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The Power of Diction for Singers: A "Good" Singer's Missing Ingredient

Updated: Feb 1

What is it that makes us exclaim "They're good!" in response to one singer and "They're amazing" in awe of another, when at first analysis they may appear to have the same level of talent?

In the past twenty-plus years I have worked alongside and coached thousands of singers and the one thing that has struck me time and time again is their initial lack of attention to their diction.

In the intricate world of music, where emotions are woven into lyrics and melodies, diction stands as the cornerstone for singers and singer-songwriters alike. The ability to choose and deliver words with precision and clarity not only enhances the overall impact of a song but also ensures that the intended message resonates with the audience. For singers who are keen to make strides in the music and Performing Arts industries, taking the time to improve your diction will pay dividends in terms of your likeability, employability and, ultimately, profitability.

For more insight into the significance of good diction, I invite you to delve into the nuances of diction, exploring the lengths that songwriters and lyricists go to in order to find the perfect words. From articulation and annunciation to the importance of phrasing, emphasis on specific syllables, and the nuances of intonation, we'll uncover the secrets to mastering diction for singers.

Caucasian female singer with black hair worn in an updo. Wearing a red shirt. Singing through  a microphone she is holding with her right hand; her right arm is tattooed. Her left hand is opened out to her left side.n
Good diction can transform your vocal performance from "good" to "unforgattable".

The Search For the Right Words

Songwriting is an art form that involves a relentless pursuit of the perfect words. Songwriters and lyricists often journey through the labyrinth of language, searching for words and phrases that capture their emotions and convey their messages with utmost clarity. This process can be likened to painting a vivid picture with words, and the most accomplished songwriters understand the power of choosing just the right touch to evoke an emotional response in their audiences. It's a meeting of the mind and the heart, as songwriters tap into their own experiences and emotions to find the words that tell their story authentically.

The ways in which a singer enunciates each word can transform a good song into an unforgettable experience. Articulation involves the precision with which a singer forms and shapes the sounds, while annunciation focuses on the clarity of the pronunciation. Together, they create a way for the listener to fully engage with the lyrical content, making the emotional connection even stronger.

Musical Punctuation

Phrasing in singing is like punctuation in writing. It dictates the rhythm, flow, and structure of a song. Just as a well-placed comma or full stop can change the meaning of a sentence, the way a singer phrases their lyrics can significantly alter or enhance the listener's interpretation. Understanding the natural phrasing of a language allows skilled singers to manipulate the meaning of an otherwise dull expression.

Accentuating Syllables

Every word has its own rhythm, and masterful singers understand the importance of emphasising specific syllables to create a dynamic and engaging performance. By placing emphasis on certain syllables, a singer can evoke different emotions and add layers of meaning to the lyrics.

Melodic Expression Through Diction

Intonation is the subtle rise and fall of pitch in a singer's voice. It's the melodic language that adds depth and emotion to the lyrics. Like a skilled storyteller, a singer-songwriter uses intonation to infuse their words with feeling, ensuring that the audience not only hears the song but also feels its emotionally. Intonation is the key to unlocking the true power of a song, allowing the artist to convey sincerity, vulnerability, or excitement with each note.

Singing Mastery

By immersing yourself in the story, you can visualise the journey of the characters, allowing the imagery to guide the expression. Listen to the subtle nuances in your pronunciation and experiment with different phrasing to see what feels most authentic. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of the song, letting the movements of your body reflect the rise and fall of the narrative. This holistic approach ensures that every aspect of diction is considered, and represent fully.

Emotions, stories, and messages are conveyed not only through the music, the melody and the notes sung. For singers and singer-songwriters, the mastery of articulation, annunciation, phrasing, emphasis on certain syllables, and intonation adds the secret spice of what transforms a good singer into an outstanding performer. The lengths that songwriters go to in the pursuit of the right words are a testament to the profound impact that language can have on the listener. So, whether you're writing your own lyrics or interpreting someone else's, remember that every word, every syllable, and every note is an opportunity to create something truly extraordinary. Mastering diction is not just about singing; it's about storytelling with clarity, emotion, and authenticity.

Carrie Griffiths is a professional singer and voice coach with more than twenty years of experience. With three top ten albums and performances in more than thirty countries under her belt, Carrie has helped thousands of singers to develop their craft and build professional careers in the music, media and Performing Arts industries. Meet Carrie at her next live Singing Workshop for FREE and find out how you could take your singing to the next level. Click here or click the image below.

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