#ThisIsAVoice Vocal trainers Dr Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher show you how to find easy and accurate consonants in your songs. It's like having private singing lessons but with the very best vocal coaches!
Jeremy and Gillyanne go deep into vocal articulation and the effect consonants have on vowels when you sing.
When is a t not a t? When does an s become a z?
What are your favourite singing genres and does it make a difference to the way you make your consonants?
Watch Jeremy give a clear definition of the difference between vowels and consonants (7 minutes in)
Why is where we PITCH a consonant so important for musical style and vocal technique? Hear the demonstrations 11 minutes in.
What's the physiological difference between a B and an M? And what does your soft palate have to do with creating consonants? Check out the answers 26 minutes in.
It's like instant vocal coaching online with two of the best vocal trainers.
All the exercises are in our book
"This Is A Voice - 99 Exercises to Train, Project and Harness the Power of Your Voice"
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Jeremy's info on Belting The Money Note is in the book "Why Do I Need A Vocal Coach? Stories, tips and hacks from the studio of a voice expert"
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The 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching course online, with all these voice techniques and a LOT more, is here https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/5-days-to-better-singing-teaching
The Vocal Process Learning Lounge, with 16 years of vocal coaching resources (over 600 videos) for less than the price of one private singing lesson. Click and scroll down the page for the free previews
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Hello and welcome to This Is A Voice, Season six, Episode seven, the podcast where we get Vocal about voice. I'm Jeremy Fisher. And I'm Dr. Gillyanne Kayes. Okay, now, before we tell you what the topic for today is, I want to say that there is a challenge that we're setting you from season six, episode six, the last episode, which was ventriloquism. And the challenge is called The Creep Challenge. And thank you to the person who suggested that while watching the YouTube Premiere. It's a great idea. It is a great idea. Uh, so the, the challenges are already coming in. Uh, what we want you to do is, since if you go to about eight minutes into the last episode, you will hear and see me if you watch on YouTube, uh, do the first four lines of Creep as a ventriloquist. And that is your challenge. Can you do the same thing? Are you actually up to doing this challenge? Can you record yourself, video yourself, which is of course great cuz you can see whether you are moving your lips and jaw or not. Sing me the first four lines of Creep and upload your video and tag us. We now have just been awarded our handle for YouTube, which is @Vocalprocess. So now we are @Vocalprocess on Twitter, and I think on LinkedIn. Instagram, Instagram, and uh, YouTube. It's Facebook as well. Yeah. So just tag us with @Vocalprocess. And let's do a Creep fest. Mm-hmm. Okay. Oh, that does not sound good. Mind you, Halloween is coming up, so maybe that's all right. So what is the topic today? Well, we're gonna be talking more about consonants because it sort of feels like, you know, building on the idea of what we were exploring in the ventriloquism and also the previous episode, which was season six, episode five. Mm-hmm. Um, we did consonants and tongue twisters on that one as well. Oh, I'm glad you remember that one. Yeah, I was thinking about consonants and how we use them in singing and you know, very much as teachers and trainers and coaches how we coach our own trainers to think about consonants and to spot them. You know, sometimes there are difficulties with consonants that impact on how we use our voice and we don't realize the problem is the word, not the voice. Yes. And in fact, when is a consonant, not a consonant? Because you don't always do the same consonants depending on what style you're singing. Yeah, let's, I I've chosen to explore the word stop and see me. Yep. Which are actually from um, Weird Romance, but we're not gonna sing the melody from that cuz it's a Disney, It's a lovely song by the way. If you actually dunno the song, Look up, Stop and See Me From Weird Romance. Great song. Yeah. Okay. So, But we aren't gonna sing the tune. Yeah. We aren't, No, no, no. That's not the tune. No. Right. Okay. We're gonna have to cut that out. That's just a load of rubbish. No, we're keeping it in. Okay. So let's go for, I'll, I'll just have a go and see what comes out. You know, I think of it as my default. Stop and see me. Great. Okay, so Jeremy, what did you hear about the consonants there? Okay, so first of all, can we break down what consonants are in there because there's quite a lot. S unvoiced fricative, T stopped consonant, stopped unvoiced no voice yet. Mm-hmm. up. Unvoiced plosive p, um, uh, nasal. And. Voiced nasal and "d" voiced plosive. Voiced plosive. Yep. "s" unvoiced fricative. Mm-hmm. "m" voiced nasal. Me. Stop and see me. Okay. So we've got quite a lot of the consonants categories there. So that's the first thing. And can I just say with the S, it's not just any fricative, it's not just any s, it's a voiceless alveolar