Oct 21, 2009

TRULY SPEAKING: How to Stop Sibilance (& Other Problem Speech Patterns)

Summary: Public speakers can sometimes be afflicted with lisps or excessive sibilance. Both problems can be fixed by correcting the placement of the tongue when making the S noise and other similar sounds. This is detailed below.

Every once in a while, I'll be speaking in front of a group and I'll notice that my mouth is producing a lot more sibilance than it normally does. This seems to especially happen when I'm reading something aloud. (I also used to notice it as a child, repeating the Lord's Prayer every Sunday: "Forgive usss our tresssssspassssssesss ....") I'm still working on figuring out why I'm afflicted with this precarious speech pattern sometimes and not others, but I do know now consciously how to correct it:

I just change the placement of my tongue to my teeth.

Do you ever suffer from this problem? Maybe you, also, find it occurs more at certain times and less at others. Or maybe you over-emphasize your S sounds always. However frequently you make sibilant distortions, you can change your tongue placement, too, to fix it for yourself.

Reducing sibilance requires the same mouth placement corrections as those used to alleviate lisps, just for the opposite reason. Lispers often mistakenly put their tongues partly on the roofs of their mouths—or more frequently through or against their front teeth—when pronouncing the S or Z (or even SH, CH or TS) sounds. Sibilant speakers, rather, put their tongues behind their teeth when producing these English letter combos.

The correct S pronunciation requires placing the tip of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge of the mouth (that is, on the roof of the mouth, just above the top front teeth).

Sibilance can be especially heightened by amplification, such as using a microphone or recording equipment. There is software and other specialty equipment available today made just to reduce or omit sibilance in vocal tracks. Another quick fix can be done naturally by simply holding the mic away from your mouth approximately four inches. Remember that practice makes perfect!

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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