The Key To Singing Vowels Correctly
Vowels are the cornerstone of a great singing voice, but learning how to use them correctly can be tricky for many singers. Did you know that “vowel” in speech often means something very different to Vowel For Singing? While we often pronounce our vowels at the front of the face using the articulators (the teeth, tip of the tongue and lips), a vowel in singing is shaped by the tongue and also size/shape of the vocal tract.
This is also why a well trained singer doesn’t retain a thick speech accent when they sing.
Shaping vowels is very easy to achieve and can be developed in a very short period of time with some dedicated practice. If we break vowels down into two main elements, you simply need to shape your tongue correctly for each sound, and then match resonant space in the vocal tract to each sound according to the register and range you are singing in.
Vowel Shapes in Singing
There are three main vowel shapes singing requires – “the tongue up” at the back for EE, “down” low and concave for AH and “back” with the lips forward for OO. Now, these three sounds obviously don’t create every single vowel sound or word you need to sing – so a small change to each tongue position and the vocal tract will also give you AY, OO, ER and AA.
- EE, AY and ER are created with the tongue raised in the back – known as the EE position
- AH, AA and OH are created with the tongue low and concave – known as the AH position
- OO is created with the tongue up and back towards the soft palate – known as the classical OO position
Vowel shapes are an important part of retaining an open throat when you sing. Open Throat singing is a broad term that encompasses all the elements required for strain free singing – ironically with many elements of closure to achieve an ‘open’ feeling when you sing.
The key to developing resonant space is learning to control the soft palate properly. The soft palate has many function in singing, from altering and managing resonant space to moderating nasal air flow. A great way to learn how to use the soft palate is to breathe in through the nose, then out through the mouth – you’ll notice that there is an ‘open’ feeling in the back when you breathe in through the nose, then a ‘closed’ feeling when you breathe out through the mouth. Now, the soft palate can also widen or raise in either position to alter your resonant space either wide or narrow through your first and second vocal break passages respectively.
A common instruction for accessing the soft palate is a gentle ‘yawn’ at the back of the mouth. This has the added benefit of also lowering the larynx while also encouraging diaphragmatic engagement – and while there are more efficient ways to achieve resonant space, diaphragmatic engagement and a neutral larynx, it’s a great place to start.
Singing your vowels properly is a key aspect to achieving an Open Throat when you sing – learn how to sing your vowels properly and you’ll soon be able to sing higher notes without strain and tension, while also maintaining an impressive tone in full voice throughout your whole vocal range.
To learn how to shape your vowels properly while managing resonant space you can use our Foundation 101 singing course which will show you how to;
- Connect chest and head voice
- Sing with mixed resonance
- Balance your onsets
- Form your vowels properly
- Create and manage resonant space
- Warm up your voice each day
- Build range
- Improve your tone
- SO much more!
Learning how to sing better is easy when you have a “no-BS” program that is all killer, no filler – Foundation 101 is helping singers just like you all around the world to improve their singing voices by shaping their vowels and managing resonant space right now. Are you ready to get serious about your singing?
If you have any questions about singing vowels correctly, 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.