The trouble with B’s is not their sting.  In fact, the trouble with B’s is that they don’t have enough sting in the first place.  They’re voiceless!

We’re talkin’ letters here.  B’s are known as voiceless consonants, and like P’s and V’s they are not produced by vibrations of the vocal cords.  That lack of sting makes them rather subtle in speech.  Just ask a Spanish speaker the difference between ven and ben.

If this is an issue in speech, just think of the problem when it is translated into singing!

The first big number in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ends with a formidable list of 29 random colours which the singers have to learn and intone on one pitch.  The colours refer to Joseph’s Coat, and although what’s going on is obvious to the audience, the actual names of those 29 colours are, not surprisingly, largely lost in the stream of words.

As I taught this song to a community group recently, we worked hard on pressing air through consonants and vowels alike to display the colours with clarity.  The last phrase of the song is formed from the nine remaining colours, ending triumphantly on ‘blue’.  But I could barely tell what that colour was.  It seemed like just another syllable, another sound in a stream of non-descript sounds.

The answer was to give the B more sting . . . to give it a voice that it didn’t normally have.  In other words—exaggerate the initial sound ‘buh’ so that the subtlety of the letter was overcome and the word was clear.  After a few tries we arrived at a rather convincing, if not downright charming B’loo!  And the point of the song was saved.

Singing sometimes benefits from a little exaggeration, especially when it comes to voiceless consonants.  So, try adding a little sting to your B’s and see if the trouble of clarity is improved.