A bit of theory first. The "rr" sound is called a voiced alveolar trill, usually known as a "rolling r", and represented thus: [r]. It is a liquid consonant (though Cruttenden 2014:51 points out there is no common agreement on this) and it is a trill because it is produced with intermittent closure between the tip and blade of the tongue with the alveolar ridge. It is a very common sound in Spanish, represented by spelling "r" (initial in the word) and "rr". You can see an animation for the articulation of this sound in the University of Iowa website: http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/spanish/frameset.html (Look it up under "vibrantes").
You can hear the English frictionless continuant approximant and the Spanish alveolar trill (together with other manifestations of /r/) here.
This is what the spectogram of my Spanish [r] and my English [ɹ] look like in PRAAT:
And what they sound like:
(BTW, for some reason at times (not here, I think) my English /r/ includes a labiodental articulation, very much like Johnathan Ross' own [ʋ] and I guess I was trying to avoid it here. I wonder why!)
Here's a video that shows some people attempting to produce a Spanish trill (BTW, that was my "rr" at the age of 5! My Italian granny used to call me "my little Frenchy", at least that was what my /r/ sounded like to her, much to her dismay) and some tips and tricks which may (?) work (I don't really think the protagonist's achieved "rr" is truly alveolar, as there is some sort of velar start to my ear...but I may be wrong!):
You will hear it in Scottish, as this video shows:
I remember my speech therapy sessions quite vividly, which I guess is quite telling. I can recall disliking the speech therapist, a very tall, slender woman, and I get the feeling she was not very patient. I remember she filled a notebook with drawings and words with "rr", nursery rhymes as well: "Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril..." and I was expected to repeat. I don't have any recollection of having been asked to do anything else than repeat.
After six or seven sessions, she told my mother I had to keep attending sessions, even during the summer break. I remember getting in a tantrum, saying I was not going to go on attending, and my mother politely saying that since I was going to start swimming lessons, I would not be going back to my speech therapy sessions again. I was relieved.
I eventually got the sound "rr" on my own. I was probably not ready for my /r/ before this time (after all, it is one of the last sounds to be acquired,) or there had been, very likely, more articulatory practice in the sessions which my subconscious mind has "blocked".
***I heard someone say that we choose our profession as a means of healing a past trauma. I don't know if this is the case (this experience competes with the fact that I was locked inside an English Institute when I was 8), but I do believe this was a significant event in my life and there is something about the impression that I was only asked to "repeat" which I react against, now, in my teaching. (Worth another post!)
Thank you for reading me! Any personal experiences to share regarding your /r/ sounds?