I'm taking the funnier, statutory aspects of his voice and amping them up for comedic effect. You can decide what it is that you are trying to achieve. The bigger a personality or character, I'd say there's more scope for doing a caricature or impression. Generally, I'd say that an impression is better for comedy and performance. Sometimes it makes me sad though. But then I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. This is the incredible true story of how I came to be fired from Pets at Home. An impersonation is better for voice service. Planet Earth has seven extraordinary continents, each one unique, each one full of life. Ultimately, you just want to avoid operating in the middle ground of these two. You don't want an impression that is not ridiculous enough to be funny or an impersonation that is not close enough to be accurate. Make a clear choice which one you are trying to do. 18. Talent vs 'Circumstantial' advantages: It is important to understand a myth about impressions. Talent I find is such a confusing and misattributed word. A lot of people use talent in the context of you're born with that or you aren't. As I mentioned, I didn't start learning impressions until I was 19 and I am now a professional impressionist. It's a hard and hard learned skill nor a talent. It's this misconception that is probably the reason that I get so many inquiries just expecting me to be able to do any voice, but that is not the whole picture because there are circumstantial advantages and related skills that do make it easier for certain people to pick up impressions. For example, if you are a trained singer, you're probably going to have a better trained ear going in for pitch and rhythm. If you're a trained actor or a comedic improviser, you probably done some accent classes, and you will have worked on your body and movement. If you are used to doing activities that require a high level of concentration for an extended period of time, that's going to stand you in good stead. Again, if you have a background in any kind of instrument, that'll give you a good ear for pitch and rhythm. Something as simple as having time for a hobby, if you are constantly having to make ends meet and work three jobs, it's going to be more difficult to find the time to practice and simply if you are younger, you generally pick it up a little bit quicker because your brain isn't as hard wired. The brain is more malleable, so it picks up skills quicker. If you've done any of these, it will probably help you pick up impressions quicker. If you're all set on being as good an impressionist as you can, then taking classes in these things alongside it is always going to be beneficial. 19. Muscle memory and actionable sub skills: When we are practicing impressions, we are constantly trying to move the action from the conscious to the subconscious, to make it automatic part of the muscle memory. But at the same time, we are trying to break that muscle memory and realign it closer to the original. It's like a ship constantly altering its course. The more you practice, as you expect, the better you're going to get at this. Muscle memory is locked away in the motor cortex of the brain. The messages are then relayed to the muscles. Impressions require a lot of fine motor control of the muscles in your mouth and face. There was a study where the brain function of amateur and professional violinists was measured while they performed the movements that would be required in order to play a section of a Mozart concerto. While there were many similarities in the activation, both groups showed activation of the motor cortex, there was more focus activation in the professional group, which indicated their improved efficiency in preforming these movements. Other findings were that the brain function demonstrated that they performed the actions more automatically than the amateur group. So as you get better, you become a bit more efficient in these little realignments; the process becomes automatic quicker. But by being aware of the tangible changes that we can make, that we can keep coming back to our actionable sub-skills, we have a framework that allows us to be more systematic in our approach. This is going to make you more efficient in correcting yourself. 20. Working out your range: Naturally, a number of factors are going to affect the realistic range of voices that you can do. If you have a deeper voice like me, your range is probably going to include a lot of older men. I can still just about do female voices if they have quite a deep voice for a woman. I can also do falsetto cartoon characters like Elmo. Everybody can do that because it's that head voice, but I would struggle to control the voice at that pitch because it's difficult to control the voice at a falsetto level. To use operatic singing terms, I can cover base, which is generally wide characters tenor, baritone, and just about alto. If you are a child or a woman, you would be able to access tenor to soprano depending on your voice. Sticking to voices that are roughly within your range will prevent you plowing a lot of time into something that's not that realistic. That said, I do believe that you can shift your range particularly deeper with time and practice. My voice has got deeper as I have practiced Morgan Freeman over the last 8-10 years. 