fricative. Now, enveloped in the finest chocolate. So the thing that I want to say is, you know, when you start unpacking something, You don't need to know those names. No. You know, there are some, uh, we talk about type, manner and placement in consonants. The thing that you need to know is what it feels like in your voice. What it feels like. What it sounds like. Absolutely. Yeah. And, and also by the way, in what it feels like. What's moving. Yeah. So, actually Jeremy, I'm gonna get you to explore this. We think the best way to find where the consonant lives is to surround it with a vowel. So if you did that, let's do it. For example, with "tuh", a T. Oh, Now this is the trap that people fall into and Gillyanne has already beautifully demonstrated it. Oh, the consonant is tur. No it isn't. That's a consonant and a vowel. True. So it's t, t, t, which is, that's the unvoiced version. Mm-hmm. Okay. So if I surround it with a vowel ata, ata. Now I'm gonna slow that down because I am doing a quotes "correct" consonant. We don't always use this version, but if I really slow it down, you will hear an extra thing. Ata, ata. You hear a vowel. You hear a silence, you hear a burst of air, and then you hear the second vowel. A-t-ha ata, ata. Now I can make that burst of air stronger or weaker ata, ata is making the burst of air stronger. Ata, ata, ata is making it very weak. Okay. That's definitely the choral, English choral traditional version. Okay. And let's just explain this. The English choral tradition, the reason that this is the case is that the conductor does not want splashy consonants. And when you have three or four, even three or four people doing at-t-t-t-t-t-a you don't get a crisp consonant. Oh. So then if I were to replace almost with a D, sdop and see me. Yeah. Interestingly, when you listen to it, sdop. Sdop. Sdop. That's a voiced consonant. That's not Stop. That's stop. That's d And then the S almost became a Zed, didn't it? Absolutely. Yeah. And I did that instinctively. Yes it did. Whoa. We're wandering around a bit, but, uh, thank you for that. So Jeremy, can you just demonstrate singing Ata? Yeah. Ata. Ata, ata, ata. If you did three times, you start to key into what is moving, what's happening, what's forming that consonant. The reason that we put a vowel on either side of it is a vowel is unobstructed. There is nothing in the way of a vowel The moment you bring any consonant in at all, there is an obstruction or a partial obstruction somewhere. And the real fun with consonants is working out where the obstruction is and how much, or how little you can make it, and also how much and how little you can move your mouth. So I'm gonna challenge you Jeremy , haha, we're back on the ventriloquism. Well, no, actually in this case, I want you to see how little you need to move your jaw to make the "t". Oh, okay. Depends where I start. But if I start in a fairly neutral, uh, fairly neutral, um, it's what I call the hanging jaw, which is the, uh, the gormless look. Yeah. Uh, tuh, uh, tuh. I actually only need to move it a very small amount, but it does make my "t" slightly different. Yes, it does. If I move my jaw a bit more, I'll put my tongue in a slightly different place. And of course, if you're doing the S beforehand, the whole context of it is different, Isn't it? Because we can't make the S with our jaw dropped. You're quite right. I don't think so. You can as a ventriloquist, but that's not the version we want. So I mean, what's interesting, oh, getting so geeky here, love it, is that your tongue is almost in the right place. It just has to move a little bit forward to make the tea, doesn't it? Yeah. So we've got some air moving because we're on the fricative. Yes. That's good. Useful. Even though we don't have voice. And then we, the air has to be stopped with the t. St, st. So could you sing or speak Asta, asta. Yeah. And notice then my jaw has to move. Asta, asta, asta. If I change the vowel osto, the, my jaw is still moving, but now my lips are in a different place. And if I change to eestee, eestee, now I can start the e vowel with a slightly more closed jaw. And therefore there's less movement, but there is still movement. So you've just done very nicely, um, steps one and two that we recommend when working with consonants. Surround the consonant, the target consonant with a vowel. Yep. Preferably a neutral type vowel Like an ah or an uh. Yeah. That depends very much on your linguistic background. Then surround the consonant. I, In this case we were doing a consonant cluster. Yeah. With the target vowel, the o, osto, osto. Which Jeremy did. Completely instinctively. I've actually forgotten that was the word, but yeah. Yeah, you did it. Okay. Osto. And then sing the word sto. Stop. Absolutely. And then depending on where you are in pitch, cuz we would recommend, you know, if you've got to sing it on a really high note, um, or a belted note or similar, that the best thing to do is sing it in a comfortable part of your range and then repeat steps one to three on the target pitch or even an interim pitch if the target pitch is really tricky. Okay. Yeah. So let me think about that now with the stop, especially. Stop and see me. Great. Yep. Okay. So tell me what you heard then. Um, I heard you do more of a stop at the end of the p Mm. Um, so that the stop the word stop and and