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How You Speak Affects How You Sing - Your Accent Matters More Than You Think

accent articulation articulators pronunciation tongue

Assuming you’re singing in English, your accent may be making it hard for you to sing with confidence.

This happens even if you’re a native English speaker.

I’ve worked with students from different parts of America, England, Australia, Asian and European countries.

If they’d never had singing lessons before (or very few lessons), I always had to correct their pronunciation.

Otherwise, they would have a lot of trouble getting a pleasant and resonant tone.

Being born and raised in Malaysia, English was my second language. I knew firsthand the challenges of singing English songs when the articulation/pronunciation wasn’t quite right.

I never fully realized this until I compared myself singing a song in Mandarin (my mother tongue) and a song in English.

“Why does it feel so natural singing in Mandarin but not English?” I thought to myself.

So, I got serious about perfecting my pronunciation of English vowels and consonants.

By making sure that my articulators (lips, tongue, jaw, teeth) were in the right position, I was able to speak and sing in English more easily than before.

You may have a thick local accent even if you’re a native English speaker.

And that accent may not help you sing vowels in a way that gets you maximum resonance with less effort.

I’ve seen this many times during my private lessons.

British and American students would have a heavy accent (from their local area). After fine tuning their articulation, it was amazing how quickly their singing improved.

What you can do now to improve your articulation

Study the different English vowels
There are 12 of them but focus on EE, EH, AH, AW, OO.

For EH & AW, you want to use the Italian version (watch the video above).

One thing that really helped me was a handy little tool called an IPA chart.

IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabets. Each symbol represents a certain sound in different languages, including English.

I show you how to use it to improve your singing in Singing Confidence Academy.

Speak well
Aim to speak English using correct pronunciation in your daily life.

Be more aware of how you’re pronouncing your vowels by recording yourself and then listen back straight away.

Do your vowels sound clear? Does it feel natural or does it feel tensed in your mouth?

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you’re learning to pronounce vowels correctly for the first time.

However, feeling tensed because you’re not pronouncing vowels correctly is an entirely different thing.

Move your mouth
If you tend to mumble when you speak, I want you to move your mouth more when you sing.

Exaggerate your mouth movements. Make it feel like it’s too much. That would usually be the sweet spot.

You can also practice speaking the words while moving mouth more.

If your voice sounds clearer when you do that, it means you’re usually not moving your mouth enough to articulate.

Keep your tongue out
Another issue that could make it hard for you to articulate well is when you  pull your tongue too far back down your throat (whilst singing).

I see this a lot in students with a British or Australian accent.

If you sound throaty or hollow/dark, then try this:

Stick your tongue all the way out of your mouth and speak or sing one section of your song.

(Be careful not to bite your tongue though!)

Your words will not sound right but it will retrain your tongue to be in a more forward position in your mouth.

Then, put your tongue back in and sing the same section (in the normal way) immediately.

If you sound clearer after doing this exercise, it means your tongue is usually too far back down your throat when you sing.

Conclusion

When your articulators are in the correct position, your voice will get a natural boost. It will sound clear and smooth. Singing will become easy.

Let me know how you go with the exercises I showed you. Did you feel and sound any different? How was it different?

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