Eden’s Rs

I have a student, Eden, who somewhere along the way picked up a great deal of tongue activity and tension on the retroflex R sound at the end of words (and sometimes at the end of interior syllables).  She doesn’t speak with the a tight R, so this is clearly a habitual event that is now part of the overwhelming muscle memory.

Aside from customary exercises attaining space and freedom and ease on the inhalation, I gave Eden a series of words to sing, slowly and with care.

On a descending 3-2-1 pattern, sing ‘rot.’ Repeat.  Sense the tongue activity that quickly disappears into the vowel.  Then on the same pattern sing ‘tore,’ saving the final R for the instant of release.  This is challenging when the tongue wants to starting seizing up into a lugubrious R sound two pitches early!


Other combinations:

  • rid/dire
  • crack/car
  • rent/tear
  • road/door

Words with initial R sound that are safe for vocalizing:

  • rum
  • rank

Words with multiple R sounds, where the student can be mindful of producing the final R the same way as the initial:

  • rear
  • dreary
  • roar
  • radar
  • rover
  • rare

Another exercise I gave Eden was to mindfully sing word combinations with R at the end, but with alternating fricatives and nasal consonants at the beginning:

  • fire/mire
  • fore/more
  • fear/meer
  • far/mar


And another exercise: on the same pitch, sing a long tone on the word ‘foe,’ then sing the same long tone, now doubled, on the word ‘forest’ or ‘foreign,’ keeping the R out until it’s the initial consonant of the second syllable.



About Jeffrey Carter

University administrator, voice teacher, choral director, professor, singer, professional theatre music director, brother, son, uncle, Anglican, Scotch drinker, chef of moderate talent, NPR fanatic, gin aficionado, proponent of the music of Herbert Howells and Elgar and Vaughan Williams, pianist, composer, theatre geek, dog love & cat hater, author & blogger, world traveler, church organist, Anglophile.

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