Vowel non-modification

April 19, 2017

Here’s a different way to look at “vowel modification” – the goal is not to modify the vowel, but to modify the way we make the vowel.

Singing is communication, and the vowels carry the meaning and beauty of any language.  If the vowels are generalized or incorrect, then communication, meaning, and beauty are all lost.

But, you say, what about vowel modification?  All those charts?  Well, the voice does change throughout the range.  If you kept the same shape of the mouth, tongue, lips, etc., going from low note to high note, the sound will tend to get nastier.  Keeping the same shapes going from high to low will tend to dull the sound. So, we modify the shapes to make the best tone for each note.  We should also aim for the best vowel for each note.

I know that the vowels tend to go away at some point above the treble clef, but Steber showed that “Now is the night one blue dew” can be clearly sung up to at least B flat.  Was it the same shape and or feeling of her “oo” in mid-range?  Of course not.  But, it was “oo” all the same.

So, go ahead and modify, but modify so the vowels don’t change.


Open – what is it?

September 3, 2016

Last time, we talked about that thing that gets us heard to the 4,000th seat – called variously, “2800”, “in the mask”, “squillo”, “zing”, etc. Just what is it? Some of the descriptions tell us about the experience – “in the mask” for instance is where you might feel this resonance. “Squillo” is what it […]

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August 19, 2016

Some singers seem to fill the theater effortlessly, while others blast to be heard. What is it that gives a good opera singer the carrying power to soar over an orchestra, even at piano? There is an aura around these voices, an extra bit of zing, that flies to the farthest reaches of the theater. […]

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Gimmie some tongue

June 10, 2014

Last time, we looked at the lip vowels, oh, oo, etc., and now let’s do the tongue. (yes, I’m deliberately avoiding IPA) So, ee, eh, etc., are tongue vowels.  Basically, you keep your mouth as it is for ah, and move your tongue so that the sides of your tongue are touching your upper molars, while […]

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I’d like to buy a vowel . . .

April 27, 2014

As I’ve often said, the vowels carry the beauty and meaning of every language, and if they are generalized all that is lost.  Singing is communication!  If your concept of vocal production does not make that clear, you might as well play the kazoo. What do I want to hear in a voice?  I want […]

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An open and shut case

April 24, 2014

Let’s talk about an open voice. Now, I’m not talking about open and closed vowels, open and covered registration, or even open or closed mouth, but an open voice.  What is that? We’ve all heard singers who seemed like there was a lot of sound, if someone could unzip the top of their heads.  Not […]

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Judge Not, etc.

April 6, 2014

Judged the Boston Singers’ Resource prelims yesterday. I think before the next ones in a few weeks, I’ll have a rubber stamp made, saying: Better support will help your [jaw, tongue, throat] relax, opening your resonance and clarifying your sound. And maybe another one, saying: Vowels carry the beauty and meaning in every language. If […]

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Snake Oil

July 25, 2013

I recently had a Facebook conversion with one of those teachers with a wide following, fancy website, and studios in various cities. I know, always a bad idea. Well, she put up one of those postings saying (roughly), “If your teacher says the diaphragm is in your stomach, run away!”  I generally ignore those, but […]

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Repertoire thoughts

March 27, 2013

I’ve spent a lot of time on both sides of the audition table, and, as you can imagine, I have a few opinions.  Here are a couple of points I’d like to make about what people sing. Point 1 – Having technique problems does not mean you’re a dramatic sized voice. I’ve seen this countless […]

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Breath Support – How #4

February 27, 2013

As you have probably guessed from Breath #2, I’m a believer in abdominal breathing. There is some expansion of the rib cage and lower back when you inhale, but there just aren’t the muscles there to get the air out again and support a singing tone. First, to recap: Posture: • The ribs are lifted […]

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