How to Sing the Five Basic Singing Vowels
Good Articulation Begins With Good Vowel Production
When we listen to a song, we are influenced by the lyrics delivered by the singer. When we can't understand the words to the song, there's nothing more frustrating. Singers have a responsibility to pronounce every word with clarity. Good articulation begins with a thorough understanding of vowel production.
Every song that you sing contains a vowel. Without vowels in words, they would make no sense at all. For this purpose, it's crucial that you, the singer, have knowledge of forming vowels.
When you sustain a word in a song, it's always the vowel that you hold. In order to be understood, it's necessary to position the mouth in a certain way, depending on the vowel itself. When forming vowels it's necessary to know the correct lip, tongue and jaw position.
YOU are the instrument as far as singing is concerned and your entire body is involved. The singer has to combine and control many parts of the body in order to sing well. Learning how to shape primary vowels (Ah Eh Ee Oh Oo) will bring clarity to your voice. In order to sing in such a way that every word is clear and can be understood, the singer must learn how to shape the vowel within the word itself. Learning how to do this will enrich your singing because the vowel actually carries the sound itself.
For example: Let's suppose you're singing the word "father". The sound of "ah" requires a dropped jaw. If the jaw is lazy and doesn't drop enough, the word "father" may sound like "further" to the listener. Unless it's pointed out to the singer that this is what is happening, he continues to sing the word "father" the same way repeatedly.
One of the most frustrating experiences for the listener is not being able to understand the words being sung. The performer who cannot articulate the words of a song, so that they are understood, has defeated the whole purpose of his art. Here's a typical scenario of what can happen when the singer lacks knowledge of vowel production:
You've just auditioned for a role in a local musical theater production and are quite pleased with your performance. You are sure you will be cast in the coveted role. Callbacks are announced at the end of the audition but your name was not called. You approach the director tearfully asking why? To your amazement, he remarks that although you have a very nice voice your words were sloppy and difficult to understand. He points out that if the audience can't understand the lyrics, all communication is lost. He suggests you work on your diction and audition for the next musical.
Singers will sound better if they take the time to brush up on the proper mouth formation for singing vowels and learn to exaggerate the variety of vowel colors so they are distinct and clear.
So get comfy, find a quiet place, and let's get started.
Singing While Playing an Instrument Takes a Special Skill
Don't Sing Vowels The Same Way You Speak
It's easy to fall into the habit of singing indistinctly and not be aware of it.
Most singers are surprised to find that they are committing this vocal sin. They have no idea that one of the reasons for this is because they are singing vowels incorrectly. They think that each word sung is pronounced the same way as when they speak. They wonder why their voice doesn't "carry" and they can't understand why sometimes their tone goes flat (it's not just a bad ear that causes off-key singing.).
Although there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are only 5 primary vowels. These 5 vowels, Ah, Eh, Ee Oh, Oo, when executed properly in singing, will help in "carrying" the tone resulting in a beautiful sound.
This is because vowels carry the greatest energy where the vocal tract is most open.
Each primary vowel requires a different mouth, lip, and jaw formation. Once you practice each formation, you'll be amazed at how your sound improves.
Singing Vowels Requires Mouth Space
Vowels are catchy little critters with a demanding attitude. The singer needs to learn to sing vowels while not allowing consonants, which resonate and project more poorly than vowels do, to get in the way. Just try to sing the following consonants and you will see that you can't sustain them.
- B C D F G H J K
- P Q R S T V W Y Z (X )
So in learning to produce proper vowel sounds remember that vowels are shaped and formed in the vocal tract by the tongue and to a lesser extent, the lips. Use the correct lip position to form the vowel and allow plenty of space within the mouth itself.
Remember that as a singer, you need to sing on open vowels, and not sustain consonant sounds, in order to maximize the resonance and carrying the power of your voice.
