Articulation

Articulation means the good and clear pronunciation of words. But there is more to it! Next to improving the singer’s understandability it also affects the resonance and interpretation. So articulation is not a topic you should underestimate, it influences your whole singing technique! 

Why should I articulate?

An active articulation promotes an active diaphragm, which helps you to connect the breath to your voice. When the connection is right, the articulation supports optimal resonance and makes your sound fuller and warmer, and louder.

The framework

Words are made of vowels and consonants.

Vowels

A, E, I, O, U

Vowels are created by the position of the tongue, the opening of the mouth, and the degree of rounding of the lips. 

One main difference between speaking and singing is that you lengthen the vowels while you sing. Languages like Italian or dialects such as southern US dialects, also have lengthened vowels which is why they are sometimes referred to as sing-song or lilting.

Vowels produce a tone and convey emotions, they are what we sing on. 

To make this a bit clearer, if you would sing the word „winter“, you’d probably sing „wiiiiiiiiiiinter“ instead of „winnnnnnnnnter“ or „winterrrrrr“

This is a rule from classical singing, which you can of course choose to convey! Some Pop and Jazz singers prefer to speak more than sing. This `spoken singing´ can have a very nice effect, but there are also musical situations where lengthened vowels are needed to make justice to the song! 

Another example I want to give concerns words that end with “ay”, “ey” and “ee”.

Many singers tend to sing: 

“Yesterdayyyyyyyyyy”, “awayyyyyyy”, “goodbyeeeeeeee”. 

This can sometimes sound quite annoying and stressful. One should use the time and vowels that are available and sing “yesterdaaayyy”, “awaaayyy”, “goodbyyyyeeee” instead. This will make the word more interesting and will most probably sound more relaxed! 

Consonants

B,C,D,F,G,H,J,K,L,M,N,P,Q,R,S,T,V,W,X,Y,Z

Consonants are formed by the tongue, the hard palate and soft palates, the lips, and teeth (these are called the articulators).

Consonants are the framework of our singing and speaking. They give us the possibility to express ourselves. Babies and animals don’t use consonants, which is why we can not understand what they want to express. As we grow up we learn to make use of consonants and create words to convey real meaning. Furthermore, consonants can give you a lot of opportunities to increase your expressiveness, and give more shape and depth to the sound you make with the vowels.

Syllable stress

There are some words whose meaning you tell just from the sound. Through stressing specific parts of a word, you can reinforce and underline their emotional charge.

Stressing the beginning of a word, examples:

  • Fast – accent on the `f´
  • Warm – you can make the `w´ nice and soft and not too short
  • So – you can make it more important by holding onto the `ss´
  • Strong – a strong onset will give the word more significance. 

When you read a text, it isn’t only made of vowels and consonants, it has its rhythm. This rhythm is made through stressing specific parts of the words and using accents. 

These are things that come automatically in your native language, but when you are singing in another language you should consider accentuation because otherwise, you might say something completely different than you mean. 

Here is an example of how you would accentuate the lyrics of the song: Lemontree

I’m SItting HEre in a BOring ROOm

It’s JUst another RAIny Sunday AfternOON

I’m WAsting my TIme I got NOthing to DO

I’m HAnging arOUnd I’m WAIting for yOU

But NOthing ever HAppens

And I WONonder

I’m  DRIving arOUnd in my cAR

I’m DRIving too FAst, I’m DRIving too FAr

I’d LIke to CHAnge my pOInt of vIEw

I fEEl so LOnely, I’m wAIting for yOU

But NOthing ever HAppens

And I WONder

I WONder hOw, I WONder WHY

YESterday you TOld me ’bout the

BlUE, blue skY

And All that I can sEE

Is JUst a yellow LEmon trEE

I’m TURning my hEAd Up and dOwn

I’m TURning,TURning, TURning, TURning

TURrning arOUnd

And All that I can sEE

Is JUst another LEmon trEE


Exercise to improve articulation

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