Having gained a first in English at University College London (1991), I trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. I worked for a number of years as an actor, but found myself making more money as a voice over artist than as an actor – and eventually acting and I parted company. Having always been fascinated by the subject of voice, I decided to do an M.A. in Voice studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama (it wasn’t “Royal” when I was a student there!) – from which I graduated with an M.A. in Voice Studies (distinction) in 2008.
Just a year after graduating from Central, I was asked back to teach phonetics on the M.A. Voice Studies course. It was supposed to be a temporary post – but somehow I’m still there, teaching phonetics and now running the accent module of the course as well. Many of my ex students are now successful accent and speech trainers in their own right! I also work as a freelance accent and speech coach, working with both actors and non actors wishing to improve their speech and overall vocal use.
Outside of teaching, I continue to do a lot of voice over work – which more than satisfies any residual urges I may have to perform. I also enjoy painting, growing veg on my allotment, running, swimming and bird watching!
Accent work – This is really the area in which I have come to specialise. Mostly, it involves teaching specific accents to actors. If you ask me for an accent I haven’t taught before, I may need a little time to prepare!
Accent reduction – For those who would like to sound a little less …….. well, you can supply the word here! As an accent coach I love all accents and believe in celebrating the sheer diversity of human speech. However, there may be occasions when you wish to sound a little more – let’s say “neutral”. I’ve worked a good deal with interpreters, who have to make sure that they can be clearly un-derstood and that their interpretation carries the message of the original speaker. This involves focusing on intonation and rhythm – not just specific vowel and consonant sounds.
As someone who trains voice teachers, I’m very conscious of the different learning styles a teacher needs to have at their disposal. If you work with me, I’ll be keen to find out how you learn best, and adapt my teaching accordingly. From the dry, academic, strictly phonetic approach to the wildly creatively – and everything in between – there’s a solution that will work for you!
“Tim Birkett is a phonetics and accent and dialect teacher of consummate skill, wit and resource. His full engagement in making a complex subject work for all levels of English language users, makes him a prized asset on the Masters voice team at Royal Central. Not only does his curiosity and talent lend humanity to the subject, but his exactness in getting it right ensures that the students truly learn their stuff. One of the industry’s finest!”
Jane Boston Course Leader, MA/MFA Voice Studies Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
“Tim Birkett is an amazing accent coach about whom I cannot speak highly enough. His excitement and enthusiasm towards accents shines through in his creative and interactive methods of teaching. Even though I had a fear of working on accents, Tim’s fun approach took all of the pressure off of me. I ended up having a blast and the mission to learn accents was accomplished. As a result, I now feel confident about my abilities and have already been hired as an accent coach in the United States. I would recommend Tim without hesitation. “
Lindsay White, MFA Voice Studies, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
“In his accent coaching work Tim offers the essential combination of precision and refinement with creativity. No matter the learning needs, Tim finds an approach that can turn even the most accent shy student (like myself) into an empowered and dynamic accent acquirer.”
Lindsay Walker-Voice and Communications lecturer, MFA Voice Studies Central School of Speech and Drama.
“I would highly recommend Tim Birkett to anyone who wants to learn an accent, work on their speech, or explore their voice! Initially, Tim was my phonetics tutor whilst I was a voice studies student at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Since graduating, he has coached me individually in accents and speech and I find his approach ingenious and incredibly enjoyable. Before working with Tim, I had experienced accent work and phonetics as a somewhat tedious and technical chore. However, Tim’s easy sense of humour and his instinct for how to make any sort of exercise fun has changed the way I approach learning accents completely. Both as a teacher and as a private coach, he has an innate ability to adapt his teaching style to fit the needs and preferences of his students. For academically-minded clients, his technical knowledge and expertise with phonetic explanations is second to none. For viscerally-inclined clients, he has a plethora of explorations and imaginative exercises that make any dialect feel accessible. Since studying with Tim, I have developed a real love for learning accents and now feel that I have the tools necessary to breakdown any accent and feel at home speaking in it.”
Stacey Jensen – Voice, Speech, and Accent Teacher/ MFA Voice Studies
“Tim’s practical approach to phonetics made the sessions fun and took away the scary aspect of this technical of subjects.”
Hazel Holder, Voice & Dialect Coach
“I really appreciate the way Tim approaches accents. His style offers a unique mixture of comprehensive phonetics training and practical, physical approaches to getting inside of the accent that don’t rely on my faulty ear! Tim is endlessly creative in finding ways to make an accent approachable for you— including using music and bird song as a metaphor for finding the musicality of an accent. He also happens to be very funny, which makes accent work much more enjoyable! I would highly recommend Tim to any actor looking to learn an accent or any voice teacher looking to brush up on his or her accent teaching tool kit. “
Christine Mottram-Voice and Communications lecturer, MFA Voice Studies Central School of Speech and Drama.
“We have known Tim for some ten years now and have always welcomed his contributions to our interpreter-training courses. He has the knack of combining his command of voice coaching with an understanding of the particular demands of interpreting, which enables him to address a range of issues from breathing and voice through to pronunciation, accent and clarity of message. He has proved very flexible when it comes to trainees’ needs and priorities and has an acute sense of individual problems and possible solutions, both short- and long-term.”
Christine Adams and Zoë Hewetson,
Conference interpreter trainers
Members of aiic
Lessons are usually an hour in duration, but other options are available.
For a more intensive learning experience, you can hire me for a daily – or half daily rate.
This might be suitable for someone who really needs to nail an accent – or work on a speech
for an important audition or presentation.
Student rates are available, but you’ll be expected to travel to me. I’m on the tube. Just….
I live in a convenient location just 5 minutes walk from Northwood Tube Station.