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Vocal Fringe Techniques: How to Sing With a Conversational Tone

Typically, when voice teachers work with their students, they stress drawing out vowels and softening consonants. Singing on a vowel and minimizing constricting consonants will typically give a singer maximal resonance. But what happens when a singer wants to sound more conversational and less “sing-y,” for lack of a better word. It’s not a commonly taught technique, but singing in a conversational tone requires shorter vowels and sometimes the unthinkable: long, drawn-out consonants. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve heard this type of singing in multiple genres, from pop, to musical theatre, to jazz, and here’s some evidence!

Listen to the way the Haim girls sing “The Wire.” The vowels are so short, you could almost mistake the song for just a string of consonants.

Next, listen to Ruthie Henshall sing the beginning (more conversational) part of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While she does extend plenty of her vowels, she cuts the one in the word soft and even extends the “ing” sound in exciting.

Finally, listen to Frank Sinatra sing “The Way You Look Tonight.” Right off the bat, he drags out the “m” sound in someday instead of the “uh” sound.

How to Sing With a Conversational Tone

If you’ve ever been told that you’re “over-singing” and that you should sound more conversational, casual, or relaxed, try shortening your vowels. This may leave room for extending a few consonants—although don’t extend too many. It also may involve making the consonants crisp, the way Haim does. Or it may just involve pronouncing the consonants as you normally would.

Try This!

Try singing in a speech-like way. If you’re in a particularly conversational part of a song, try talking it on the rhythm first and noticing your speech patterns. If you’re saying “sommmme-day” instead of “suuuuuuhmday,” try singing it this way to see how it comes out.

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