Word Shaping

 

Beyond dynamic contrast, climax points and word emphasis is Word Shaping. 


Words are NOT simple things.  Usually words are made up of several “Tone Syllables” each of which should be enunciated clearly. There are vowels, our “Target Vowel” - the Tone Syllables we hold in singing.  Sometimes there are Diphthongs (2 vowel sounds) Triphthongs (3 vowel sounds) and even a few Quadthongs (4 vowel sounds).   Then there are a variety of types of Consonants which need to be dealt with differently.  There are the Short Consonants and the Sustained Consonants, the latter includes the Semi Vowels. See in another of my topic Singing Better Thru Vowel and Consonant Understands and particularly the Consonants page.


As a illustration, take the word “Love” which is composed of 3 Tone Syllables “L”, “UH”, & “V”.  All 3 sounds are sustainable - “L” is a “Semi-Vowel”, “UH” is our Target Vowel and “V” is a “Tuned Consonant” as it can be sustained on a pitch.


At a faster tempo, perhaps all that’s needed is to emphasize key words dynamically.  But at a slower tempo such as in a ballad, Key Words need to be “Shaped”, considering each Tone Syllable within the word.  Consider that a word has 100% length.  For “Love” what % of time do we give the “L”, the “UH” or the “V”?   If you want strong emotional content, then perhaps the “L” should have about 30% of the total word length.  For a less emphatic “Love” perhaps 10%.  You get the idea.  So think of how you most effectively should Shape important words. 


In addition to the percentages of timing given to specific Tone Syllables, recognize that Sustained Consonants (particularly Semi-Vowels) are softer than the Target Vowel sounds and so often need to be pushed out more dynamically.


If you listen to our most communicative Leads in BHS quartets, you will catch this Word Shaping of certain words.  It’s one  thing that makes them great Leads.  And of course the harmony voices need to follow the Lead’s Word Shaping to make a great quartet.  So consider Word Shaping, especially in ballads to communicate the feelings better.


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