'Today on Twitter I got a message saying that I should contact an artist who is on the 3VOOR12 Luisterpaal because it’s ‘een draak van een plaat’. I had a listen and I have to say, yes, the pronunciation leaves quite a lot to be desired. I won’t contact the artist, I have never gone up to anyone and said ‘Hey, your pronunciation is unclear – you mix up British and American accents, you overemphasize the T-sound at the end of the words, you confuse your F- and V-sounds, and don’t even get me started on your confusion with the blown and buzzed forms of the TH.’ (Actually, I lied. I have done this quite a lot in Buffiland, where I spend a lot of time, but I have never ever done it in real life). I feel that people know where to find me by now if they want honest feedback on their pronunciation and lyrics. If someone is satisfied with what they’re doing, that’s fine with me. That says something about their goals and ambitions. Maybe they are fully aware of all the things I’m saying with my MILF NINJA telepathie [sorry?!], and yet this is exactly the way they want to sound. That’s also groovy. However, after doing workshops in the past 3 weeks in Sittard, Zwolle, Nijmegen, Antwerp, Hasselt and Brussels, it’s become apparent that people are really not always aware of their pronunciation. In previous columns, I’ve already covered a bit on the TH and the difference between F and V. Let’s talk about a couple of other things in this one.
How about the ending of words? I’m a real fan of ‘knitting’. No, not the type where you sit in a rocking chair and make ugly scarves for people who love you enough to be seen in public with them on - I mean taking the ending of one word and having it flow naturally into the next word. Many times Dutch sounds very ‘staccato’ to me, and quite fragmented. The endings of words (‘lach’ for example) make it hard to connect it to the beginning of the next word (at least for me, as we never covered this in the inburgeringscursus that I never took). Let’s get practical:
If you have a lyric like:
I know today I can’t throw it away/tomorrow I won’t send you away
(This is not a brilliant lyric, I know, I just made it up to show what to do with the sounds)
This is what I often hear:Some things to watch out for:
I know toooday I can’TTTuh Frow iT away/tOOOmorrow I won’TTuh senDD you away
- Most of the time, if you have a word like TODAY or TOMORROW, or a verb combo like TO KNOW or TO LOVE, it sounds a lot more natural to say ‘te’ instead of TOOO. The TOOO-sound is too “academic” sounding, it sounds like you are singing with a book on your head. It sounds like you are READING it and not FEELING it. 95% of the time, TEDAY/TEMORROW/TE GO etc. sounds much more natural.
- Also, don’t overemphasize the T or D at the end of the word. This also sounds too “schooly” and it also gives you less time to get into the next word (see can’TTTuh Frow iT above). I promise you that if the next word starts with a TH then you won’t be able to nail it on time. Try to “swallow” the D or T ending, just complete the word but don’t over extend it, and then you’ll have time to make it flow into the next word and have time to get your tongue around the difficult sounds. An overextended T sound to my ears sounds often like a high hat that gets in the way of the flow of the song. When I hear a song, I want to FEEL emotion, emotion, emotion. Not HEAR words, words, words. Gesnopen?
Hopefully, by the time you get into the studio to record, everything will be just where it should be, and you can do it Confidently, Accurately, and Naturally (that’s my C.A.N. approach!). If you’ve already recorded something, treat it as a lesson learned, and get to know your lyrics in this new way for your next live show. There’s always, always room for improvement. Oh, and once your lyrics and pronunciation are stellar, then the next step is to make sure you can own an interview about your amazing songs... But we’ll save that for another column.
In conclusion, on a funnier note, I’d like to end with my favourite quote of the week. I was joking around with a friend (NOT a client, NOT a student) the other day and I said to him ‘Je engels is kut’, and, without batting an eye, he said ‘En jouw kut is engels. Daar kun je ook niets aan doen.’
I love my job. Thank you for letting me fuck all of your ants. Wit lof, Buffi.