were separated. Yes, very much so. And whereas the very first time you sang it, you ran them, you almost ran them together. There was a very small mm-hmm stop as it were. Um, but they were almost run together, which is a more lyric or classic way to do it. Absolutely. So I might put that in the lyrical MT. Yeah. You know, um, rather than running all the words together, which I might have a go out in a minute. Yeah. Okay. Um, let me try another version, because now what we're talking about, it's not just how it's made, it's not just how you manage it, it's not just the context of the phrase, it's the context of the genre. Yes. We don't do consonants in the same way, um, between the genres necessarily because the needs are different to say nothing of the expressivity, which is another issue. Yeah. So I'm gonna try another version. Stop and see me. Good. Okay. You're in M1 now and you're doing many more stops and gaps between the words. Yeah. I've also gone down in pitch. I have another go. Stop and see me. Uh, okay. And there's an extra thing that you did on the M, which is, I really have to listen to that back slowly, but I think what you did was you started the M on the upper pitch and slid down on the M Stop and see me. Ooh. See me? Yes. Because it's the way that I've got to get from the E to the m. So did I. Where, where did I pitch the consonant? Was it on It was on the bottom note, wasn't it? I'm not sure. I think if we listened back, you pitched it above the bottom note. Oh. Oh. You let me see. We how, we do these things really instinctively. Let me do this. To manage them. Let me do it and slow it down. Stop and see me stop and see me. I'm actually sliding on the M. Yes. I don't have to stop and see me. I can switch down to the M immediately I start it onto the low note. Okay, so where we pitch the voice consonant is also important. It is, it is. I mean, first of all, when you pitch a voice consonant, because voice consonants are basically pitchable, there are a couple, like the voice stopped consonants, like Bs and Ds, which are slightly awkward, but most voice consonants can be pitched, which means actually you can do more legato on them. Yeah. Um, but the interesting thing is it depends on which note you, whether you are pitching them on the note that you are leaving. Or the note that you are going to, or even a note in the middle somewhere or even a note underneath it. And I wanna demonstrate that last one. Stop and see me, see me. Uh, I use that occasionally for really strong emphasis of a word. Uh, what we have is we move between phonemes is we have what are called transitions. So how we move from say a closed mouth position to an open mouth position or the tongue is moving position as well. And sometimes we have to manage that, and then we're managing that in the context of transitions between pitches, in other words, with melody. And there's quite a lot to process and I think often we're not really aware of. I mean, I did some things without even thinking about it. But I think a lot of singers do that. And I think that's absolutely fine. Your, your job if you like, is to share yourself vocally with the listener, and therefore, anything that you do really is your version. Um, and there's a lot of, there's an awful lot of things that you do instinctively automatically. Um, and it's only when you hear podcasts like this and you go, What am I doing at that point? That where it gets quite interesting because then when you become conscious of it, it's possible to either keep it, do it exactly as it is or change it. And here's a thought. I mean, I'm going to do something that might be negative practice because I think what often happens, particularly within experienced singers, you know, well, our mouth is open when we sing, right? And then we've got these consonants that get in the way, and a lot of us spend time, um, developing our voices on vowel based exercises. Hello. Here come the words, and we do this. Do what? Stop and see me. Okay. If you're not watching this, if you're listening on the podcast, Gillyanne is actually moving her hands, flapping her hands up and down and flapping her jaw up and down. It's what we call crocodile mouth. Now that, that's not working too badly in my M1 version, where in fact I'm pretty much putting a space between each note. I dunno if this is gonna work, Jeremy, but let me do the same thing in a more lyrical, flowing style. Stop and see me. It does actually work, but I mean, auditorily it works. The sound works. Um, visually it's a little odd cuz it looks like you're eating something. Watch the YouTube channel. I think the other thing that was interesting was I did a whole load of cheats. I did stob. Oh, voiced. Okay, so change the P to the B. Stob an see me. You didn't really do the D. That's correct. You sort of glazed over the D. Mm-hmm. . Um, and you almost didn't do the m which was interesting. You almost replaced it with a B Oh oh. I did a bit of ventriloquising. Mm-hmm. . Right. I'm not even gonna attempt it again because I dunno if it's gonna work. You're so much better at repeating I'd be crap in the recording studio. I am in the recording studio. You are. Yeah. Yeah. Um, it is interesting that, and, and, you know, we're getting quite complex and we're getting quite sort of nitpicky about this stuff. Geeky! Honestly, go to the musical style