21. Choosing starter words and phrases: The first few sentences are really important, because these are the ones that you are going to perfect, and they're often the ones that we allow in front of people when you're performing. You want to choose phrases which have words where the person has a distinctive pronunciation for it. Ones that really captured the essence of that voice. You're going to be working on these micro phrases a lot in the beginning. Changing different aspects of the five basics that we've covered. Raising and lowering the pitch, tweaking the rhythm, adding a defect here and there. Doing it iteratively. This is your training ground where you really find the voice. These phrases, you want to be getting instant feedback on what they sound like. The only way that you can get a true picture of where you are at, is to repeat the phrases while listening through a microphone. To do this you plug your headphones into your microphone or audio interface. One of the worst feelings is when you spend a long time practicing an impression, you think you've nailed it, but you haven't listened to it through a microphone. You go to listen to a microphone and it sounds completely different. Try and avoid that by practicing at least some of the time directly in front of a microphone. 22. Hardware beginner: To get started, you don't need much in terms of hardware. You need a £30 or $30 USB mic. Don't use the inbuilt microphone on your laptop or computer. The quality that a £30 microphone will give you is enough to get a true picture of the impression. You're also going to need some basic recording software. I would recommend GarageBand, if you're on a Mac, or Audacity. I currently use Adobe Audition, though that is a paid subscription. 23. Hardware intermediate: This is a little trick that I've only implemented recently. It allows me to hear my source material and my own voice at the same time. However, it does need an audio mixer and an XLR mic like this one. What you do is you plug your headphones into the mixer and change the audio settings on your computer to have the computer output audio through the mixer. Now, you have the perfect impressions learning set up, so you can hear your own voice through the microphone while listening to the source material in real-time. One of the advantages to voice-over and impressions is it does pay well considering the time that it takes once you have the skill. There is a large time outlay in the beginning but once you become semi-established, it becomes a lot easier. Fiverr PeoplePerHour and Upwork are all great places to start selling little voice-overs and making a little bit money back. You will have to say your price is quite low at the beginning in order to get those first reviews. But once you start to build up a bank of positive reviews and upgrade your equipment, you can start to charge quite good prices. To do this effectively, you need to understand whereabouts in the market you are and don't underestimate the value of presentation. Here on Fiverr is the month that I re-shot all my promo videos and all my prices on Fiverr. Clearly, I didn't know the true value of my services at that point. This month, I raised my prices again, but it was too high and I saw sales drop-off. What I would recommend is, don't be afraid to fiddle with prices once you become semi-established. 24. Branching out: Once your first phrases are starting to take root, it's time to branch out. This can be a frustrating process. One thing I tend to do is take a quote that I know completely from another character that I do an impression of, and try and say it in the new voice. Because you know these lines inside out, you can instantly recall them, and then you can focus on deciding exactly how the new character would say them. You aren't expanding additional brainpower on trying to think of the words, they're automatic muscle memory. This is a useful exercise particularly for rhythm because the rhythm of those sentences, they'll already being grained for the impression that you've learned them for. You now have to really focus on performing that same phrase with a different rhythm, you're breaking yourself out of that muscle memory. Instead of just saying something passively, it creates a real focus for you, and it gives you that laser focus. Naturally, by the end of it, you understand both characters better. You end up with two distinct voices. 25. Looking back with a critical eye: Every couple of sessions, you want to record yourself to measure your progress. This is done by comparing the recording of yourself to the exact recording of the original source material. When you notice a discrepancy, set yourself a small actionable goal to improve for the next session. For example, an impression that I'm working on the moment is Saul Goodman from Breaking bad or Better Call Saul. I'm sorry. Can I just have another minute? I'll be real quick, okay? So a goal that I would set for myself there is to take a little bit of the rasp and also speed it up just a tiny bit. 26. Finding the Impression hook: A lot of impressions have what I call the hook. This is one recognizable turn of phrase or word that people identify with that character. Other impressionists, when they do an impression of a person, will have already found these hooks, which is why it's made it easier for you to learn it directly from an impressionist. They can be physical as well. For example, Robert De Niro. You could instantly tell I'm doing De Niro. As soon as you see this scrunched up face, you know. Trying to find as many of these archetypal ticks will really elevate your impression. 