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Singing Consonants: Working out with D, T, L, N, S, and Z

To shape and sing the tip consonant sounds in the table below, the tip of your tongue touches the alveolar ridge. The voiced consonants are D, L, N, and Z. The T and S don’t require any voice, so they’re unvoiced consonants. While shaping these tip consonants, make sure that your

  • Tongue’s tip is moving from your bottom front teeth to the alveolar ridge behind your front teeth. The tip of your tongue curves for the D and T and flattens more on the alveolar ridge for the L and N.

  • Lips are released and free of tension. As you move from the consonant to the vowel, your lips may be shaped for the vowel sound as the tongue’s tip touches the alveolar ridge.

The consonants in the table may be pronounced differently in other languages. For American English, you want the tip of the tongue to touch the alveolar ridge for the tip consonants. For other languages, the consonants may be made with the tip of the tongue touching the teeth.

For this exercise, practice curving the tip of the tongue slightly so it touches the alveolar ridge for the D and T, and flattening on the alveolar ridge for the L and N.

Practicing D, T, L, N, S, and Z
D T L N S Z
do to Lou new sip zip
doe toe low no sap zap
dab tab lab nab sing zing

If you have a lisp, make your S with the tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth (not your teeth) while the sides of your tongue touch your teeth. If your S sounds too similar to a leaky tire, release the grip on the tip of your tongue.

Practice saying the word its. You say ih and then place the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge for the t. Then the tip of the tongue releases in the center for a tiny stream of air. Release the air slowly to feel and hear the s. Hold out the s to feel the movement of the airflow.

When singing the words don’t you, can’t you, and could you, or any other combination that has a D or T next to a Y, make sure that you say, “Could you?” and “Don’t you?” and not, “Could jew” or “Don’t chew.” You can get a laugh in a song in the wrong place if you chew too much on the wrong consonant combination.

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