If vowel sounds are clipped in your native language, be careful not to trim your vowels too close when you sing in English. Think of English vowel sounds as something like accordion bellows. They need to expand and contract when you sing.
Take the word shout. Such a small word but so many ways to sing it. Listen to Roland Orzabal with his 1985 Tears for Fears‘ song Shout. Notice shout’s diphthong sound. Why does Roland intensify and expand it? What’s the effect?
Roland extends the diphthong unusually far to draw attention to the word shout. Unusual sounds always attract attention. He puts extra energy into the word, so his audience registers its importance. Shout is obviously an imperative, directed at the audience. His song is about speaking up for yourself. If you constrict the diphthong when you sing it, the song won’t work.
Notice how Roland adds an extra sound to the imperative: come on. He sings come aw-on. He extends the vowel to draw attention to the imperative sentence. Audiences notice and react to unusual pronunciation.
Sing along with Roland – try rounding your mouth as he does, maybe exaggerate what you see in the video. It’s a good way to check that you can sing a rich, rounded diphthong when you need one.
You won’t always need one for shout.
Watch the Isley Brothers, back in 1968, singing their song Shout. They put their energy into the vowel sound of well and the diphthong of know, but keep the diphthong of shout clipped short. Why? It’s a choice, not a mistake:
The Isley Brothers‘ Shout is a call and response song. The word shout isn’t important for its meaning alone in their song. Shout isn’t an imperative here. It’s an infinitive: “You make me want to shout.”
In this song, the word shout is important as an exuberant exclamation. It doesn’t need to draw attention to itself by extending its diphthong. Shout draws enough attention to itself by being sung loudly. It’s short, punchy and strong.
When you sing in English you need to be happy to expand or contract your vowel sounds, as the music and the meaning require. No vowel sound in English comes in only one flavour. Don’t be a vanilla singer.
© Sing Better English, 2014