How To Fix Your Singing Accent
A common question I receive how to fix your singing accent along with why do people lose their accents when they sing? Fortunately for those of us with a thick accent, this is a very easy fix and can be done with a few very simple and easy singing exercises! Your accent has two main aspects, your vowels and your consonant sounds – and where you and I might have two completely different ways of SPEAKING the same word, each with our own unique accent and use of our articulators, the way we SING should actually be uniform and largely the same. Even if you have a thick Eastern European accent, Asian, American or even Spanish – you can fix your singing accent in two easy steps.
Learning how to sing without a singing accent is the mark of a truly great singer – your singing voice and your speaking voice are ultimately unrelated processes even though they make use of parts of the same mechanism, so you need to treat your singing voice as it’s own unique instrument so you can build a POWERFUL singing voice no matter your accent, voice type or native tongue.
Step 1 – Shape your vowels
This often comes as a surprise in beginner singing lessons. You don’t pronounce your vowels when you sing, you SHAPE them. The way your voice works is via air pressure that in turn makes your chords vibrate, which then creates resonance – the shape of your tongue and the width of your vocal tract then “EQ’s” your resonance to give the illusion of a vowel which will actually be very different to your speaking voice
- AH – Tongue low and concave
- AA – Similar, but with your tongue slightly forwards
- EE – Tongue “Up” at the back
- AY – Similar, but with your mouth ajar and tongue forward
- OO – There are actually two different OO vowels in singing
Practice this every time you sing – a word like “Love” isn’t an “U” vowel in the centre, it is a pure “AH” vowel with a concave tongue. You see, your voice and natural resonance actually sound ‘different’ as you ascend in range, so how we perceive our pronunciation and speaking voices is not necessarily 100% correct when you start to use your actual singing voice the right way. A great way to ascertain the right vowel sound is using the Bohemian Vocal Studio vowel translator which will translate lyrics and words into each of these sung vowel shapes.
Step 2 – Articulate your consonant sounds
This is another one that is often a surprise in beginner singing lessons, you don’t “pronounce” your singing consonants, you articulate them with your mouth/tongue/teeth/lips and allow your resonance to do all the work for you. I like to separate my consonants into groups and form an approach for each type, like so:
Open Resonants – This is your resonant consonant sounds like “N” and “M” that are somewhat hummed. I call them “Open” because your soft palate should be open, and air should be escaping through your nose
Closed Resonants – This includes R/L/Y etc, and involves singing your consonant sound through a vowel, such as the word “Love” – you don’t hit a hard “L” to start your resonance, you actually use a gentle OO vowel with a balanced onset while singing the L, leading straight into an AH vowel for the center of the word. Don’t worry if this sounds difficult, you can book online singing lessons with me today and I’ll show you how to do it the right way. Here’s a practical tutorial I’ve put together to show you an easy way to sing your resonant singing consonants;
Plosives – Plosives are your P and B sounds that usually come with a “burst” of air when we speak, but actually require limiting our airflow when sung. A word like “Pug” doesn’t start with a pushed “PUH-g”, it actually starts with a silent “P” leading into a pure AH vowel with a balanced onset which in turn is JUST enough airflow to allow the word to start with a P. Plosives are often the most difficult aspect of a singing accent to develop, so take your time and make sure to ask me for help if you’re struggling.
Sibilants – Actual sibilance when singing is not a good thing, but it is necessary to articulate sibilant sounds like SS and T in the right manner so you can sing a lot of common words. Similar to plosives, a sibilant consonant requires you to hold back your airflow and lead straight into the following vowel with a balanced onset, briefly touching the shape of the S or T singing consonants. With time and practice, you’ll no longer push out all that air on an S and it will come out as a pure and pleasant sound.
Glottal – One of the most difficult sounds to fix in a singing accent is a GLOTTAL stop, sounds like G, K and C are often glottal, or, hard/throaty in nature. The trick is to allow a gentle ‘click’ to occur with your tongue rather than a throaty “GUH” on a word like “God” or “Get”. This one will be easier to understand if I simply show it to you:
How to fix your accent
Your singing voice and your speaking voice are unrelated, so if you’re suffering from a heavily pronounced singing accent, it’s likely you’re either not shaping your vowels correctly, or you’re pronouncing your consonant sounds instead of articulating them like I’ve shown you above. Singing is all about allowing resonance and shaping your sound and words AFTER your resonance is being created, so make sure you start with a strong foundation like the one I’ll show you in my complimentary foundations short courses and you are creating your resonance in the right manner with vocal placement rather than forcing out your sound.
Now, a great example of this is the Spanish ñ like in the word Español, which sounds a little like the NY in “Canyon”. However, this means that many Spanish singers use their ñ inflection any time there is an NY sound in a word like Canyon instead of forming their vowels properly and articulating the open resonant Y sound. Let me clarify, for a Spanish singer, they may sing the word “Canyon” as – c-AA-ñ-OH-n, resulting in a thick accent when they sing, but if they simply sang c-AA-n-ee/y-OH-n like we discussed earlier in this tutorial, their speech accent will magically melt away and they will sing with clear resonance and inflection-free diction.
This relates to every sing accent out there, yes, even American accents which are sometimes ‘closer’ to a sung sound than a completely separated accent like my Australian accent – we all suffer from this same issue from time to time in varying levels. Are you shaping your vowels and articulating your consonants, or are you simply pronouncing with your speech accent when you sing? When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level while learning to sing higher than ever before, fix your singing accent and build confidence and consistency every time you sing, you can book a Skype session with me today and we’ll work towards extending your range, building consistency and most of all, to fix your singing accent.
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback 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.