I sustain all my words together and would like to figure out how fix it.

For example if I sung "I can't wait" (quarter note, quarter, half) I would like to separate 'i' and 'can't' but I always leave them sustained and connected.

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    In general, it is not necessary to separate the words except as a matter of taste. This rarely leads to ambiguity. For example, you would not necessarily sing "I can't wait" differently from "Ike, aunt, wait!" I'm posting this as a comment rather than as an answer because the ability to make these distinctions is a valuable skill. It is, however, often overused to the point of breaking up the musical line.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 9:51
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    So you tend to be fond of legato phrasing while you sing. There may be a specific case of a piece of music that requires staccato singing but as a general rule of thumb, this should not be a bad thing. This may just be a stylistic thing that makes your voice YOURS.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 11:40
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    It might be helpful to clarify the genre in which you're singing. From what I understand of it, choral contexts normally want total sustain, but with syllables differentiated by clear articulation of consonants. Is this really a question about "sustain" (what you do with your breath) or about articulation? Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 13:18
  • @AndyBonner many choral conductors, however, insist on an overattentive observance of commas (of which, at least, there should not normally be one between "I" and "can't"), even to the point of calling for an actual inhalation at each one. I have similarly been coached (by a woodwind player) to use the diaphragm for staccato articulation on repeated pitches that actually shouldn't have been staccato in the first place, much less rendered staccato by the breath. Whatever one thinks of these choices stylistically (and I don't think much of them), one ought to be able to realize them if asked.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 5:20
  • @CoolGuy Having listened to the track now: I think this becomes more a matter of dialing in your own personal idiom. I'd say it's very indebted to Old Time, and sustain is definitely an important part of that "high lonesome sound." I think you just have to walk that fine line between "being yourself," sticking with what comes naturally, vs. exploring how you can broaden and tweak your style to your liking. Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 14:54

3 Answers 3


Let's make your example a little longer in order to experiment with it, say, "I can't wait, for the day, you will be, here with me", all sung as 2 eighth notes and a fourth.

When I sing it as you describe, with each group of three words joined up, and a pause in-between the groups, it sounds like a standard line from a rock song. However, if I do the opposite, and sing the eighth notes staccato, and stretch the fourth note until it connects to the next eighth note, it reminds me more of a modern R&B song; the line takes on a different feeling, it has more attitude, especially with the stress that the staccato note gives to the "I" at the start of the line.

This little exercise already gives you two ideas to try: One, look outside your genre. Listen to how singers in different genres (and older vs recent music) use staccato or legato to phrase their lines. Practice singing songs from different genres that have interesting phrasing. (This is good advice in general; the most interesting musicians in any genre are the people who also listen to, and take influence from, other genres.)

Secondly, look at how the phrasing (both staccato/legato and dynamics) interacts with the lyrics. "I love you" sounds different from "I. Love. You.", or from "i love YOU"; each version conveys a different meaning. Use this to your advantage when singing, to turn your singing into a meaningful expression of the lyrics. (It's a well-known tip for jazz soloists: whatever your instrument, learn the lyrics to the songs you want to play.)


The specific case

In the specific instance of "I can't wait", use the "c" of "can't" to separate the words. In order to pronounce the letter C, the tongue briefly halts the flow of air. Extend that moment of haltedness before allowing air through to actually for the C. That is, the back of the tongue blocks the air at the very beginning of a C. Leave the tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth momentarily before allowing air through.

The general case

  1. Practice speaking the phrases first. Enunciate each word in a careful, even exaggerated way, being especially conscious of leaving space (more than needed at first) between words.

  2. Practice speaking the phrases on pitch, but not in rhythm. This is the same exercise as #1, except with pitches incorporated. Basically, put a rest between each note.

  3. Practice singing slowly — enough so that the exaggerated spaces between words can be maintained without distorting the rhythm.

  4. Practice singing in time. This will mean shortening the spaces between words, but which should be able to happen naturally now that their conscious presence has been practiced.

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    The articulation of the c involves more than just the tongue. The larynx of also involved, which is the difference between /k/ and /g/.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 9:52
  • Oops! My previous comment should say "the larynx is also involved..."!
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 5:10

Take it slower. Put an extra word between each word - sing 'I-fish-can't-fish-wait'.
Then do the same, THINK the 'fish' but don't sing it. Now, faster...

Think diction. Actually MOVE your lips, mouth etc. to create each sound clearly.

And don't rely on 'getting into the habit'. It's YOUR brain, YOUR body. Take control of what it does.

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