How to Sing Consonant Sounds
Improving your ability to sing consonant sounds with ease takes time and dedication. Developing a powerhouse approach to consonant sounds is really part of the secondary stage in the process of becoming a great singer; because great consonants rely on a firm understanding of the fundamental elements of singing before you start adding in articulation to the resonant sound you've been developing in your vocal foundation - and without a solid vocal foundation, your voice is going to fail every time you try to sing consonant sounds.
A great way to approach singing consonants is to break them down into group and type, for example, grouping your plosive consonants together, or your resonant consonant sounds, then learning how to sing better consonants by type rather than becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of different consonant sounds and words you need to master when you are singing a song.
Consonant sounds in particular were a struggle for me personally due to my Australian accent and naturally lower voice type - but learning to group my consonant sounds correctly changed absolutely everything for me as a singer!
Let me show you the exact consonant grouping approach that I share with my own students to help them sing consonant sounds with ease and confidence;
So happy to have found Kegan and his amazingly helpful vocal training!
My progress has been pretty epic!
Top shelf sing-ninja wisdom! All kinds of awesome.
Kegan is the master of vocal training... period.
The Consonant Sound Chart
Using this consonant sound chart, we're going to work out which of your consonant sounds might be holding you back, and then form an approach to them that will make you sing better.
Open Resonants - Sounds like M, N and NG are all what I consider open resonants, they resonate while your soft palate is 'open'. Learning how to control your soft palate is an intrinsic skill that requires proper training, and people often mistake 'lifting' the soft palate for 'opening' the soft palate. You can learn how to control your soft palate fairly easily by toggling your breathing between your nose and your mouth (without using your fingers to block your nose!) - it really is that easy to control your soft palate, so make sure you practice this important skill each time you sing. Most singers can sing open resonants easily as they are similar to a 'hum' sound.
Closed resonants - Now, closed resonant sounds like L, W, R, Y all require you to CLOSE your soft palate, hence the reason I call them "closed" resonants. A great way to learn how to sing closed resonants is by replacing these consonants with a vowel - such as "OO" for "W", and "EE" for "Y" - ie: a word like "Wow" would become "OO-AH-OO", and a word like "Yeah" would become "EE-EH". These are often difficult for singers who naturally speak with a deeper accent, such as European and some parts of America - this is due to improper use of the soft palate, and an overly deep vocal placement.
Glottal - Again, Glottal consonant sounds are killer for Eastern Europeans and also us Aussies, due in part to a deep placement and also a harsh release of sounds like K and G from the larynx. A much better way to sing glottal consonants is to simply 'click' the back of your tongue as you sing a pure vowel.
Plosives - Sounds like P and B are interchangeable, and simply require you to moderate your airflow properly. Have you ever practised a lip trill before, or lip bubbles? This exercise teaches you how to moderate your airflow, so try to treat your plosives in the same manner - you shouldn't blow out air, you need to hold your breath.
Sibilants - Now, most singers do struggle with sibilant consonant sounds because they are singing with actual SIBILANCE, such as a harsh, extended SSSSSS sound. The key to singing sibilant consonants, or sibilants, is again to hold your breath - it's more like a Snake "Ssss" or a leaky tyre rather than a PUSH of air as you sing.
Now with the above consonant sound chart, beginning consonant sounds will be MUCH easier, allowing you to sing actual words and songs instead of just scales, and will also make you sing better by training you to control aspects of your singing voice like your soft palate, your onset and your airflow that you may have previously taken for granted/not been aware of.
Take Your Voice To The Next Level
Before you get started on singing consonants, I'd suggest that you set up your foundation first, as I always say - a singing voice is only as strong as the foundation it is built upon. Your foundation starts with posture, breathing and resonance, so make sure you're setting up the proper singing posture first to allow you breathe correctly and create a RESONANT singing voice.
Absolutely anyone can learn how to sing well - it simply depends on how well you understand the mechanism of the singing voice, and how well your approach is designed for your individual voice. If you think "I can't sing but I want to be a singer", then make sure you are setting up your foundation the right way so that you can learn how to improve your singing voice and build a powerful range using these great tips:
What is the proper singing posture - Correct singing posture allows you to be in full control of your breathing via extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction of the ribs. A healthy singing posture looks a little something like this:
- Head up
- Shoulders back
- Chin parallel with the floor
- Ribs 'out'
Learning to sing with a 'ribs out' singing posture is extremely important for your breathing, and is often called Appoggio singing technique.
How to sing using your diaphragm - Engaging the diaphragm is an important skill that every singer needs to learn. Starting with the healthy posture we just developed, we're going to engage the diaphragm by using one of the following approaches:
- Breathe low and sharp like your'e breathing through a drinking straw
- Toggle your breathing between your nose (in) and mouth (out)
- Lie on the floor with a mug/book on your navel - try to make the book move with your breathing
- Pant like a dog, getting slower and slower until you can breathe this way normally
The main key to learning how to sing from your diaphragm is setting up your posture and then learning to engage the right muscles.
Singing with resonance - Singing with resonance is the difference between speaking, and truly SINGING. Your sound should buzz up in the resonant chambers of your head rather than flow out of your mouth like it does in speech. A great way to power up your resonance is to learn vocal placement and hone in the right frequencies that buzz in the most efficient manner. Here's a great tutorial I've put together for you to show you how to sing with vocal placement:
How to improve your onset - Learning how to START your resonance requires an understanding of the three types of onsets our voices can create.
- Breathy onset - Airflow starts before your vocal chords come together
- Glottal onset - Your vocal chords are slammed shut BEFORE airflow starts
- Balanced onset - Air pressure is released at the very moment your vocal chords meet (the only healthy onset!)
Learning to coordinate your onset and sing "balanced" is very important, not only for your vocal health and the quality of your vowels, but also for your consonant sounds. Behind each of the consonant sounds in the consonant sound chart above is a balanced onset and a pure vowel - remember, your consonant sound and your onset are not related, you need to develop control over both your onset and your consonants separately before you can coordinate them together properly
The Four Vocal Fundamentals
Your ability to sing consonant sounds with ease is in direct relation to how well you manage The Four Vocal Fundamentals;
- Height In The Vocal Tract
- Forward Placement
- Mixed Tonality
- "All In One Flow"
Without correctly formed vowels care of Height In The Vocal, you'll always struggle with speechy consonant sounds that in turn effect your ability to sing with Forward Placement - these two aspects of vocal foundation being the cornerstone of Mixed Tonality. But the most important aspect of vocal foundation when it comes to singing consonant sounds with ease is the "All In One Flow" diaphragmatic breathing approach which you'll learn in The Foundation 101 Singing Course.
Master The Four Vocal Fundamentals
With The Foundation 101 Singing Course
Instead of just telling you how great it is to sing with such effortless freedom and power now that I've mastered The Four Vocal Fundamentals and learned to group my consonant sounds correctly - let me show you; here's just a few quick examples of what I'm achieving as a singer now that I've mastered my foundation - just imagine the killer singing voice you're going to enjoy when you master these four simple foundation steps!