The BEST vowel modification chart

The BEST vowel modification chart

Learning how to tune your vowels is imperative for a powerful singing voice – all your favourite singers are no doubt tuning their vowels one way or another to allow access to their high range and sing with the most efficient resonance. The most simple way to learn how to tune your vowels is by vowel modification, in essence, altering the sound of your vowel to allow for the best use of resonance as you ascend in range.

A super simple way to learn vowel modification is to follow the following vowel modification chart:

Primary vowels:

  • AH > OH > ER > OO
  • EE > EH > EE > OO

Secondary vowels:

  • AA > OH > ER > OO
  • OO > OH > ER > OO
  • AY > EH > EE > OO

Now, this is obviously an oversimplification of the finesse and precision required to sing with the fully connected range and powerful resonance that occurs when you tune your vowel properly, but it’s certainly a great way to start. The idea of vowel modification isn’t to mangle your vowel sound with the above vowel modification chart, it’s to lightly touch each of these vowel sounds in your vocal tract, while maintaining the essence of your ‘pure’ vowel at the same time.

How to tune your vocal resonance

Tuning your vocal resonance is the next step along from vowel modification as you progress in your singing technique. Learning the mechanism behind the vowel modification is actually the key to all great singing – once you understand WHY these subtle changes allow you to sing better, then you can make these changes in an even more subtle and efficient way, leading to an even clearer and pure vowel sound, and much more powerfully tuned resonance. To make this process easier for you, here’s 5 different ways you can tune your vocal resonance to build a better singing voice.

#1 – Vowel modification

Using the basic vowel modification chart above, you can treat each break in your voice as a different vowel sound. For example, a pure AH vowel will become OH around your first break, morph into ER through your passaggio up towards your top break, and then you’ll finally release into an OO vowel modification at the very top of your range in head voice. While this isn’t the most efficient or graceful way to tune your vowel, it works, and it builds a connection between your registers, meaning you can then move on to a more efficient vowel tuning approach.

Remember, it’s not a full change in your vowel sound to the next vowel, it’s simply a subtle touch of the modification in your vocal tract.

#2 – Vowel positions

This was the very first vocal technique that I personally developed for my own teaching approach. The idea of vowel positions is to encourage the subtle changes required for vowel modification without the need for confusing ‘secondary’ vowel sounds, and totally does away with any confusions that do arise often with vowel modification care of accent or voice type. If we start with proper vocal placement, and then sing towards the soft palate – the darndest thing will happen, your vowel will actually tune itself up past your first vocal break. Magic, right? Not really. This intention of moving your vowel sound back towards the soft palate causes you to inadvertently widen your vocal tract up through your first vocal break, allowing your resonance to connect between your first two resonance chambers rather than ‘flipping’ or breaking. From there, we ascend towards our top teeth, and finally up between your eyes. Now, this is all a figurative change and really does require proper application – this is an approach I’ve developed myself, so make sure you book a Skype session with me if you want to learn how to sing with vowel positions. Here’s a diagram I’ve developed for use along with my vowel positions approach… and yes, that IS me in the drawing – care of one of my students who is a professional illustrator (Thanks Dean!):

Vowel Positions (c) 2018 BVS

#3 – Stretch the soft palate

Learning how to send your vowel up into the soft palate and ‘stretch’ your vocal space higher as you ascend in range is another fantastic way to allow your resonance to tune and modify as you sing into your high range. I pesonally like to use this method in tandem with my Vowel Postions approach, especially towards the middle break/passaggio. It’s important that you learn proper control of your soft palate for this method to be effective – remember, your soft palate stays CLOSED on a vowel sound, so take care to keep it closed as you ascend in range and ‘stretch’ up into your high range.

#4 – Control the tongue root

If you really pay attention to your voice when you sing using the vowel modification chart above, you’ll feel a movement in your tongue root. Moving the tongue root away from the back of your throat will result in a WIDE vowel (ie: do this through your first break!), and moving the tongue root BACK towards the wall of your throat will result in a narrow vowel.

The best way to learn how to control the root of your tongue properly is to alternate between approaches, and see if you can connect the dots between what is happening between each approach, and how it’s all simply a change in the root of the tongue and pharyngeal space created by a lifted soft palate.

#5 – Coordination

You betcha. Learning how to coordinate movement of the tongue root, raising of the soft palate, visual use of my vowel positions guide AND modifying your vowel sound when needed is absolutely THE most efficient and subtle way to tune your resonance. I often use a different approach for each of my ‘trouble’ passages, widening physically through my first break, using the vowel positions guide to sing through my middle section, then physically narrowing towards the top of my range and releasing into the OO modification at the top. For me, this is actually the most effective way to tune my resonance – but it’s important to understand that every voice is different, and everyone learns and sings differently. You might find one specific approach works PERFECTLY for you, or at least, through one of your breaks, and you might simply need to lean on another technique for your next break. The best thing to do is get professional vocal coaching from me here at Bohemian Vocal Studio to make sure you tuning your vowel propely.

As with everything in proper singing technique, it’s important you understand the reason BEHIND a technique, and the reason WHY we need to make such changes in our voices as we ascend. If you’ve been told to modify your vowels, but you’ve haven’t been told WHY or HOW this happens, then no doubt it’s not working for you. Make sure you book in with a professional voice coach who can explain WHY and HOW you need to tune your resonance, and give you feedback as to how it can be improved and tweaked as you progress.

Since launching in 2010, Bohemian Vocal Studio has become synonymous with BEST voice coaching, POWERFUL singing and a PRACTICAL approach. Kegan’s studio has steadily grown into the premier studio for Rock Singing Lessons online, and now reaches students all across the globe each week in online voice coaching sessions. When you’re ready to POWER UP your voice and take your singing to the next level, you can book a session today with the TOP voice coach online!

I feel like I’m singing BETTER than ever before! (Mark – Australia)

Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!

Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.

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