But then after church something rather peculiar happened. People were coming up to you showering you with kudos about the awesome job you guys did and how they were blessed by the selection. Which is great…until almost in the same breath the person asks “what were you guys saying? I couldn’t understand most of it.”
The first time this happened to me I found it very disturbing, honestly. I mean the whole point of all this is to minister God’s word through song. It’s all about the message. If the people don’t understand what we’re saying, we’re just wasting our time, aren’t we?
Now, it’s obvious that if people are being blessed spiritually then they are clearly understanding at least some parts of the lyrics-certainly enough to resonate with them deeply…….right? I mean, they ARE shouting because they understand what we’re saying…RIGHT?? God I hope so. I suppose that’s a subject for another blog.
But either way, if we’re being honest about it, quite often a good deal of what the choir sings often gets by much of the audience. Directors and music ministers all over the world understand this. So week after week at rehearsal after rehearsal they encourage their choir members to enunciate words more clearly.
And we do try, don’t we? But quite often the changes just don’t stick. That’s largely because it just feels so different. It’s a challenge to sing words and phrases with exaggerated diction when you’ve done the opposite for so many years.
It goes without saying though, that this is an issue that simple MUST be addressed. It is absolutely mandatory that the audience understand what we’re saying if ministry is to be effective. Otherwise we’re singing in vain. So today I want to share an easy way to make dramatic improvement in your choir’s clarity and diction. In fact this is so easy to do that the members will be much more receptive to it, so it’s something they’re more likely to keep doing.
Change 2 Letters, Change Your Sound
In the English alphabet there are consonants that we call “explosive consonants”. They are called this because when you pronounce them your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth briefly,creating a small build-up of air. When pronounced correctly, that build-up is released kind of like a small “explosion” out of your mouth (hence the name). There are several consonants that can qualify for the title “explosive”, but there are two in particular that are most important because they are so much more commonly used than any of the others. They are the letters D and T.
These letters most often come at the end of words, but in Gospel choirs they are seldom actually pronounced. We usually just kinda slide right over them or leave them off the word altogether. The “D” in words like “and”, for example, are almost always left off entirely. The letter “T” at the end of words like “wait” are pronounced improperly when they are pronounced at all. Simply emphasizing that your choir or group fully pronounce the D’s and T’s makes an amazing difference in clarity and diction that you can hear instantly.
I’m not talking about taking words like “and” and “wait” and making 2 syllables out of them (not and-DUH, or way-TUH). We’re just talking about making sure the letters are actually pronounced and that little explosion is actually allowed to happen.
This can be a bit more challenging on faster songs, but faster songs tend to be the most misunderstood because we tend to slur over words most on those. So it’s well worth the small effort and much easier than some other methods to do and stick to.
So mind your Ds and Ts! You’ll not only get a much cleaner, more easily understood sound from your words, but your sound will project further into the room without any additional effort.
Need more help training your group to enunciate clearly? Check out How To Enunciate Clearly In Just 2 Steps.