The Secret To Singing Consonants
Developing the right approach to consonant sounds will not only allow you to extend and improve your vocal range, it will allow you to sing any word and resonate in any vocal range. Consonant sounds are often an issue for many singers, but with Bohemian Vocal Studio’s extensive experience coaching various voice types, accents and singing styles, you will learn the secret to singing consonants and develop a truly powerful, confident and consistent singing voice.
How to sing consonants
Depending on your accent and native tongue, you may find that in particular the “W” sound sits right in your throat with a low tone resonating in your larynx, kindof like an “UH” sound before actual “W” is made, or even just a pure “W” with a little bit of air forcing it out – this speech approach simply won’t work for a singing voice, so we need to build a healthier approach to this sound. I personally like to group each of the consonants into their comparative types and then form a practical approach to each consonant considering their voice type, singing experience and native accent. In this instance, a “W” consonant is generally replaced by a classical OO vowel, in essence changing a world like “WELL” into “OO-ELL”
Now, a “Y” sound is another difficult consonant that requires a little tweaking for a strain free and resonant delivery – this time we’re actually going to change it into a nice, fluid “EE” sound instead, so a word like “YES” would sound something like EE-EH-S, instead of the choked “Yuh-S” sound like we sometimes do with speech.
The key to singing consonants
Grouping your consonants into types and then forming an approach for each of them considering your voice type, native accent and of course singing style is truly the key to singing consonants. Using this guide, you can develop an approach to ANY consonant sound and ANY word.
Open resonants – Open resonant consonant sounds are your consonants such as N and M, where your soft palate is ‘open’, and air is escaping through your nose. These are generally the easiest consonants to sing.
Closed resonants – Here’s where things get a little tricky. Closed resonant consonants involve CLOSING the soft palate to stop any airflow through the nose occuring – you’ll still sense and hear resonance high up in your head and behind your nose, but it won’t have a nasal quality as there is no actual airflow escaping through your nose. This includes singing consonants such as L, R, W and Y. A great was to learn how to sing closed resonant consonants is to replace them with a vowel, for example, an “OO” vowel for a W – a word like “War” would then become “OO-AH-R” and resonate freely during the consonant.
Sibilants – Sibilant consonant sounds are a problem for alot of singers, but they’re pretty easy to fix. On your sibilant consonant sounds like and S and T, it’s important that you actually LIMIT your airflow, rather than blowing air OUT when you sing.
Plosives – Similar in execution to the Sibilants, plosives like P and B require you to limit your airflow and open immediately into the correct tongue shape for the proceeding vowel.
Glottal – Including the hard glottal stop of consonants such as G and K, it’s probably best to show you these, so make sure you check out the video above to see how to sing glottal consonants!
Balance your onset
A balanced onset is another aspect of the key to singing consonants. Despite the manner in which we speak, your consonants and onsets are actually two separate processes that require special training and develop for proper control. Your onset is how your resonance starts, and your consonant is simply the non-vowel part of your articulation, whether this being articulation of your resonance into a resonant consonant like Y or M, or articulation of your airflow in an aspirated consonant like F or H.
Singing is often a process of coordination rather than a muscular or physical pursuit, so make sure your approach to singing and your voice coach have a practical way to develop coordination and control in your vocal range beyond simple scales and exercises. As I often say, an exercise in singing is only as useful and practical as the intention you hold behind it – make sure you understand how and why an exercise will help your voice for the most efficient use of your time and the healthiest use of your voice.
Pretty simple, right? If you’re ready to work on other difficult consonant sounds, and build your voice into a powerful singing machine, then you can book a session with me today here at Bohemian Vocal Studio!
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.