Five Easy Ways to Polish your Singing: #1 Diction

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in Music Technique, Performance

After many years auditioning and participating in All-State, Honors, and other competitive choirs, I have determined that there are five main aspects of singing which, if done correctly, will set you above the rest of the competition. These five singing devices are: diction, tone, breathing, dynamics and emotion. The first I will talk about is diction.

Diction

Diction is the proper pronunciation and enunciation of words. It is especially important in singing, because so often words get lost in the music notes. Think of a time when you were singing a song on the radio, and realized you had no idea what was actually being said in that song. I usually make up words when that happens, only to find out later that I was nowhere close to the correct lyrics. However, the lyrics to songs are vital to understanding its meaning, and therefore must be enunciated with precision.

Word Endings

All endings to words, as a general rule, must be pronounced: this occurs most frequently in ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘g’ endings, because we tend to soften these in natural conversation. Similarly, do not overdo other endings. Often singers can begin sounding like snakes when a word ends in an ‘s’. Hold the vowel sound for the duration of the note then close with a quick ‘s’ sound. This is true for all consonant endings. Vowels are innately musical, where a majority of consonants are not. Thus, by holding the vowel part of the word for the duration of the musical note, and ending quickly with its concluding consonant, your singing will be richer and more in tune.

Vowels

Though vowels are innately musical, as they require vocal cord movement to be produced, they still can cause problems in as far as singing diction is concerned. Certain vowels tend to lead the voice to various tonal qualities: ‘e’ and ‘i’ vowels, for instance, tend to make the vocal quality very bright, and sometimes cause the pitch to go sharp, if a singer is not paying attention. Similarly, ‘o’ and ‘u’ vowels can become very dark in vocal tone, leading inexperienced singers to often go flat. These tonal and pitch problems can easily be fixed with proper diction, however, and an awareness of their potential.

Diphthongs

Diphthongs are mixed vowel sounds, such as ‘au’, ‘ou’, ‘oi’, and ‘ai’. These vowel sounds can become especially tricky when put to musical notes, and held for longer periods of time than normal. An important aspect to remember is to hold the first vowel (in it’s slightly different sound) for the majority of the note, then connect the second vowel at the end of the hold. Thus, instead of holding the strange ‘oi’ sound of coin for 4 beats, you hold ‘co—-in’. This technique will not only allow the word to be better understood, but also make the word more tonally appealing.

Ways to Practice

A common warm-up to rehearse diction regarding consonant usage is the phrase “Diction is done with the tip of the tongue and the teeth”, sung on the same note, then repeated up and down scales. Similarly, “Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight, mighty nice” can be sung in similar fashion. To practice vowels, on one pitch sing all of the vowel sounds, transitioning slowly from the ‘a’ to the ‘e’, ‘e’ to the ‘i’, ‘i’ to ‘o’, etc. Adjust each vowel until it sounds normal and on pitch. In between vowel sounds listen for the diphthong, and remember how this sounds in comparison to the pure vowel. To brighten pitch, lift your cheekbones, as if inwardly (and outwardly) smiling. Think about the note coming out of your forehead. To darken pitch, drop your jaw, with no smile on your face, focusing the note through your upper chest. Remember the natural tendency of vowels: try to darken ‘e’ and ‘i’ sounds, and brighten ‘o’ and ‘u’ sounds.

Conclusion

If you sing with good diction, your audience will be able to understand what you are singing, which will better allow you to convey meaning and emotion in your composition. Also, singing using good diction can better your pitch and tonal quality, lending to a better quality sound in your performance. 

Author Bio

Heidi is a freelance writer for ldwriters.  She enjoys writing mainly about family, pregnancy, parenting, and a few other specific topics.  She has been deeply involved in singing all of her life and considers it a joy.  Heidi's freelance writing is sponsored by various websites.  Although many of her sponsoring sites are not related to singing they do support her articles about the topic. Gelish Nails is one of her sponsors.

For more information on singing check out this great course at: Essential Guide To Signing!

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