Singing Diction: Advanced Singing Techniques

(Last Updated On: February 27, 2021)

Singing diction is considered as among the important factors for good vocals. Just like voice control, pitch, proper breathing and rhythm it is also essential. Furthermore, if a song is understandable and clear, then the person listening will be able to sympathize with the song’s emotions and to feel it as well. The listener can pick the words naturally and begin to sing, this shows that he has an ability to relate to the music. He can also pick and hum even words that do not make sense, which is referred to as musical jargon.

Maybe you have heard singers who have improper singing diction. This is due to the fact that they are not audible naturally and probably they fail to practice their diction. This will affect their image negatively as artists in the future thus affecting their singing voice quality.

Any aspiring singer must aim at achieving good singing diction every time they sing. This is the first step to connect with the audience. In case you have ever watched any reality show, sometimes you will hear the judges say, “Your song never touched me.”  Lack of feel and emotion in a song is caused by not having proper diction. It is important to practice diction very well since a good base in singing diction offers you greater flexibility when singing and this allows you to select the way the vowels are pronounced.


Why We Must Use Diction in Singing?

Black woman performing her music competition on the stage naturally.

You may be wondering why so much emphasis is placed on diction, while you have listened to several singers with vocals which are barely understandable especially those in the lower register. Though, some are intentional. A singer is always expected to sing clearly and to project well her voice. If you feel that you do not understand what we have said, then go to any local venue playing live music. Sometimes the sound production is bad; at times the vocals and the orchestra may not be complimentary and mostly the vocalist may not be clear. Furthermore, it will enable you to sing through the higher notes smoother and easier.

If you try to compare notes of all the bands and singers who are now famous, you will discover an underlying similarity in them. They all have emotion prowess and good diction. The message carried in the song will be appreciated and understood clearly. This shows the singer’s commitment to music and also to their fans who are the audience. Without an audience, who will singers sing to?

One significant effect of a song is the message it carries and the emotion it conveys. This can be done only if the singing diction of the singer is good. When a listener hears a song, he has to relate to it first to like it. If what he hears sounds like a lot of nonsense then the effect is lost, and the emotion and message are not successfully conveyed.

On the other hand, if the song is clear and understandable then the listener can feel the song, sympathize with the emotion. He naturally picks up the words and starts singing which shows that he can relate to the music. Even the nonsensical words which are called musical jargon are picked up and hummed.

You might have heard many singers who do not have proper diction while singing. This is because they are naturally not audible and they have not practiced diction. This, let me tell you will be very negative for their image as an artist in the long run, affecting their livelihood.


Using Vowels in Singing Diction

You form vowels through a combination of physical parts that are used in forming your vocal tracts such as the tongue, nose, and lips. Each placement of the shapes of your mouth and tongue gives the inherent characteristics of each vowel called formants that distinguish the vowel to the audience like sought and sort.

Each language has its own distinctive pronunciation of words, which is also known as “vowel“, which is related to the singing diction. While you practice diction of the song’s words, the shape of the mouth as you sing, using the palette and tongue are some of the crucial factors that you must keep in mind. Good breath control and perfecting your diction helps you to improve clarity and range of singing.

One of the hardest vowels to sing is  “E“. Traditionally singers will change the “E” vowel to an “Ay,” or it will remain an “E” but be very strained, constricted, or squeezed sounding.

There are a few things that a person is aspiring to be a singer should take into consideration. One of them is performing a regular practice diligently aside from the willingness to devote more time to singing and to work harder. If you want to become a singer someday, then, you should learn the correct way of “enunciation.”

You can start this process by learning how to hum the vowels. When you sing the vowels, you may find yourself sounding strange, but in general, it really works when you know how to sing vowels. The most challenging vowel to sing is the letter ‘E’ because it seems to sound like a long ‘A’ if you sing it.

Practice singing the short ‘E’ and the long ‘E,’ and next is the vowel ‘I.’ Do the same thing with short ‘I’ and the long ‘I.’ You will notice that when you sing the long vowel ‘O’, it sounds similar to an ‘A,’ and in fact, sometimes it may also sound like ‘I.’ In the case of ‘U,’ the sound maybe like ‘O’.

It may be confusing at the beginning, but as you go on with practicing regularly, you’ll finally get it. They will come together almost automatically when you train your mouth by holding it as you try to make each sound.

Have you heard somebody singing, but you couldn’t understand the words?

This is really awful when the lyrics of the song are done in English, and that language happens to be your own. When you sing, you can make yourself understood by the listeners if you are precise and specific with your vowels and consonants.

Proper singing depends on the way how to sing vowels more significantly, and with consonants playing just a minor role. However, the correct articulation of consonants is also helpful in producing the right lyrics of the song.

In fact, you can use a slightly different approach to find a full sounding “E.“ We think it works pretty well so tell us what you think.


Role of Consonants

When you want to engage in a great singing diction, you should be able to utter a clear, crisp, pronunciation of consonants.  If you can’t do this, your audience would not be able to understand a single word in your song.  You can obtain more information about consonants through a diction textbook, or by asking your singing mentor.

An aspiring singer should aim to achieve good consonants for better singing diction when they sing. This is the first step toward connecting with your audience. If you have watched reality shows, you will sometimes notice the judges saying, “Your song did not reach me.” Lack of diction causes a lack of emotion and a lack of feeling in the song. Practice diction well, as a good foundation in singing diction will also provide you with greater flexibility while singing allowing you to choose how to pronounce the vowels.

You might wonder as to why we are emphasizing so much on diction when you have heard many singers whose vocals are barely understood especially the ones in the low register. Well, some of it is intentional. But almost always a singer is expected to project her voice and sing. If you have not understood what we are saying, then go to one of the local live music venues. Sometimes the sound engineering is bad, sometimes the orchestra and the vocals are not complimentary, and most times the vocalist is not clear. Whatever the reasons the upshot is if you cannot hear the song then you cannot enjoy it with the singing diction benefits.

If you compare notes on all the singers and bands who have become famous, you will see an underlying thread of commonness in all of them. All of them will possess good diction and emoting prowess. The message of the song will be clearly understood and appreciated. This shows their commitment not only to music but also to the audience who are their fans. If you do not have an audience who will you sing to?


Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet

In some genres of singing such as opera, early music and classical, the vocalist is required to sing in different languages.  Since it may be impossible for singers to learn to speak and to understand each language with fluency, the International Phonetic Alphabet was established.

This is a form of alphabet aimed to improve singing diction based on pronunciation.  It has been created for singers in order to enable them to make a translation in several languages with the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet.  Some people may be asking if diction has a strong effect on the way they sing.

There are also some who want to know how they sound to others.  Of course, your diction has a big effect on the way you sound, and how it sounds to the audience.  The reason for this is that some vowels appear to sound darker, while others seem to sound louder and brighter.

A good example of this is the ‘ooh’ vowel, which seems to sound rounder and darker.  This is because your diction is greatly affected by the shape of your mouth when you sing this particular vowel, and it is closed more compared to other vowels.

Every language has its unique way of pronouncing the words related to diction. The shape of your mouth when you sing, the use of the tongue and palette are very important factors to be kept in mind while practicing the pronunciation of words. Perfecting the singing diction and proper breath control helps in improving the range and clarity of singing.

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1 thought on “Singing Diction: Advanced Singing Techniques”

  1. Pls my challenge now in singing is 1, breath control and most especially my diction is nothing to write home about pls I need help

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