that you're in first. Mm-hmm. If you are singing opera, the most important thing in opera is the length and quality of the vowel. You know, the, the, the consonants. Um, and of course the opera singers are going to, to um, come and complain at me in droves and I'm going, Yeah, work with a Royal Shakespeare company actor and they will tell you how consonants work, Stop and see me. And it genuinely, cuz we, we've actually experimented with this. Um, if you get an opera singer to sing the sort of consonants that an actor on the RSC stage does, they go nuts because they can't do any line, they can't do any, they can't maintain the, the quality of the sound. And actually functionally it doesn't work. That's correct. Yeah. So anyway, there's a little bit of contention for you. Yeah. Um, it's really interesting that we're talking about consonants and how they work, but there are so many styles where, I mean, rock, you tend to drop the final consonants in a lot of the words. Stop. Yeah. You know, pop, I mean, it's a, it's about a mood, it's about a vibe. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So you wouldn't necessarily spit all your consonants. And by the way, let's talk microphone versus acoustic. Mm-hmm, because if you have a microphone in front of you up in nostril, you definitely do not want to spit consonants mm-hmm. because it will just pop the mic. Absolutely. So sometimes in, in certain pop styles, in certain contemporary commercial music styles, you, you change the consonant, you don't do it, or you miss it out, or you change it to a voiced one, or you soften it, or you lose the, the, um, the explosion of air. You do all sorts of things. This is going back to context, isn't it? Yes. You know, um, in, in the larger context we've got, is it acoustic singing or is it amplified singing? That's going to impact on the way you sing your consonants? It is. What about the genre? What about the style, what about the vibe? Um, what about the position in the phrase, uh, what about the position in your voice in terms of, where it is in your range? Yeah. Um, loudness levels, et cetera, et cetera. Um, plus what is it .You want to say? If I want to say, for God's sake, Stop. Stop and see me, then I'm gonna make the P come earlier so that there's a bigger space in the musical phrase before I sing and. Make sense? Yes. Again, a lot of this we do on an instinctive level, but because so much work we do is with teachers, um, and with the choral leaders, actually, it's very good to, um, unpick to reverse engineer and what are the decisions that we're making. Cause it makes it much easier for our clients and students and for our choral people. I had, um, oh, one of our teachers report the other day that, um, one of our cohort 21 that they'd done a little bit of vowel tuning with them and, you know, got everyone to feel what they were doing with their jaw and their tongue when they made their vowels. And the choir absolutely loved it. We'll have to do a podcast on that sometime. Very much That'd be fun. So I was just gonna say, why are we banging on about consonants? Why are we here? Yeah. Um, and the answer is because sometimes what sounds like a Vocal issue or a technical issue, or somebody can't sing the phrase or can't get the notes or can't get the run, whatever it is, Sometimes it is actually a consonant issue. Stop and look at the text. And sometimes particular, interestingly, it's particularly on high notes. You know, you have, in fact, I, I wrote a whole article on this, which I published and then put in the book, uh, Why do I need a Vocal coach on, um, belting the money note? And there are so many issues when you have to put consonants in a belt sound because you are high up in your range and you're doing powerful sounds. There's that famous moment, Isn't that in the girl in 14 g, where she's been sort of singing in different styles, but none of them with belt. And then she suddenly yells, Stop. Isn't that on our Belting Explained resource? Um, I think it is. Think it is. Yeah. But even if it isn't, I also do a Consonant thing on Mastering Musical Theatre, which is in the Learning Lounge. We'll put all these links in the show notes at the end. Oh, and if you're curious about vowel tuning, just also head to the Learning Lounge, cuz it's in Vocal Process Best Practice Update. Yes. Okay. Now we are jumping around a lot. I want to come back to why are we doing consonants? Why are they so important? And the answer is because consonants interrupt the sound in some way. They change the airflow. They change the airflow. And when, it depends what instructions you are holding in your head. If you are singing something and you want it to be really smooth, if you are doing, I don't know, um, trance, and you want it to be really, really smooth and you have all of these interruptions, then you've gotta minimize the interruptions. But in order to do that, you really have to know where that interruption is. And this is why I love consonant work, because if you say to a singer, You know that B is a problem on that note, but the reason it's a problem is because you're gripping your lips so tightly to make it strong that you're actually interrupting the whole Vocal setup that you're doing. What do you need to do to make a b? How little do you need to do it? Can we just explore that on this podcast right