English is a perfect language for music. Its infinite flexibility lets it bend and stretch to suit any melody. Subtle differences in pronunciation communicate great differences in emotion. Even at the level of single consonants.
Listen to Laura Marling singing her song Little Love Caster. How does she pronounce the tt of little? Does it sound like a clear double t, a double d, or something in between the two?
Now listen to Laura singing The Captain and the Hourglass. Listen to the tt of cutting machine at (0.55)
The same singer, the same tt, but two quite different sounds. In The Captain and the Hourglass Laura pronounces the tt of cutting machine very clearly and very strongly. She could have done the same with the tt of little, but she chose not to. Why?
The strong, slicing sound that Laura adds to the tt in cutting machine is evocative and almost onomatopoeic. She strengthens the atmosphere by doing it.
Laura’s muted tt in little makes the word sound even quieter, softer and more insignificant. Perfect for a Little Love Caster.
Imagine if Laura had swapped the pronunciation of tt in each song – soft for cutting machine and hard for little. She could have made it work, but the feeling of each song would have been quite different.
Consonants have the power to help or hinder you when you sing. Never take them for granted.
© Sing Better English, 2014