Mouth Position For Singing Words Containing 'Ah' Vowel
The Five Pure Primary Vowels Used in Singing
Every vowel should be enunciated with your tongue forward in the mouth, tucked neatly behind your bottom teeth. The back of the tongue should be kept away from the throat to keep the sound nice and clear. Always keep the tongue relaxed and free from tension when singing.
The five primary vowels are:
- Ah - as in father
- Eh - as in met
- Ee - as in meet
- Oh - as in home
- Oo - as in blue
The key to the good production of these 5 vowels is in the formation of the mouth including the jaw and cheeks. Keep the lips relaxed as you gently position them for each vowel. Too much tension in the lip area will produce more tension in the tone affecting your sound and you don't want that to happen.
How To Assure Correct Mouth Position for 'Ah' Sounds
How to Position The Mouth To Sing The"Ah" Vowel
The position of the mouth for the sound of Ah is made with the mouth wide open.
- Position the mouth in an oval shape.
- Place 2 fingers (pointer and ring) between the top and bottom teeth lengthwise to assure that you have enough space.
- Do not tense the jaw or tongue. It is crucial to keep these areas as relaxed as possible. This will give you a smooth and rich tone without tension.
- With the mouth in this position speak the word "haaaaa." Hold on to the word sustaining the ah sound. Make it sound like a long sigh.
- Follow this with singing the same word on an easy and comfortable tone. Be sure the pitch is not too low or too high. Make it sound like a long sigh.
Practice in front of a mirror so you can view your mouth position. Eventually, your mouth will memorize the correct form, providing you practice often.
Forming The Mouth to Sing The Vowel "Ah'
Words That Contain The 'Ah' Position
Here's a simple exercise that will help you to keep your mouth in the correct position for all words containing the vowel Ah.
- Standing or sitting in front of a mirror sing the Ah vowel and monitor your mouth position.
- After doing this several times, close your eyes repeating this exercise. As you are holding the sound (sustaining) open your eyes to see if your mouth is remaining open.
- Repeat the closing and opening of the eyes as you sing Ah several times.
- Now sing the following words containing the ah position, monitoring your mouth opening by looking in the mirror again.
Hot, Not, Brought, Fall, Father, Amen, (ah), Call, Doll
Remember to keep the open mouth position until the consonant makes a connection. In other words, don't allow the open mouth to change to a smaller opening as you approach the consonant. This is the key to making the word clear.
Here is The Lip and Mouth Position For The Vowel 'Eh'
Mouth Positioning For The 'Eh' Vowel
Think of the word "met." Sing the word met, sustaining the 'Eh' sound. The mistake most singers make is to sing 'Ih' instead of 'Eh.' As you attempt to sing this vowel, place your lips in such a way that you are just beginning a smile.
- Keep the tongue very relaxed in the bed of the mouth with the tip resting lightly against the bottom front teeth.
- Sing 'Meh sustaining the eh sound to give you time to make any necessary adjustments.
- Feel for light vibrations just above the upper lip and across the nose.
- Lingering on the mmm will add these vibrations if you fail to feel them.
- Using a mirror singing the following words on a light and easy tone monitoring the lip position.
met, wet, set, get, let, bet, pet, blend, mend
How to Form The 'Ee' Vowel
Introducing The Ee Vowel Mouth Position
I prefer using the sound of Ee when beginning warm-ups for the voice. Here's why. In teaching singers to concentrate on feeling vibrations through the hard palate (roof of the mouth.) the tongue is closer to this area than any other vowel. Developing rich resonating sounds is one of the main goals for excellent singing.
For this reason, I often start warming up the voice on the vowel Ee, gradually introducing other vowels as we work up and down the scales.
1. The mouth position for Ee is a flat tongue resting against the bottom front teeth. The lips are in a relaxed slight "smile" position. The subtle rise of the cheeks will pull the lips into perfect position.
