Today’s random blog posting is on the subject of enunciation.

Each of us has no difficulty thinking of teachers and mentors who made a big difference for us.  Some day maybe I will make the time to put words to the page to thank most of the teachers and mentors who made a big difference for me in my own life.  Today I will mention one of them — Byron Thompson, my vocal music teacher in junior high school, who among other things taught a generation of students to enunciate when singing.  Mr. Thompson would run us through diction exercises as we worked to speak our vowels and consonants.  What seemed exaggerated to us as we sang was, of course, not exaggerated at all by the time it reached the audience who might be on the other side of a large performance space.

And to this day, when I stand at a lectern addressing a group of people, if I manage to speak clearly for the group, it is almost entirely because of the enunciation and diction lessons of Mr. Thompson.  Decades have passed and even now I follow heavily ingrained habits of what might seem to be exaggerated enunciation.  But the result is that my words are hopefully clearly heard even across a large room.

click image to enlarge

Which brings me to Freddie Mercury, the iconic singer and songwriter who is the subject of a recently released biopic.  He sang a song “You’re My Best Friend” which came out in 1975.  I enjoyed that song immensely, and one of the things that always stuck with me was that Freddie enunciated the “k” of “make” so very well.  You can hear the “k” enunciated so well in this clip that the one-syllable word “make” almost gets expanded into two syllables.

More than four decades have passed and still his perfectly enunciated “k” in this song sticks in my memory as clearly as it did in 1975.

In your formative years, did someone teach you to enunciate clearly?  If so, please post a comment below.

6 Replies to “Enunciation”

  1. Yes, Carl! I had a similar experience.
    My teacher’s name was Miss Stevens. I was in 8th grade speech class and I had to sing a song. I chose What Goes Up Must Come Down. My “p” in up was explosive as was my “n” in down. So many decades later, my clear enunciation when I Lector at Holy Mass is often commented upon by grateful members of the congregation.

  2. If you use a voice recognition system to do your typing, you quickly learn the value of clear enunciation . If the typing comes out wrong, and you listen to what the computer heard, you can understand where your enunciation failed.

  3. Thanks Carl for the memories. Even now, when I sing, I am channeling Mr. Thomspon’s lessons. But I have also had to un-learn a bit of that “classical” diction training when singing other vocal styles. Barbershop just doesn’t sound right it you pop those consonants that hard! But the vowels, matching vowel sounds to get the right blend and tuning – I’m right there with BT.

  4. You’re never too old to learn. Taking my two children to speech therapy and practicing with them every day has taught me to be more careful with enunciation. Also, reading aloud to them has helped.

  5. This reminds me of our (public) high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Kelly, who was a stickler about reciting clearly. In addition to mandating enunciation, her mantra was to speak up “with your diaphragm and not squeak through the holes in your head.” We all complied with her: a disciplinarian to be sure but effective, respected and not unfair.

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