Don't Muddle Your Song With Poor Diction

What’s the difference between a song and an instrumental? Words. When the words of a song aren’t clear enough to be easily understood you don’t have a good instrumental—or a good song. One thing that successful singers have in common is their focus on making the words understandable. After all, you sing this song because it means something to you. You can’t share that with poor diction. Many less successful singers and bands never quite seem to understand that. They know the words in their heads and assume the listeners just kind of “know” them too. Unfortunately though, if the words can’t be understood; the song won’t be understood.

You may ask, “But, once the essence of the song is clear and the hook is obvious can’t you play with the words even if they’re not all clear?” Sure you can, but you should always assume that each performance is the first time these listeners have heard the song. Don’t risk leaving them out of the experience.

Now that we’re on the same page let me tell you a little about the Vocal Coach Complete Diction CD. In Complete Diction, Carole and I walk you through a very practical look at how you can sing really clear words without sounding too mechanical, or too stiff. And, because diction is a physical process using the lips, tongue and teeth it is easy to memorize what each word feels like. Then, it’s just like any other kind of muscle memory. It’s there for instant recall any time you sing

I should also stress that this applies to absolutely any style of music. Good diction won’t take away your personal style or feel. It will just make the words clear to the listener, and that’s a good thing.

Do you find that you struggle to be understood when you sing? What situations make good diction more difficult for you? Let me know in the comments, I’m here to help.

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  1. You are so dead on with this issue! I was blessed to have parents and older sisters who sang, so I was singing from a young age. I was then blessed in high school to have a choir director who was strong on diction and pronunciation. As a young adult, I was often asked to solo in our church choir and for special music in the regular services. When the Lord called us to full time ministry twenty years ago, I began sharing musical “sermons” around Arizona, across the west, and eventually across the country. Of all the “most often heard comments” after a concert, “I could understand every word” rates very near the top of the list. That indicates to me how important it is. My reply is usually something like this, “Thank you. I am here to encourage you; If you can’t understand the words, why bother coming”
    Thanks for your blog, Chris; It is very helpful.

  2. How true, how true. Another irritant, though, is the fact that too many singers seem to be taught to “swallow” the mike, and the words, and the instruments drown it all out, besides. Not only one cannot hear and understand the words, but hear manily the clanging instruments, and not clearly hear the words, or the person, or see the person. We like to see the person singing – not the microphone in their mouths. I’m not intending to be critical here, but giving a critique. With the loudness of the instruments, also, migraines come, as well. Sometimes literal heart palpitations. There are medical reasons for these concerns, too. And for the type of music used, as well. There are good reasons for these concerns. I love a variety of music. I was listening recently, online, to Johnny Crawford, Mark McCain of the TV series “The Rifleman”, singing both 50s music and as a crooner with the 30s style music – loved it, and could understand it – and more on the soothing side, For gospel music, this, too should be on the soothing side, lively or not – not clanging discord. I could have listened to Johnny for hours, and almost did, but was getting tired. His singing was clear. The music did not drown him out, but was supportive, as it is supposed to be. Please help teach this in all genres of music.

  3. Most vocalists must work at their diction… have a look at this blog.

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