I noticed that some choirs will synch up their consonants while singing. Is there a standard approach for timing consonants? For the sake of example, here's a cropped portion of sheet music (source):

Voice and piano score showing the lyrics "Gold-fin-ger"

Naively, the syllable "Gold" is sung for 1.5 beats, but whenever I say "Goldfinger", my pronunciation includes a short gap between the "d" and the "f". One way to account for this in song is to pronounce the "d" on the 2, but then I would expect to see an eighth rest in the sheet music. Another thought is to pronounce it on the "and" of 2, but that's when I'm supposed to start singing the "fin" of "finger". So maybe the "d" should be earlier, like on the "e" of 2. If it were standard to think of consonants as occupying sixteenth notes, then I would appreciate not cluttering the sheet music with a bunch of sixteenth rests.

Listening to the recording, it sounds like the "d" is sometimes dropped all together! Of course, a solo vocalist enjoys more license in these things...

2 Answers 2


Decisions like this one are interpretive and left to the discretion of the performer.

My first instinct, like yours, is to place the "d" on beat 2. While in literal terms, this can have the effect of creating a rest, in musical terms, the "Gold" really is 1.5 beats long. So writing a rest would either 1) be musically misleading or 2) put the singer in an interpretive box.

What many singers do — and what I would do in the "d"-on-2 case — is to add a schwa between the "d" and the "f". It allows for some pitched sound but, skillfully done, doesn't sound like an extra vowel has been added to the word. In effect, one sings "Gol-duh-finger".

Illustration of consonant placement with schwa

However, stylistically, I think I prefer placing the "d" like a sort of "grace note" before the "f" of "finger" — as though I'm trying to create a new "df" consonant.

  • 3
    I think Shirley Bassey's version sounds like a grace note.
    – Barmar
    Feb 13 at 15:00

You need to keep in mind that the notation here is not exactly correct. The rhythm is much closer to something like this

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with the second note shifted a bit to the right, or in notation somewhat like this:

enter image description here

This means that the (d) in Gold is spoken in fact on beat 2.5, with the (f) in finger being spoken just a teeny bit after the 2.5 beat. In notation this would be somewhat like this:

enter image description here

To answer your other questions: There are some conventions for the timing of ending consonants, that is the final consonant of a phrase. Usually we’d put the consonant at the end of the last note (so if the last note spans a whole measure the consonant would be on the 1 of the next measure). If the last note has a tied small valued note that one will be interpreted as specifying the place of the consonant.

Consonant placement within the phrase is much more complicated. Consonants can be separated, they can be merged together, they can be omitted. Usually we’d try to align such consonants to a grid, as this is clearly defined, but this is the choice of the choir conductor.

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