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How to speak and sing with better diction – and more comfortably!

The power of the tongue and its many effects on our voice!

Speaking with a clear and precise diction is one of your first means to excite your audience, convey your message convincingly, sound reliable and feel confident. A word pronounced with a clear diction seems weightier, producing a more powerful emotion. In addition, a precise pronunciation enhances the color of your voice and stresses its resonance.

So how can you improve the clarity of your diction and pronunciation, without swallowing any words? How do we achieve better diction?

They say “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”, literally. It is an oral muscle, the purpose of which is first of all help you distinguish between various tastes and digest your food, to ensure your survival. But, the tongue, of course, also helps you speak in a clear and understandable manner. For lecturers and mass media announcers, what matters most is clarity of speech, rather than vocal quality. One cannot sound as if one presses or swallows one’s words. Therefore, one must adjust the pressure used during voice production so the speech comes fluent and soft, yet sound clearly. The speaker must also bear in mind that in certain cultures, precise diction is less important than in others, and take care.

The tongue is a key factor of the extent of pressure or release in the voice-box, and, as a result, of your vocal quality. It is the tongue that generates the vowels, tone colors, and resonance, allowing a clear and fluent speech.

In order to understand and practice proper diction, we must understand what consonants and vowels are. According to Wikipedia:

“A consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract”. That is to say, it is generated through some stopping of the airflow in the oral cavity or the larynx.

While “a vowel is a sound pronounced with an open vocal tract”. That is to say, it is generated where the airflow is not stopped.


Do’s and Don’ts – Practical tips for better diction:

  1. When either speaking or singing, never articulate your consonants too abruptly. You may stress them, but to the right extent. A too abrupt articulation overstrains your vocal cords. It is most important for your vocal pedagogue or vocal therapist to address this problem.
  2. Generate the vowels by releasing the airflow, making sure that every vowel sounds clearly. When you delay the vowel a little, you release it. When speaking, use the singing-like soft pronunciation. When voice production is difficult, make your speech slightly melodious.
  3. When singing or speaking with high vocal intensity, stressing your consonants more strongly, slightly draw in your lower abdomen, in order to increase voice support and avoid straining your vocal cords.
  4. When pronouncing a consonant, press. When pronouncing a vowel, release. Consonants are generated by stopping the airflow, pressing and rubbing vocal organs against each other. Therefore, to generate a consonant precisely, you must contract some vocal muscles, such as your lips. By contrast, to generate a vowel you must let the air flow, that is, relax your vocal muscles. The best way to minimize the pressure during speaking, and at the same time sing better, is-speak as if you sing. That is, when speaking, pronounce the words more flowingly and melodiously, while relaxing your tongue and lips when pronouncing the vowels. Speak like an adult to young children, softly and melodiously, but in moderation. When singing, pronounce the words as if you speak. That is, pronounce the consonants with slightly more pressure. To practice it, pronounce the “b”, “g”, “d”, “m” and “n” sounds forcefully.
  5. A tip for singers: when singing high notes, you must mix up the vowels, in order to pronounce the word more easily. Therefore, in these tones, the sound of a vowel is mixed up with that of other vowels, and all vowels sound similar. In addition, when singing high tones, keep your mouth open wider, and put more pressure when pronouncing the consonants, for a better diction. While classical and opera singers prefer to stress the vowels, pop and modern music singers prefer to stress the consonants.
  6. It is also important to release your tongue, by drawing it forward a little, while releasing the lips, especially in the sides of your mouth, and drop your lower jaw (make sure it is not drawn forward). If you over-contract your tongue, in addition to drawing your jaw forward and too strongly close your lips, you may over-strain your tongue. Such motions may make it difficult for you to reach high tones. It might be very helpful to practice tongue release exercises. For example: roll your tongue while pronouncing the “u“ sound, rotate it above your teeth; tie a handkerchief to your tongue and pull it out, and so on.


To conclude:

  • When singing or speaking, you cannot and should not avoid pressing your facial and voice box muscles.
  • Singing and speaking requires a constant change from consonants, when you have to contract your muscles, to vowels, when you have to relax them. This alteration between contraction and relaxation allows you to make your pronunciation sound balanced.
  • Better diction is within your reach (or voice :-) )


Good luck.


TMRG Voice specialist