Please see video attached.
One of the most challenging consonants for our Chinese singers is the sequential consonants th. Quite honestly, I have found it to be difficult for many English speakers especially those that sing in English choirs.
Singers often do not put forth the effort to get the tongue between the teeth when making the th sound. Depending on the effort, the tempo and preceding consonants, the th can become a z. As the tip of tongue travels to the front teeth, it can get stuck at the alveolar.
For our Chinese speakers, the d has become the default for the th. There is no sound like the th in the Chinese language. There are however, many words that use the English d. The tongue simply does not pass through the teeth for any sound. As a matter of fact, because of the tones used in this language, the tongue is rarely in a relaxed position. The sounds must be made with an elevated and recessed tongue.
At the Webb-Mitchell Centre for Choral Studies, we have created a small exercise to reinforce the placement of the tongue for th. Singing a non legato unison pitch in the mid-range we sing this-that-and-the-other. It has been an effective exercise to add to the choral training that happens at the beginning of each rehearsal.
Of course, if one is singing the word the one must also consider if the long e or short e is used. Can you imagine the confusion with Chinese speakers? For instance, the word harp technically begins with an h. But, since it is the exception to the rule, the h is silent. Mind you, they don’t necessarily understand every word they are singing, but can pronounce almost any word put before them.
In the video on this post, you will hear the Welsh tune The Ash Grove. This is a great piece for young singers especially those that need practice finding the correct articulators to clearly pronounce th and those needing to understand the long e or short e usage in the.
The Ash Grove is written in the key of G. The range is D4 to D5. The melodic line is very tonal and pleasing to the voice and ear. The phrases are short enough for young lungs and the only leap is the initial interval of a fourth. It is repetitive in melody and rhythm, although there is a slight variety of both in the second verse. Even though it could easily be sung A cappella, the use of the piano supports the singer vocally and aurally through its pure harmonic structure.