Improve your technique (and your next performance) by working on diction! In this article, singing teacher Liz T. shares some great exercises to try out…
Imagine you’re at a concert, and your favorite artist gets up on stage to sing. You recognize a popular song from her album starting, but when she opens her mouth… you can’t decipher any of the lyrics.
As a singer, paying attention to diction — that is, the way you enunciate your words — can make a big impact on your performance. It’s a crucial part of connecting with your audience and even having proper vocal health!
If you struggle with you diction when you sing, though, don’t be ashamed. It is truly something all singers struggle with! It doesn’t mean you are a bad singer… but the better diction you have, the more your audience will be able to enjoy and appreciate your performance.
There are tons of diction exercises you can try, which will help you train yourself. Start adding these to your practice sessions, and you’ll notice a difference!
1) Practice Tongue Twisters
Try speaking your favorite tongue twisters first, and then try singing them! I recommend focusing on ones with letters or syllables that are more difficult for you. Start slow, and then work up to a faster speed. Really make sure you are articulating each sound. You can also try speaking or singing the alphabet to get the shapes ingrained in your muscle memory.
Here are a few tongue twisters that are great for improving your diction:
- She sells seashells by the seashore.
- Red leather, yellow leather.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
- Who washed Washington’s white woolen underwear, as Washington’s washer woman went West.
- Mommy made me mash my M&Ms.
2) Study Phonetics (IPA)
For this exercise, take a look at the song you’re currently working on, and break down each word in the lyrics. Break apart the vowels, consonants, and diphthongs. Feel free to write in your score, if you need to spell a word differently for it to make sense in your singing.
Many singers refer to the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) when singing. This is a system derived from Latin that is used today as a standardized representation of sounds. It’s a great tool for singers to use and study!
3) Practice Vowels
Take some time focusing on each of the vowels: ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo. Add a consonant at the beginning (such as “mah, may, me…”) and sing through the list, making sure each one is clear.
4) Practice Consonants
Next, focus on consonants, like D, T, and N. Practice speaking the different sounds, repeating each a few times.
5) Do Some Lip Buzz/Trill
Warm up your lips, tongue, and teeth with simple lip buzzes and tongue trills.
6) Incorporate Breath Support
Pick one of the tongue twisters above, and practice saying it all in one breath.
Now that you’ve read the descriptions of the diction exercises, here’s a video you can follow along with:
Whether you are performing live on stage (using a microphone or not) or singing in a studio, you should always use clear and accurate diction! And if you’re struggling, remember that clear diction may not happen overnight. Keep practicing these diction exercises, and work with your voice teacher to improve your technique. Good luck!