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Re: Not able to make out lyrics in a song?

Re: Not able to make out lyrics in a song?2011-01-11T19:10:59+00:00

The Forums Forums Ask The Community Not able to make out lyrics in a song? Re: Not able to make out lyrics in a song?


Patte Rosebank
Post count: 1517

Opera lyrics are tricky to understand, even in English, because the vocal technique is more about producing a particular vocal sound, than being understood. In opera, the voice is meant to resonate in the chest and in the “mask” of the head, producing very round, full tones, which can be heard in the back row of the balcony, without amplification. That sound is very different from the sound we’re used to hearing in everyday speech—which means the brain has to work harder to understand the words. I suspect that the widespread use of Auto-Tune nowadays to give singers’ voices a weird robotic sound, has the same effect.

In popular & Broadway singing, amplification is used to carry the sound to the back row, so the voice is meant to be more crisp & clear, coming through the teeth, so that the words can be understood. You can really hear the difference between opera & pop singing when an opera singer tries to sing a popular song. The clash between the style of the singer and the style of the song is very jarring.

Comprehension of lyrics gets trickier in both opera & pop, when you have multiple people singing together. Each person must over-enunciate, and hit all consonants at the exact same time. If even one person is a fraction of a beat off, you get an echo effect, which makes the lyrics even harder to understand.

But it isn’t just singers who are hard to understand. Most people are simply too lazy to speak clearly.

When my brother and I were just learning to talk, my mom was always telling us to speak clearly, and correcting any mispronunciations. Instead of laughing at them, she’d always correct them, because, as she told us, “‘Wed cow’ instead of ‘red car’ is cute coming from a 3-year-old, but isn’t cute coming from a teenager or adult.”

Where I have trouble in music is when I have to sing a line other than the melody. I have a hell of a time focussing on that harmony line, picking it out of the accompaniment, and following it along. And trying to find my note, relative to a note someone else is hitting, is also fiendishly difficult. This is why I usually sing soprano, despite having a voice that can go all the way down to contralto range. Sopranos usually carry the melody.