Singing Voiced and Unvoiced Consonants
Students often ask about the correct pronunciation of words for singing and speaking. Knowing the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants can help you figure it out.
Voiced consonant sounds are produced by adding vocal sound. An example is the letter M. If you say the word make, you have to add sound to the letter M before you even get the vowel. (Other voiced consonants include B, D, G, J, L, N, NG, V, W, Z, and ZH.)
Unvoiced consonants are produced by momentarily stopping the flow of air and making no voice sound. The unvoiced consonant has sound, but the sound comes from the flow of air. The consonant T is an example. If you say the word to, you don’t make any sound with your voice until you get to the vowel. (Other unvoiced consonants include CH, F, K, P, S, SH, and WH.)
When you’re sounding out the ends of words, follow these general rules. The ed at the end of a word is pronounced with a D sound if the ed is preceded by a voiced sound (vowel or consonant), as in the words headed, lingered, and roamed. However, if the ed is preceded by an unvoiced consonant, it sounds like a T, as in such words as picked, yanked, joked, and wrapped.
You may also notice that some consonants can be either voiced or unvoiced based on what follows them. For example the th in bath is unvoiced, but the th in bathe is voiced. Sh in the word shoe is unvoiced, and zh in the word visual is voiced. J in the word jump is voiced, but ch in the word champ is unvoiced.
Because most printed dictionaries don’t include a guide on which consonants are voiced and unvoiced, you can search for pronunciation websites to hear a particular word pronounced for you.