How to use Minimal Pairs

First of all, check out Ted Power’s amazing Minimal Pairs- the list is fantastically long and not covered in adverts or unnecessary explanations.

Secondly, find tongue twisters that use the sounds you wish to practice

Thirdly, use song lyrics of a poem with the sound in

Finally, concentrate on that sound for a whole day. Make a difference!

For example, if I want to practice the ‘n’ sound, I might try ‘n’ vs ‘ng’ and think about tongue position.









































Then I might try

“I need not your needles,
They’re needless to me,
For the needing of needles
Is needless, you see.
But did my neat trousers
But need to be kneed,
I then should have need
Of your needles indeed.”

Then I’d use ‘This Land is your Land’ as those final ‘nd’ sounds are great practice for my tongue!

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


Ted Power

Tongue Twisters

Song Lyrics for this song


This technique works for all minimal pairs – give it a try and let me know how you get on!


Mindfulness – inspiration – poem


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Smooth onset of vowel sounds

If you’re struggling with using a forward voice (does your voice feel stuck in your throat? Do you feel like you swallow your words?) then try this quick tip to help practice that lovely, free, smooth open vowel sound…

First, try drilling the ‘H’ sound:

H     H     H     H

HH     HH    HH     H

HHH     HHH     HHH     H

HHHH     HHHH     HHHH     H

…use loads of breath to help make the sound forward and avoid tension in your throat.


Next, add a simple /ah/ sound. Just like at the dentist, the sound in car / fast / mark / castle is a free and open sound….

H/ah/     H/ah/     H/ah/    H/ah/

Does the /ah/ sound feel free and open? Is it following the ‘h’ out of your mouth in an easy fashion? Good!

Try a few other vowel sounds, not too many, just get used to this exercise before you move on…

H/oh/      H/ooooh/   H/ey/   H/aw/

Good luck and let me know how you get on!


Check out my new look GoDaddy website too – it’s amazing.


Sharing stuff on the internet is quite peculiar, isn’t it. I still haven’t got used to the idea that the things I publish might actually be enjoyed by some people. I often feel like this is shouting into a vacuum, then I realise I have a hundred subscribers on YouTube – not Taylor Swift style numbers admittedly – but one hundred people are actually interested in my videos. I don’t make them as often as I would like to, balancing work, running, dog training, house work, school runs, naughty boy school visits, cooking, cleaning, parish council, village hall committee, governors, parent association, and keeping up with The Apprentice…. but when I do them I try to make them useful. Have a look at my channel and see. You’ll notice massive gaps and some questionable hairdos (I often film post-run post-shower so have wet hair and a beetroot face) but luckily no one tunes in because of my appearance. Unless they’re a bit peculiar.

I’d love to do more videos / podcasts on issues that people struggle with, so do let me know if you need a specific topic covered.

Sore throat, tired, hoarse, wintery voice? Here’s how to fix it.

  • Get some sleep. Now. Go to bed earlier than you intended. Put that smartphone down, and that tablet, and that laptop. Pick up a BOOK (how about this one?) and read until you fall asleep. Less bluescreen = less stress on the brain = better sleep = better health.
  • Wake up and drink oodles of water. Keep a bottle with you all day and keep refilling it. Hydrate that body and throat and keep it hydrated. There are more stringent rules for healthy tap water than bottled water, so just use the tap to save pennies!
  • Spend five minutes breathing deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do it in the shower, on the way to the train, in the car, anywhere. No one will know you’re doing it and your lungs will thank you.
  • Eat honey on toast, if it rocks your boat. Honey is so great for the throat. Local honey is best, so do your best to find your local honey seller.
  • If you have five minutes where no one can hear you, hum a tune or two, then lalalala a few times to get your voice practised. Practice some consonant sounds and tongue twisters. A stronger voice is less likely to suffer.
  • Speak softly and carefully when you can, save your big voice for necessary times, like that AMAZING presentation you’re doing later on, or that Christmas Do when everyone will be chatting and you’ll need to be loud to be heard.
  • Buy some Vocalzones. They’re the best for a healthy voice. Honestly.
  • Wash your hands as often as humanly possible. Colds and lurgy spread more quickly through poor hygiene, so avoid it by washing your hands when you can.
  • If your voice hurts, rest it.
  • Rest it some more.
  • And some more.
  • Go back to point one and start again J

The Top 10 British Voices

Looking for some listening inspiration to practice your vowel sounds? Try this lot – my top 10!


  1. Rosamund Pike – check out this interview to hear her beautiful tone of voice. So rounded and easy to listen to.
  1. Colin Firth here on Radio 1 you can watch how his mouth moves in quite a limited way, but he still manages to round the vowel sounds – watch his top lip – it’s quite still!
  1. Elizabeth Bennett, sorry, Jennifer Ehle. such a jewel in this production, controlled and clipped sounds made the character so watchable and believable.
  2. Judi Dench such a mischievous character in this clip. Notice how light her voice sounds, because she is smiling throughout.
  3. Emma Thompson, here in Much Ado, projects her voice over the party without shouting or straining, by opening her mouth a little wider. I adore hearing her speak!
  4. Kenneth Brannagh – couldn’t miss out Kenneth! Here he talks about Hamlet and just listen to his inflection- just chatting away but he manages to put so much energy into it.
  5. Alan Rickman – this is the only voice on the list that I’d outwardly call ‘sexy’. That restrain and control are just divine.
  6. David Attenborough. You can hear the passion and the knowledge in every word he says!
  7. is Moira Stuart, with those velvety sounds, I could listen to her all day! Would I Lie To You – one of my favourite panel shows.
  8. Joseph Fiennes, here talking about a recent film, award-winning, beautifully spoken, lovely long vowel sounds, quiet tone. Such a pleasure.

Listening For Pleasure

I stole this title from a wonderful series of albums made in the 60s/70s where pop music would be re-recorded by orchestras. I have the Mancini on vinyl and it is divine. I also have Burt Bacharach, for those evenings when strings and cheese are all you need.

My post today is all about listening to audio recordings for pleasure. What do you like to listen to? Are you an audiobook fan? Do you like factual podcasts or discussions? Do you like to catch up on comedy? I’ve found some of the most popular things to listen to and have collated them here.

Let’s start with audiobooks. I tried Audible once, but found listening to a story too relaxing. In bed I fell asleep so missed chunks of the story, sat in the front room I dozed off – I didn’t dare try it whilst driving! So audiobooks and I don’t really get on. My 5 year-old son loves his Ivor The Engine cassette, or anything involving Thomas The Tank Engine. He falls asleep too! The soothing sounds of voices reading stories can be very, very relaxing. Perhaps I ought to try a horror story next – something to keep me stimulated.

If we look at Audible’s Top 10, 3 places are taken by Harry Potter. The hypnotic and addictive stories must make for great listening. The great thing is, the narrators are not world-class actors! These are professional audiobook artists, people who read into a microphone hour after hour, day after day, I would absolutely love to have a go!

Tell me – what are your favourite vocal things to listen to?

My absolute favourite are podcasts. I listen to Mysterious Universe, The Archers, The Moth, Serial, Untold, Woman’s Hour, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Dumteedum, The History Hour and my children and I listen to The Fun Kids Weekly too. People work so hard on their podcasts and I appreciate the work and the content. How about you?

Listening for pleasure can also help our voices. Listen to the way people read sentences, words, phrases. Try keeping the book they’re reading in front of you, pause and repeat their pronunciation, their inflection, repeat and repeat until it sounds the same. Find people’s voices that you enjoy listening to and try to emulate them.