Waterloo: don’t let W defeat you

It’s been 40 years since ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest here at the Dome in Brighton with Waterloo. This seems as good a time as any to focus on the letter W. If the sound of an English W doesn’t exist in your own language, it can be tempting to pronounce it too strongly or too raspingly  when you speak or sing in English. That’s a mistake. Listen to Anni-Frid and Agnetha keeping their W beautifully under control:

Even though W is the first sound of Waterloo‘s powerful chorus, Agnetha and Anni-Frid don’t force the sound out. They sing W as smoothly as it should be sung: closer to a vowel sound than to a hard consonant sound.

Try this: look in a mirror and say “we wore Welsh wetsuits one windy winter Wednesday.”  Watch your lips as you make the W sound at the beginning of each word. Your lips should be narrowed and rounded, slightly forward and close together but not touching. Move your lips further apart to let the W sound out. It’s soft and smooth. Don’t force it. It comes from the front of your mouth, not the back. Like this.

Now that you’re sure that your W is smooth as silk, you can join Ray Davies of the Kinks in Waterloo Sunset:

The letter W appears in a lot of songs: we, were, wantwill are popular words, so it’s worth getting them right. You should check over your English sounds before you sing, just as you’d check your army over before going into battle. Never take anything for granted. Don’t make Napoleon’s mistake.

© Sing Better English, 2014

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