How to Sing the Five Basic Singing Vowels
Mouth Formation For Singing Vowels
Good Articulation Begins With Good Vowel Production
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. One of the most important techniques to learn is proper shaping of primary vowels. (Ah Eh Ee Oh Oo.) 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. He must know how to sing the five basic singing vowels.
One of the most frustrating experiences to a listener is not being able to understand the words being sung. Here's a typical scenario of what can happen when the singer has no knowledge of vowel production:
You've just auditioned for a role in a musical theater production and are quite pleased with your performance. You are sure you will be cast in the coveted role. Call backs 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 suggests you work on your diction and audition for the next musical.
The importance of learning how to sing with good clear diction is the #1 responsibility of the singer.
Don't Sing Vowels The Same Way You Speak
Most singers are surprised to find that 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 don't understand why 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 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.
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, first practice just the vowel itself. Use the correct lip position 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 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 good production of these 5 vowels is in the formation of the mouth including the jaw and cheeks.
Singing With 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 to low or too high. Make it sound like a long sigh.
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 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.
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 sing the following words on a light and easy tone monitoring the lip position.
met, wet, set, get, let, bet, pet, blend, mend
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 suttle 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
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 For Singing The Sound Of "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 effects your sound.
Summing it all up
The word legato is an italian word that means to sing or play smoothly and connected. Legato singing must be the primary goal of 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 to 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 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.
I sure hope you've learned more about How to sing the five basic singing vowels. When you've got it all down and you're ready for your solo at the "Met", let me know.
~ Sing with joy ~
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© 2012 Audrey Hunt
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