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What is Vocal Sibilance and How To Get Rid of It

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Ssssoooo, Let'ssss Talk Sssibilance!

Hearing too many 'S' sounds in your recordings? From picking a microphone, techniques for fixing your tongue placement and even a pro tip with recording software, Gabby's going to ssssave your VO day! If you need some one-on-one help, book time with Gabby on her website:

What is Vocal Sibilance and How to Get Rid of It - 4:19

Hey guys, it’s Gabby. And sso today, I want to talk to you about sssomething that is really important and kind of not ssso great. What is it? Sibilance-sss. Why am I over-pronouncing my S’s? I think we all kind of know and understand and have been exposed to vocal fry, this nonsense, thanks to the Kardashians.

>> Really bad, really bad. Counter. Last night. Last night. Deal. Funny. Respectful. All around. I’m gonna win it. Good idea. No, stop. Break up. Married. Dating. I mean. This is really becoming an issue for me, for me, for me.

Gabby: American women have long been known for using glottal fry in the last, oh probably, 10, 15 years or so. And it’s kind of this annoying habit of letting the ends of your words kind of crinkle and die as you are speaking. And the Kardashians are really the ones who popularized it, and unfortunately there are generations of women now growing up in this country who glottal on the regular. But there’s another thing that’s happening in American women's speech patterns that I want to bring to your attention, and it is sibilance, the over-pronouncing of S's.

In normal everyday speech, it’s noticeable but it’s not quite the end of the world. The problem is when we bring a microphone into the picture. Microphones enhance sibilance and make it so much worse. You can have someone who, in their normal, everyday speech pattern, doesn't sound terribly sibilant, but when they get on mic, oh boy, does it become obvious. And a voiceover career can really be kind of broken right then and there if someone can't get a sibilance problem under control. So what are some of the things you can do if you suspect that you might be sibilant? – I don't like the way that sounds. Ummm... [beep] –

Be careful not to select a bright microphone. Things with a lot of high end that take out a lot of the bass in someone’s sound are going to really enhance sibilance. So will certain preamps and other pieces of equipment, so you have to choose very, very wisely.

The biggest challenge with sibilance is learning how to reduce it and fix it in your speech pattern. The biggest thing is where you put your tongue in your mouth. When you pronounce a word with an S, where is your tongue falling? If it’s touching your front teeth, or it’s coming really in close contact with the teeth at the front of your mouth or the top of your palette, that iss part of what'sss elongating that sssound. Just like when we say sssnake, and we try to make the sssss, sssss, ssss. Note where your tongue is when you make an S sound like that, when you make the ssnaky sound and determine, do I need to back it up in my palette? Do I need to move my tongue backward a little bit and not force the air so much through my teeth?

Sometimes just the act of opening your mouth more when you speak and not keeping it so closed and tight can help to reduce sibilance a lot. There are also great tricks that you can do with a cork and with a pencil to work on diction and enunciation. James Alburger's book The Art of Voiceacting has a whole section that gets into the how-to’s of improving your enunciation, and those things can be really helpful. And if all else fails, please consult with a speech pathologist and possibly even a speech therapist because they are going to be able to really help you to retrain how you’re saying those words and make them much more palatable for your voiceover career and for use on mic.

Thanks for watching my video, guys. If you want to know more about me, please make sure to check out my website, There's all kinds of information there about how you can work with me on coaching, and I might even be able to help you if you feel like you’re suffering from a little bit of sibilance in your voice career currently, or if you’re just wanting to know more about some of the speech patterns that can make or break a voiceover career.

704-674-8294 / /

Gabrielle Nistico, Gabby Nistico, The Voiceover Vixen, The Business First VO Coach, #VoiceoverVixen #VoiceOnFire #BusinessFirstVOCoach Voiceover, Success, Entrepreneur, Voiceover Coaching, VO Coaching, Voiceover Coaches, Working Actors, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, sibilance, vocal quality, microphone, speech patterns, James Alburger

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