Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Voice and Diction Connection: A Diction Instructor's Approach to Voice Pedagogy

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Voice and Diction Connection: A Diction Instructor's Approach to Voice Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Text and tone unite when the voice is nurtured as a phonetic instrument. Optimal vowel space combined with an energized and released articulatory apparatus gives the voice freedom to flourish. The following discussion provides an innovative pedagogic approach that utilizes articulatory awareness as its foundation. Voice pedagogy is incorporated with diction to include the topics of posture, release of interfering muscular tension, anatomy and physiology, breath control, breath support, vocal resonance and projection, legato, onsets, range extension, and flexibility.


A student's capacity to discover a vibrant tone and clarity of articulation is reliant upon achieving an upright, expansive posture while releasing interfering muscular tension. These concepts are fundamental for voice and diction study. This modified version of Ware's "Rag Doll Stretch" incorporates multiple concepts in one simple assignment:1

1.Bend at the waist and swing the arms. Notice the fall-away feeling in the shoulders.

2.Stretch the arms upward. Maintain the position of the sternum while releasing and lowering the arms.

3.Repeat the fall-away feeling while standing upright by releasing muscles in the shoulders, neck, tongue, and jaw.

The lips and tongue are very busy in the singer's mouth. A released vocal apparatus is apt to facilitate energized diction since the throat is open, free, and relatively still. Consonants provide useful diagnostic tools that can be used to identify and solve issues related to tension in the neck, tongue, lips, and jaw.

Neck Tension. Pressed contact between the articulators leads to neck tension. Observe the bilabial point of articulation to monitor the degree of tension in a voice. For example, form [b] with tightly pressed lips. Touch the sides of the throat beneath the chin and feel how the neck muscles tighten in response. Consonant remedy: sustain an fm] with the lips barely touching. Do not form [m] with the lips turned inward. The lips tingle when light contact is achieved.

Tongue Base Tension. Tension at the base of the tongue can be released by creating exercises that engage both the back and front of the tongue. Alternate between dental and velar consonants. Substantial movement of the tongue base can also be accompbshed by alternating between prepalatal [ji] and bright [a]. Release the jaw and observe the articulations. Light contact between the tongue arch and palate enhances flexibility.

Tongue Tip Laziness. A lack of flexibility at the tongue tip can be resolved with exercises that employ dental consonants. A quick flip of the tongue is required for the articulation of [d], [n], [t], [1], and [r]. Alternate between the dentals and [a] to release the tongue tip from the jaw.

Lip Tension. Alternate between the bilabial and dental consonants to release lip tension. Observe the articulations. Light contact promotes energized enunciation. An exercise by Barbara Honn incorporates bilabial and dental consonants.2


Students must learn to identify the differences between the singer's mouth and the speaker's mouth. Only then can they be cognizant of those articulatory movements that are unique to singing. Tasks can be simplified by pointing out that "practice" may be executed without phonation. The goal is to isolate, identify, and release muscles when an articulatory action introduces unnecessary muscular tension.

Formation of [i]. All vowels should be sung with a released jaw. The articulators are free to move about when the jaw is disengaged from the singing process. The speaker's mouth position is very different from that of a singer. For example, the [i] for speech is formed with the lips spread and with very little space between the molars. The [i] for singing requires more space. It must be formed with a forward arch of the tongue and a released position of the jaw (Figure 1).

Tongue Push-Ups. …

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