It’s said that in music, voice itself can be an instrument. In some respects, it can even be the most challenging and dynamic instrument there is. Learning to sing is more than simply learning the right words and notes. The right inflection, enunciation, and pronunciation can make a huge difference in the way a song feels to the listener. It takes serious training to direct your voice in just the right way to make it work the way you want it to. That’s why for anyone looking to improve their singing skills, dictation exercises are a great way to enhance your overall ability.
5 Dictation Exercises For Singers
The thing about saying words out loud is that there are so many ways of doing it. What’s amazing is that, depending on the way you speak, the impact of your words can vary considerably. Learning to say the words you want to say in a precise and deliberate way can give you a major advantage in any skill requiring the use of your voice, singing not least among them. When it comes to mastering dictation, there are several exercises that can be highly useful.
1. Practice Tongue Twisters
We’ve all had those moments when we mean to say one thing but we end up with a different sound coming out then we intended. As you can imagine, this is especially problematic when it happens to singers in the middle of a performance. A good way to prevent this problem is to practice tongue twisters, which are a great exercise for getting through tough syllable structures without slipping. You probably know at least a few tongue twisters already, but it never hurts to learn more.
A few good examples are:
- She sells seashells by the seashore.
- I saw Susie sitting in a shoeshine shop.
- We surely shall see the sunshine soon.
- Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
- I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.
The best way to master a tongue twister is to repeat it slowly a few times before gradually learning to do them faster and faster. This helps you get used to enunciating syllables that don’t necessarily flow together with the way we normally speak, which can be a huge advantage for singing lyrics accurately.
2. Study The Phonetics Of Song Lyrics
In linguistics, phonetics is the study of the sound of words. It’s actually the study that defines certain syllables as consonants, vowels, and diphthongs. Understanding these terms and applying them to song lyrics can be a great way of using phonetics to your advantage. Try breaking down the lyrics to a song you’re learning into syllables and identify each type. This gives you a good idea of how each syllable is supposed to sound as you’re singing it and also how you could change certain syllables to fit the sound you’re looking for.
For a more detailed approach, the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) can help you understand the specific vocal techniques used to create each and every syllable in most languages. This system was derived from Latin and is used as a standard resource by singers the world over. It can help you break down syllables into their precise sounds and give you a visual idea of how those sounds blend together.
3. Practice Vowels & Consonants
Simply repeating different sounds regularly can help you use your voice more effectively when singing. Practice each vowel and consonant sound individually, singing them in different ways to get comfortable with them. With vowels, you can practice singing them with different consonant sounds attached at the start. Cycle through the different combinations, taking your time to sing each individual syllable clearly, and keep working at it. In time, this can help you with enunciating sounds that you may have otherwise fumbled with in the past.
4. Exercise Your Whole Mouth
The different sounds of language require the use of just about every part of the mouth including the tongue, lips, and teeth. As with physical exercise, the more you practice using each individual part the easier it becomes to use them correctly when needed. Before singing, try warming up with some simple mouth exercises like tongue trills and lip buzzes. Then move on to humming different notes as clearly as you can, moving on to different octaves as your voice starts to open up. These exercises are great for getting your mouth used to making a diverse range of sounds and also for just getting into the mood to start singing.
5. Learn To Use Your Breath Effectively
Before you can sing anything, you need the air to do it. Breathing is every bit as important to singing as having a melody and a beat. Try practicing a tongue twister or some lyrics by getting through as much of it as you can in one breath. Again, make sure you’re singing clearly as you do this. The more sounds you can sing clearly in a single breath, the better prepared you’ll be to sing a full song without compromising important bits with a sudden intake of air.
The Unique Joy Of Studying Music
As you can see, learning to sing is a practice that can lead you down many different areas of study. The same is true of all forms of music, regardless of what medium you’re using to create it. What’s really exciting about learning to sing or learning an instrument is that there’s so much to learn from so many places. It’s an art that incorporates science, math, linguistics, emotion, physical exercise, abstraction reasoning, and so much more. Not to mention, there are serious psychological, mental, and emotional benefits. As a student of music, there’s always something interesting to learn and the rewards are equally as gratifying.
At Grace Music School, we welcome students of all ages to learn music in a nurturing and enriching environment. Feel free to contact us here with any questions or concerns, and be sure to take a look at our various music education programs.
Grace Music School teaches proper diction and other techniques needed to become a successful singer. For more information or to schedule a lesson, call us at 631-239-6169 (Fort Salonga) or 631-470-9705 (Melville).