Category Archives: Ghosts

The consonants you can’t hear at the end of words. Beware the ghost consonant.

The Weeping Song

Weeping is an ancient English word. Its sound and shape are crafted to speak directly to the human heart. We feel it; we don’t think it:

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Skyfall, Adele and the Ghosts of English Song

Written English is full of silent, dead letters: the k of knee, the b of thumb or the h of stomach. When it’s sung, English is haunted by different ghosts – consonants the singer chooses to shape but not to sound. Ghost sounds.

Ghost sounds are a powerful tool to use when you sing in English. And a dangerous trap if you’re learning English songs by ear.

Adele sings a full fright of ghosts into Skyfall. We all know that the word Skyfall ends with an ll but,  when Adele sings the word, what sound do you actually hear? An ll, or something slightly different? Is the sound exactly the same every single time she sings the word? Why does she sing the sound as she does?

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Diana Ross and the missing B

When you sing, you have a choice. The choice to bury a consonant and the choice to bring it out into the light when it suits you.

Listen, with your eyes closed, to the Supremes singing My World is Empty Without You. What’s missing from Diana Ross‘ life? A lover called Bay? eBay? A Turkish Bey? What word can you hear?

If you know the song, you know the answer. If English is your native language, you’ve guessed the answer. So ask yourself a different question: when does Diana choose to sing the word clearly, right through to the last consonant? Why then and nowhere else?

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Where does Alberto come from?

Which side of the Atlantic do you think this R&B singer comes from? Do you imagine him flying home to Manchester, Montreal or Miami as soon as his European tour is over? His vowels, his name, his beard or the make of his guitar might give you a clue:

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Friday on my Mine? Really?

Consonant ghosts haunt English songs. If English isn’t your first language and if you’re learning an English song by ear, don’t get tricked by the sound. It’s a choice to mute a consonant, but it’s a mistake to ignore it, just because you didn’t hear it clearly in the original version.

Practise English ghost hunting: listen to the chorus of The Easybeats song Friday on my Mind. The word mind is repeated 4 times during the song. How many times can you actually hear its final d clearly? How can you be sure Stevie Wright isn’t singing Friday on my Mine?:

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