27. Advanced 2: Adding the laugh: Adding little noises around the words and learning the laugh really finishes off an impression. Really brings it to life. Again, it's all about applying those five basic principles to a laugh, pitch, rhythm, etc. You can often get an accurate laugh by just adopting the facial expressions and the body and then laughing yourself at the rhythm and pitch of the person. If you can add these little noises around it, then that sells it really well. For example, [inaudible]. Now I can show the impression without having to actually say anything. Yeah, better than that. This really is an acting technique. You're making the spoken word feel less scripted. Sometimes just taking out a word completely and replacing it with a noise can be a really useful way of breaking up the script. Well, oh, I think so. These little tics can really finish off an impression, but don't overdo it. Sometimes less is more. 28. Advanced 3: Going conversational: You don't want your performance to sound like you're reading a script. You want to feel like that person is in a genuine conversation. Before you do this, you do need to have everything else in place. You want to have the impression 80 percent of the way that. A lot of it needs to be automatic before you can take it to that top level. The way to generally go conversation is by changing the rhythm and adding in pauses for thinking time. Let's watch this clip of Morgan Freeman. Shawshank Redemption. Why do people see it 10 times? None of us know. I mean, those of us who are in that movie. I couldn't tell you, Tim couldn't tell you, Rob Gunton couldn't tell you. Why? This movie has such depth. Well, let me tell you something. This is actually what it is. I'm thrown in these pauses. Because when you're in a genuine conversation, you got to leave time for thoughts. Okay? Yeah. Oh, yes, sir. If you compare that to when he's narrating, it's a lot more staccato like random rhythm as opposed to, well, I'm going to tell you something about Andy. Yes, sir. 29. Technique 1: The jump: When you've already mastered a few impressions, that might be a new impression that you want to learn that is similar to one that you can already do. For example, when I first started doing Walter White, initially, it sounded like Optimus Prime. I am Optimus Prime. I am Walter White prime. This can often happen when you're learning a new impression that it sounds similar to an impression that you already do in the same register. It does have advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is you have to first break that impression, which is hard-wired, it is not easy to do. The advantage is with a few physical and rhythmic tweaks, you'd be surprised how much of a difference that can make to jumping ship to a different voicing. Because you already have some of the bases covered by the fact that they are in the same register, you're part of the way there. So if you're trying to jump to a different impression in a similar register, really focus on the rhythm and the facial expressions. These are your best tools for differentiating two quite similar voices. At first, you might need a stepping stone. You might just need to break out of the impression that you can already do, go to a different voice before you can go to the one that you're trying to get to. Just start doing a completely different rhythm and facial expression. Create something new, then try and work towards where you're trying to get to. It's going to be easier once you've broken out of the muscle memory of the original impression. 30. Technique 2: The trigger: When you are performing an impression for someone, it can be quite difficult to have instant recall, especially when you do a large number of them. I tried to develop a trigger phrase or noise which gets me into the impression. It's generally one of the archetypal hooks that I mentioned earlier. So for example for Boris Johnson, I would start with a stuttery, [inaudible]. Every time I go into a Boris Johnson impression, that's how I'm going to start. For Morgan Freeman, I would say something like, "Where or on USA. Yeah." Once I'm in the head space, muscle memory takes over and the rest is fine. If you ever do live performances like stand up, this is a really useful tool. 31. Technique 3: Layering up an impression: When you are building up an impression, I recommend building up in layers. First, start with the pitch and accent, then adapt the rhythm, finally, adding the ticks in the body language and facial expressions. Personally, I compare it to learning the piano. When you learn a new song on the piano, you learn the right and the left hand separately. You build up your competency with each of those, and once they get to a certain level, you practice them hands together. But when you're practicing them hands together, it's a bit disjointed, it's quite slow, the rhythm tends to go. While you are doing that, you're still practicing alternately hands together and cementing those basics. This is how you should approach an impression. You build up those five basics in isolation. Then you put them together but at the same time, you're focusing on those five basics, but you're also alternating between trying to do the full impression, and the five basics separately, really cement those basics. The reason I like to alternate this is because it is mentally exhausting to play the piano hands together or to try and go the whole hog and do a full impression when you don't quite have the basics mastered. So going back to something that's a little bit easier, allows you to cement those fundamentals, and give yourself that mental break. Once you have a competent hands together, you can add those little flourishes and the physical things that really make people go, "Whoa", this is the body language and the little laughs and noises around the text. 32. Technique 4: Voice first, character after: Sometimes, I'd go the opposite way completely. I'd just do a voice and then I think, "Hmm, does that sound like anyone?" More often than not, it does sound similar to someone, and it's the basis that you can use to move towards an accurate impression. The other day, I was just playing around with a nerdy and sort of nasally voice, and it sounded a little bit like Richard Ayoade, and a little bit of work and a little bit of honing, and it could be a good impression. 