now? Yes. Okay. So. I have no idea where he's going. You have no idea where I'm going with this? Cause I've just had a thought of something I want to share in a moment. But you, you go. Okay. Um, let's do, uh, the word by. So if you do by the first thing you do is close both lips. It's a bilabial stopped consonant by, so the airflow stops, the lips close, by the way your soft palate closes, raises and closes as well. So there's no air coming down your nose. Mm-hmm. Just experiment with this. If you did a bilabial consonant but you allowed her to come down your nose, you would end up with, mmm. So b and m have the same lip, uh, closure. They're both bilabial. They are both bilabials, yes. But the B has the soft palate closed as well. Raised and closed as well, whereas the M doesn't, So air is coming out. With a B air doesn't come out. So you are doing your stopped b. And if I said to you, I want your B to be louder, what is it that you do? Because there are basically two ways of doing it as far as I'm aware. One is that you bite your lips harder, BUH, and somehow it allows something much stronger to come out. The difficulty with that one is that really disturbs the larynx. And the reason for that. Likely to change to disturb your pitch. Yeah. The reason for that is it's a voiced bilabial plosive. Remember with the p it was unvoiced, so if you put your finger here on With the what? P, p, p. Yeah, alright, get over it! Thank you. They know what I mean? Um, if you pop your fingers on the larynx and go P, B, P, B. Is that good enough? Yeah, absolutely. So Gillyanne, um, alternating between p and B. Yeah. Um, but with the, um, what you are feeling for is you will feel a slight voicing, a slight vibration on the B, B as opposed to the P, P. Okay. Gillyanne's put her fingers together on the front of her throat so that you can feel the larynx and you can feel on the p you don't feel anything on the p, Nothing vibrates under your fingers, but when you do the B, P, B, P, B, you do feel the vibrations and that tells you it's a voice consonant. And the consonant isn't made with the larynx. Just to be clear that you can feel the difference between no vibration on the P and some vibration on the B, and you just get a little bit of feedback if you do that with your fingers. Yeah. So the first, the first way is to bite your lips harder. And a lot of people do this, is that they make the pressure at the front of the, the consonant, if you like, the front of where you make the consonant much harder, much tighter. And that has a huge effect on your larynx going backwards. It's gonna give you a lot of back pressure. It is. So the next, the, the other way, and we talked about this in season six, episode five, which is consonants and tongue twisters. Um, you can either kick the consonant, which is what I've just done, or you can elongate the consonant. And the way you elongate a stopped consonant is to make the silence longer, which is totally counterintuitive. But when you do by, by some signal goes to the audience's ear or the listener's ear that tells you that something is happening, but they can't hear it. They can't hear anything. So they're sort of waiting a little bit longer and with a bit more anticipation or a bit more attention to see what's gonna happen. And they're processing already. Yes. So interesting. I want, if you haven't listened to season six, episode five, go back and listen to it because we do this whole thing about, um, uh, kicking or elongating consonants. And I am a huge fan of elongating. Much easier to do once you get your head round it. Cool. Okay. Have we done, have we done enough ? Have we done enough for now? Okay. So that was one consonant. Now let's go and do all of the others. No. No, that's quite enough for them to think about. Go. We don't wanna give, give them everything. Um, deconstructed. What we do do, this is on, uh, the 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching, Day 4. Yeah. We do quite a lot on consonants and then we go into breakout rooms and we help people find where consonants are, what they are, how they're made, how to do them, and also most importantly, what the dangers are. Mm-hmm. Every consonant has a, has a potential danger or a potential way of doing it less efficiently. And there is, and this is where I think it's so useful for singers and singing teachers mm-hmm, is that because we break it down and we, we are quick at doing this, we break it down and go here is a very efficient way of doing it. And here is not an efficient way of doing it. Mm-hmm. This will disturb other things that you are doing and we get people to do negative practice. Mm-hmm. We get 'em to do it wrong. I love getting people to do it wrong. You so often learn so much when you deliberately do something wrong. It's the joy of wrong. So we'll put the link to the 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching in the show notes as well. Yeah. I think that understanding about consonants and decisions about them is a game changer. Really is, really is. And I know the Vocal coaches and collaborative fitness who, who listen to this are gonna love this. I'm say, thank God they'll start singing in time. What are they gonna say? They'll start singing in time. Thank God! That's enough from us. We've got a great episode for you coming up. But we'll tell you about that when we see you