Try this exercise: Sing the word September to your mirror. Watch your mouth closely. What’s your tongue doing while you’re singing the ber sound? Do you move it when you pronounce the r of ber? Or do you keep your tongue relaxed and comfortably flat all the way through the b, the e and the r, with its tip touching the back of your bottom teeth?
Now watch Helen Shapiro singing her 1962 hit It Might as Well Rain Until September. Watch the close ups of her mouth as she sings the ber of September. Is her tongue relaxed, flat and still?
You can see Helen opening her mouth at the b and keeping it open and relaxed through the e and the r. Her tongue isn’t involved in the ber sound. You can see that her tongue is resting peacefully at the bottom of her mouth right through the syllable ber. She’s doing everything right.
Back to your mirror: sing September again. Practise until your tongue stays still, relaxed and low in your mouth. Be Helen Shapiro.
Er is everywhere. Get these words right and a whole world of song opens up to you: never, matter, taller, caster, anger, and together. Sing them to your lucky mirror, with your tongue relaxed, Helen Shapiro style.
It’s essential to get the smooth, effortless English er sound right, if you want to sound right when you sing in English. The relaxed sound is what you need. Remember Helen Shapiro’s mouth and you won’t go wrong.
Don’t expect the er sound to be spelt er in English every time it appears. That would be too easy. You’ll find the same er sound in turning and learning in George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. You’ll find the same sound in world and girl in the Four Tops’ Reach Out. The smooth English er is a sound you’ll find everywhere – usually in disguise. Keep your wits about you.
© Sing Better English, 2014