Consonants are formed by partially or fully blocking the flow of air. The effect of a consonant is largely the result of either an explosion of air as a block is released, or the hissing sound of air moving past a restriction.
The blockage or restriction made using the back, front or sides of the tongue, the lips and the teeth, and the hard palate.
Some consonants have voice under them, others have just air. Really, there is just one set of positions which can be either voiced or unvoiced. Here are most of them, in unvoiced/voiced pairs, showing how they are made: Fully blocked consonants are called Plosives and are shown with a single letter. Partially blocked consonants are called Fricatives and are shown with a double letter.
|FF||VV||Teeth and lips|
|SS||ZZ||Teeth & tongue|
|HL||LL||Tongue tip and hard palate|
|TL||DL||Tongue side and teeth|
|T||D||Tongue tip and upper teeth-ridge|
|K||G||Tongue rear and hard palate|
In singing the consonants are at the same time very important but also subordinate to the vowels around them. In other words although the consonants must be clear, they must never distort the throat or any other aspect of the adjacent vowel.
Consonants should be formed without tension in the moving parts, and should never have heavy pressure built up behind them. In voicing a P for example, we should never be able to feel a puff of air exiting the mouth.
When the consonants are light and quick and precise we gain the most clarity and rhythm in singing.