33. Advanced 4: Drawing on emotion : This is another acting skill, is called substitution. Certainly worth doing again once you're at the competent stage of doing an impression. It's where you're able to empathize with the person in that particular situation and substitute your own experiences in to draw on that emotion. You're going and past observation and drawing on your true emotion. For example, let's look at this clip of Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. Why do you sit in judgment? Why not? Maybe she's right. Maybe I should have put it on the paper, maybe I should've done something different. The thing is if you just do stuff and nothing happens, what's it all mean? What's the point? Why not? I mean, maybe I should have put it in the paper or maybe I should have done something different. The thing is if you just do stuff and nothing happens, what's it all mean? What's the point? I didn't necessarily nail it there, but if you can draw on emotion that is relevant to that thing that the character is saying, then it's going to really add to the realism. 34. Mastering the base: Fortunately for myself, I have a quiet RP accent, that's received pronunciation neutral, porsche-ish English accent, which is quite good launchpad for doing any accent. If you have a thick accent yourself, it would be useful to practice a very neutral accent first as a launchpad base to go from. You always want to avoid your natural accent filtering through when you're trying to do an impression of someone else. 35. Pitfall 1: The changing voice : Sometimes actors in a show or in real life, their voices change over time. A classic example of this is Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. In season 1, he sounds like this. Why do you read so much? Looking at me and tell me what you see. Is this a trick? Why do you read so much? Is this a trick? It's more of a caricature Northern voice. But in Season 7. We need to find it, we need to mine it, we need to make weapons from it. Everyone age 10-60 will drill daily with spears, pikes, bow and arrow. We need to make weapons from it. Everyone age 10-16. His voice has become more Southern by the time you get to the end of Game of Thrones. But people only tend to remember the Season 1 Jon Snow voice. I made the mistake of trying to do this all later Season 1, and people didn't go for it. If you choose an impression where it changes over time, try and work out what version of that voice people are going to engage with the best, they're going to associate with that person. Unfortunately, an impression is only as good as the public's perception of that voice. It's a good little excuse though isn't it? For a [inaudible] impression [inaudible] bad. You can do it exactly accurately, but you will have to make it explicit in whatever material you're preparing for that impression. 36. Pitfall 2: Presenting too early: Now, I am definitely guilty of this over the years. Particularly, if you have a little bit of online success, there is the temptation to just churn out impressions that aren't quite ready. Start showing people half-baked ones. As it takes a long time to perfect impressions, the temptation is going to be there. Resist it. Once you show people, it's part of human psychology to think, oh, that's it, that's done, that's as good as it can be, so it's going to hinder your progress. It's damaging to your journey. Remember the impressions tend to follow the Pareto distribution, in that, one perfect impression is a lot more use to you than 30 pretty good impressions. Nobody ever remembers 30 pretty good impressions, but people always remember that one impression that absolutely nails it. If you present an impression too early, and you don't get the reaction that you may be hoping for, your motivation is going to be hindered, and it's also difficult to change people's minds. Right back at the beginning when I first practiced Morgan Freeman, I practiced it for six months before a showed anyone, and then after that, I practiced it for another year before I showed anyone else. 37. Deep dive: David Attenborough : We're going to do a deep dive with the David Attenborough impression. This clip is from my YouTube channel, because also the graphics are ready-made for it. It's going to take you through principles that have been covered here. Whether you're inexperienced or a beginner impressionist, I'm going to give you five tips for starting and improving your Sir David Attenborough impression. Posh up your accent. This means de-flattening your vowels and adding a's where they shouldn't be. Bar, grass. Apart from the fact that I clearly can't spell the word received, the accent is received pronunciation, which is basically posh English. The delivery is semi whisper and the pitch is a mid to low level male voice. You want to add a little bit of croak and deliver it from the top of your mouth. From the top of your mouth. You want to have classic BBC presenter hands, then gesticulate to make a point, and finally, when you really make your point lean in, this is the important bit. When pretending to be Sir David Attenborough, it is important to choose