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Understanding How to Sing the Vowels – A Technical Description For Classical Singers

Understanding How to Sing the Vowels – A Technical Description For Classical Singers

After learning how to use the breath generated by a flexible diaphragm, which is the first and most important step in singing, it is necessary to combine the breath with easy exercises using the vowels. Discovering which vowel is the easiest to produce is important as it helps to warm up quicker and well with an effortless vowel. An effortless vowel resonates in the nasal and mask resonators. With the right vowel, simple exercises can be custom made for each singer, which will teach resonance eventually throughout all the vowels and the range. For each singer the vowel may be different.

Some singers can sing a resonant “e” vowel and build the entire voice on that vowel, although it is necessary to modify the “e” in the upper register above the passaggio to a rounder vowel sound as the “e” vowel becomes strident in the high register of each voice category.The word passaggio means passage in Italian. In vocal terminology, however, it refers to the transition between registers. More space is required above the passaggio in the high register and below the passaggio in the low register and that is achieved by dropping the jaw, relaxing the larynx and creating a feeling of resonation in the high middle and high back portion (for the very high notes) of the head. Pure vowels, which are used for the middle voice, need to be modified in this area of the voice so that the quality of sound will match what went before, and not become thin.

Some singers have a resonant “u” vowel. The “u” vowel, although formed at the lips must resonate higher than the lips: for the middle voice, in the dome or upper inner jaw. Best of all, an “u” vowel may be taken above the passaggio with only a bit more dropped jaw needed, with excellent results.

Some lucky singers have a lovely round “a” vowel, however, as the “a” vowel is usually pronounced too far back, many singers find difficulty singing this vowel in particularly in the middle voice where the “a” vowel must resonate in the mask. The mask is a term used to delineate the area of bones from the cheekbones to the far head. The “o” vowel utilizes the lips for formation as does the “u”, but once again, the vowel must not resonate in the lips as the lips are too low for classical vocal placement with the exception of the low voice below the passagio where it is possible to resonate lower than the mask. In the middle and high voice awareness of the upper inner jaw brings the “o” vowel to the right resonating place. Basses very often have an easy “o” vowel.

After discovering which vowel or vowels are easiest for each singer, one makes simple exercises utilizing that vowel together with release of the air from the diaphragm. Examples of easy exercises are a three note scale or a five note scale, depending on the singer’s breath. The singer must not get overly tight due to lack of breath and end up squeezing the muscles at the diaphragm. Eventually all vowels must be equalized so that they resound in the nasal (not in the nose but behind it) and mask resonators for the middle voice and further back in the head resonators for the higher range above the passaggio.

For any genre of singing other than classical, the vowels remain at the level of forward speech. The rock, blues and jazz singer does not require the internal space that the classical singer needs to produce the extremities of the voice. For these genres, correct breath support and forward speech is enough. For the classical singer, only the middle voice is at the level of forward speech. After the passaggio, more space is required.