by Elaine Clark
Sibilance is the result of an exaggerated “s” sound. It is reminiscent of a leaky radiator, slithering snake, or radio station as it loses its signal. Minor sibilance distortions can be corrected in the studio by using a “de-esser” during the recording or afterwards in post. This high frequency sound is created when someone has dental problems (like missing teeth or loose dentures); the s, sh, and z sounds are not differentiated but all are spoken as an s; sustaining the s sound too long; or having too many sibilant words in a single sentence.
There are a few ways to minimize sibilance:
1. Smile on the s sound. This pulls the s backwards as the lips are separated, spread apart, and pulled back.
2. Drop the jaw quickly every time you say an s. This breaks the continuous sound.
3. Place s words at different musical pitches to separate the sounds.
4. When sibilance can’t be fixed using one of these techniques, point your index finger upward and position it in the center of your mouth. It won’t fix the pitch, but it will help prevent the air from hitting the microphone and amplifying the problem.
For more exercises to prevent sibilance, read pages 23-25 of There's Money Where Your Mouth Is.
1. Say the word “yes.” Hold onto the final consonant and put your hand in front of your mouth. If the s is properly formed, you should not feel a rush of air. If you do feel air, adjust the mouth placement. Repeat the s sound eight to ten times, making sure that each sound is short, crisp, and concise. Using this succinct s technique, say the following phrase:
I kissed the silly salesperson that sold me this mattress for
2. The sh sound cuts through the air like wind through a car window. The tongue accepts a neutral position and the lips protrude slightly forward, as evidenced in the words “hush” and “shush.” Say the words and feel the placement of the lips on the final sh sound as a steady flow of air rushes out. Now, repeat it eight to ten times so that it creates a short burst of sound. Notice how the lips protrude and retract at each verbalization. Using
pronounced lip movements, read the following sentence aloud. Note that not all sh sounds are spelled the same way, like in the word “surely.”
Josh, I surely wish you wouldn’t push people when you rush to pay cash for Shirley’s new plush dishtowel.