a mode, are you a younger Attenborough out here in the field? In harsh terms there is an animal. Some kind of animal just behind me. Or an older studio-bound Attenborough, narrator with a melodic flow, who varies his tone for emphasis of the story, building tension to a climax. Here are some classic Attenborough starter phrases to get you going. It's mating season. New science and new technologies. Diversity is being lost. Our planet, our planet. Those clouds look ominous. Is that a leopard fighting a pigeon? Take the impression to the next level. You want to add some defects. In particular, there is a whistle on certain words and a side whistle. She sells seashells on the seashore. Adding these defects but not overdoing it really takes it to the next level. Sometimes when you learn the impression is better to know what you're doing wrong than what you're doing right. I'm going to give you some of the hallmarks of what I think is a bad generic David Attenborough impression. Here we are out in the savanna. It's waiting season, thus behind me there is an entire planet. [inaudible] A generation ago the [inaudible] the blue planet took us beneath the waves but now we know so much more. Take a deep breath. David Attenborough is an impression that very many people can do fairly well. If you're going to add it to your impressions repertoire you probably want to make sure you just go that extra bit further. The two main takeaways to really take to that next level is add that whistle defect but don't overdo it, and making a strong clear choice on what mode of Attenborough you are doing. It's when you practice these subtleties that you'll finally get it spot-on. Now you have this knowledge, you can get as much voice work as you want as Sir David Attenborough. But be careful out there. 38. Deep dive: Gandalf : This one is a deep dive into the Gandalf impression from my YouTube channel. It's applying the principles that we've learned here to the Gandalf voice. Gandalf has a deep, raspy voice, so you want to produce it from the back of the throat. When I initially started learning the impression, the two resources I use the most is this scene from Moriah, "So do all who live to see such times, but that not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." This one from the Grey Havens, "Farewell, my brave hobbits. Here now on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our fellowship. I will not say do not weep for not all tears are evil." Far above your chest and your shoulders, lies a very important impression tool, your facial expressions. The key body language rendering a Gandalf display impression, it's the stoop of the shoulder, but most importantly, you must act the words from the muscles around your eyes. My automatic body language trigger for Gandalf is to stoop the shoulders. So roll the shoulders forward and pull my face into position using these muscles around the eyes. Much of his expression comes from those muscles, which means they have a big impact on the voice. Draws all the other muscles into place, pulls your instrument, your mouth into shape. If you've seen my impression videos, you'll notice that my most accurate portrayal of Gandalf is those softly spoken close up monologues, the miscellaneous hobbit because there I can clearly see and cover all the physical triggers that Ian McKellen is portraying. When I'm required to be more conversational or even shouting, I don't get to use those observations, so as a result, the impression tends to suffer. Once you go past the quote stage of the impression, you'll have a bank of quotes that you should know inside out. When I started venturing into new phrases, I steal the rhythm, the tone acting of these old quotes that I know inside out and apply them to the new phrases. For example, take a quote that I always use for Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. Now, this is a quote that will be highly unlikely for a wizard to say, "Yo, Mr. White for real, like seriously, what's your problem, man? And that is an encouraging thought, bitch." Now, I'm going to steal the rhythm, the acting and the body language from the, so do all who live to see such times. Yeah, Mr. White, I mean, seriously, what's the problem man? Are you for real? That's an encouraging thought. Now there you've got two very dissimilar quotes I'm accurately able to portray the second one using the rhythms, the tone and the acting from the first one. It also means when you're building up a bank of quotes initially, mentally separate them into modes. How well you're able to do this, does depend on how thoroughly you've done your prep work, how much you have observed and watched and listened to the character. When you can do an impression really well, sometimes people can tell who is instantly with just a small noise or gesture [inaudible] without even saying anything. A great example of this is checkout Ross Marquand micro impressions. Here's some noises that you should add around your Gandalf impression to really make it three-dimensional. [inaudible] Those are my three big tips for taking your Gandalf impression to the next level. Finally, I'll give you a learning frame to repeat alongside, so you can start learning or improving your Gandalf impression. Farewell, my brave hobbits, my work is now finished. Here at last on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our fellowship. I will not say do not weep for not all tears are evil. 39. Deep dive: Morgan Freeman: The third deep dive is the Morgan Freeman voice, again, from my YouTube channel, applying the principles that we've learned here. A lot of people ask, how can I make my voice deeper? In truth, there is no shortcut or easy answer to getting a deeper voice. All I can say is try tilting your head down as you're speaking and really focus on your energy to try and get the noise to come from lower in your throat and almost your chest area. My voice wasn't always this deep. It's something that comes very slowly with practice. Every time you practice, it will increase your range just a little bit. Apparently, yawning helps as well, and eventually [inaudible]. Most deep voices have that croaky quality to it, but the croakiness is something that really defines the Morgan Freeman voice. Once you start reaching that depth, the croakiness will come naturally, but also try and constrict your throat as you're making the noise or add to that croaky sound. Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, so he has that Southern American accent. Go into Wikipedia. Due to my English accent, the one place where my Morgan Freeman impression tends to fall down is the American accent. For any non-Americans watching this, here's a couple of words that over the years I have learned to correct; instead of direct, direct, it's direct, mobile, mobul, mobul, aluminum, alumin'um, alumin'um. Generally, in England, we use the longer version of the vowel, like i or o, but in America, they tend to use the shorter version, e. When you're starting out, the best thing to do is to go for that Shawshank narrator style because it's the most iconic. Here's a few starter phrases that I recommend. Andy Dufresne, "Damn near worn down to the nub, get busy living or get busy dying, and that's god damn right." Obviously, I know I got criticized for a lot when I started out doing Morgan Freeman. When he talks, Morgan Freeman has a hint of a lisp. People told me he did not, he does. One thing I've done to achieve a more subtle and accurate version of this lisp is to just purse my lips a little bit inwards, [inaudible]. Like I said before, is okay to overdo these things in the beginning because it's easier to pick up. Then once you've got the hang of it, you can dial it back afterwards. It's a slow measured voice when narrating, it flows with peaks and troughs. [inaudible] When acting or conversational, it's a lot more jumpy with very deliberate poses for thought. I do, I see what you are saying. I do, yeah, so don't worry about it, okay? Today's case study is on completing an impression. When I talk about completing an impression, what I mean is be able to switch between modes fluidly. Morgan Freeman like most actors has different styles of talking, whether it be caricature Shawshank narration or Andy did it in less than 20, when he's acting, people die every day [inaudible] mopping floors, washing dishes, you know what the last sonar is, I never got my shot, or in a normal conversation, just anywhere, anytime, any day, but most importantly, anywhere. If you want to really spot-on impression, you have to master all the different ways that that person talks. This takes a long time and is probably only worth doing if that impression has a level of longevity. For me, Morgan Freeman took about 3-4 years to perfect. But as a general idea, I'm going to take you through the process that I underwent in order to perfect that Morgan Freeman impression. 2012, caricature Shawshank mode. The part of you that knew it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still the place that you live in it's all the more empty and dreamnt that they are gone. I guess I just missed my friend. Calling in the bat, and here's Mr. Band, it does come in black. Let me get this straight. You want a microwave amino powerful enough that it requires all the water in the mains, a nuclear bomb [inaudible]. More depth, natural conversational flow. I've learned to keep my mouth relativity closed, but still maintain excessive lip movement for that greater level of expression. Also, little detailed mannerisms and abrupt changes in expression. Make it feel more like you're listening to a person rather than an impression those following a script that size. That's the way that I've developed the Morgan Freeman impression over the years to really make it as good as I can. Finally, here is me performing the full Invictus speech from the beginning in a caricature narration kind of way, so you can use it to repeat along with and start learning the Morgan Freeman impression. Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit, from pole to pole. I think whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance. I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance. My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms, but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. 40. Conclusion: It is a long and inexact process, but you'll see when you get that first one just right, it's worth it. Feel free to keep coming back to this video to keep yourself on track. Keep reminding yourself of the five basics and the actionable subskills that you can do to help you along the way, make sure that you don't get lost. Please do post your impressions. I will try and come back and give you some helpful criticism to help you along the way. I would love to see you helping each other and offering suggestions to each other's impressions. Also, if you have any reflections on this, let me know of how it could be improved or a topic video with a particular question that you have or a particular character that you want an impression tutorial for, please do let me know. Thank you very much for watching and I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with. See you later.