Having some tightness or a little slip off that high note? If only you can get those couple big ones under control you would have a presentable piece to perform right? Let’s explore the well known practice of vowel substitution.
You know what it’s like.. you sing the first verse and chorus and everything is fine but second verse falls apart in a few places even though the melody is no different. Why? It’s the vowels (and often consonants can contribute too) that influence resonance and can make or break a line.
The vowels in the song lyrics may not be the ones that encourage the best resonance and hence would throw things out of balance between verses, but help is at hand because we can covertly adjust the vowels to suit.
Vowels In The Higher Range
|Open – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Closed|
|Forward Vowels||A (cat) > E (met) > I (fit) > EE (meet)|
|Back Vowels||AH (father) > UH (mum) > OUH (foot) > OO (fool)|
The vowels are running from how open they are on the left to how closed they are on the right. Forward vowels are called that because when you move through each vowel sound towards the closed end your tongue closes the space by moving forward, and with the back vowels the closing is done by the lips instead.
Things To Note
- Much like the issue in Quick Fix #1, you will need to be careful with the corners of the mouth and making sure that they are optimum and not too wide.
- Coming up to the high note substitution the jaw will need to be relaxed and able to lower naturally to assist with tone and comfort
- Volume must be within your control and the approach to be relaxed but purposeful
- For dipthongs (two vowel sounds together) like ‘Day’, which is comprised of ‘E’ and ‘Ee’, you would apply the substitution to the first part of the dipthong. That would mean you adjust the ‘E’ to ‘I’.
Chris is also a writer for iSing Magazine, a founder/presenter of The Naked Vocalist podcast, a voting member of Pan American Vocology Association, and a teacher trainer/vocal coach with the Vocology In Practice network.
All that aside, he's a pure and true music fan with a penchant for Donny Hathaway and songs about heartbreak.
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