Singing Vowels

You've probably heard someone sing but couldn't understand very much. This is really bad when the song is in English or a language that you speak. By making your vowels and consonants specific, you can make yourself easily understood when singing.

Many voice teachers spend ages training their students to pronounce vowels and consonants in an exaggerated, hyper-enunciated way. The reason is that words often sound different when sung than when spoken. Singing depends on vowel sounds, with only a minor role played by consonants. Yet without the correct articulation provided by consonants, the words of song lyrics can be lost.

My approach to articulation is much more relaxed. When you’re learning to sing, it is much more important to focus on producing a clear, even tone than pronouncing each word precisely. In fact, if you move your mouth too much, you may find yourself producing unnatural vowel or consonant sounds. The basics of good pronunciation are simple: try to move your lips and jaw only when you are producing consonants, while keeping the same open mouth shape for all vowels.

Unlike consonants, vowel sounds come from the voicebox or throat, not the articulators. They are pure sounds, and your singing depends on them, but altering them by moving your mouth will muddy their clarity.

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• Try this singing vowels exercise. 

1. Stand in front of a mirror with your mouth open in a relaxed oval (not too wide).

2. Make the following vowel sounds without moving your lips or jaw.
ah ay eh ee i oh uh oo
Feel the way your throat and tongue move to create the different vowel sounds.

3. Now, allow yourself to move your mouth and say the vowels again.
ah ay eh ee i oh uh oo
See and hear the difference? The tone will most likely be less full and sound much less “professional.”

When you are singing vowel sounds, then, you should always make sure that your mouth remains in the proper shape, and doesn’t move. Don’t drop or raise your jaw when you sing notes at either end of your range. You want your voice to sound natural … and for you to feel natural while you’re singing.

When you are singing a dipthong (a "compound vowel"), emphasize the initial vowel, adding only a hint of the second vowel sound at the end.

You do not want diphthongs forming where a single vowel sound should be. For example, if you sing the word “mine”, you may find yourself singing “my-een”, with an “ee” sound added after the “ah” sound.

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To your bright singing future,

 

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