2. Practice as outlined above to learn to form the Ee vowel. Don't rush this process. Then sing the following words containing the Ee sound on a warm comfortable tone
meet, sweet, feet, leave, she, he, be, see, we
Sing The Vowel 'Oh' Using Rounded Lips
How To Sing The Oh Vowel
The Oh vowel is easy to learn but often executed incorrectly when singing a full word. So you will need full concentration for voicing this vowel. It's not uncommon to hear a singer produce the sound of "uh" instead of a nice round Oh.
Note: For vocalists who have been trained in the use of diphthongs, remember to add a quick " Oo" following the Oh. Example: Oh-oo. This only applies to a singular Oh vowel and not when it rests between consonants.
- To shape the lips to sing an Oh, simply form the lips into a round Oh. To test your mouth position opening - with the lips in the Oh position try to stick your pointer finger through the opening and back out again. The finger should not touch the lips (unless you have extra big fingers.)
- After singing this vowel several times, add the following words:
so, no, ho, though, foe, blow, know, cold
Shaping The Lips to Sing the Sound "OO"
Shaping The Vowel 'Oo'
Just pucker up as if to kiss someone and you have shaped the Oo vowel perfectly. That's all there is to it.
Then sing the following words using the sound of Oo:
- Blue, too, new, do, goo, loo, moo, moon, June, tune, balloon, room, coo, cool.
Learning how to enunciate the vowels correctly takes some practice but makes all the difference in your singing. It directly affects your sound.
A Helpful Tip Concerning the Tongue
Most of us don't think about our tongue when vocalizing. We should, as the tongue is the rudder for sound. It plays a huge role in diction or articulation.
The problem occurs when the tongue is pulled back. When this happens the sound is blocked. For the most part, the tongue should lay flat and relaxed. Another sound destroyer is too much tension in the tongue.
Summing it all up
No singer can be called a great artist unless his diction is good. A beautiful voice alone will not make up for other deficiencies.
The word legato is an Italian word that means to sing or play smoothly and connected. Legato singing must be the primary goal for all singers. In other words, unless the phrase specifically indicates a break or pause, each note and word is connected one to the other. This means that vowels should be balanced when singing from one vowel sound to another.
To match one vowel to another there must be absolutely no tension in the tone or face, lips, jaw, and tongue. Develop the habit of relaxing the neck and shoulder areas before and during vocalization. Be sure the knees are not locked. Tension is the biggest enemy of the singer.
- Keep the throat hydrated during singing
- Avoid all dairy
- Drink only room temperature water (cold and ice will restrict the vocal cords.)
- Avoid clearing your throat
- Avoid extreme temperature changes (going from an air-conditioned room to hot outdoors.)
- If your throat begins to hurt or you feel a "gripping" stop singing. You are straining your voice.
All correct and good singing should be effortless and easy. If it's not - it's wrong. The better the speech habits, the easier it will be to learn vowel production for singing.
I sure hope you've learned some helpful information about singing the five basic vowels. When you've got it all down and you're ready for your solo at the "Met", let me know.
~ Sing with joy ~
So, have you learned anything new from my hub?
Questions & Answers
How would you sing the ‘o’ in love?
Sing the sound of "uh" for the word love.Helpful 11
How do you sing the vowel sound in "with"?
The "i" in with is pronounced "eh" as in the word "wet".Helpful 7
When is the ideal time-of-day to practice singing?
Always practice when you are well rested which can vary as far as the time-of-day goes. Avoid dairy products and cold beverages before and during practice.Helpful 6
I’m new to singing (about one year). How often and how long should I practice singing? I don’t want to have any problems. Also, what are the best teas for my soothe my throat?
Practicing duration is not as important as the way you practice. Always have at least 1-2 goals in mind and record your voice. Don't overdo it. I like lemon and ginger tea.Helpful 6
How can we sing the letter "y" without strain in the throat?
Use the right amount of breath support and never force your voice.Helpful 5
© 2012 Audrey Hunt