This video is about how to improve your singing by balancing vowels.
How can balancing your vowels improve your singing? What does it mean to balance your vowels?
This is such a powerful concept, that some singers and teachers believe that “the vowel” is the “Holy Grail of singing”.
Inside this video I’ll show what an “out of balance” vowel sounds like and how you can balance vowels to immediately improve your singing. Maybe this is the Holy Grail of singing!
First, let’s talk about the use of vowels when talking and singing. Then we’ll discuss out-of-balance vowels and how to balance them to improve your singing.
First we want everyone to understand what we’re saying. When we sing we want the words to be as understandable as when we speak. It’s the words that give the song’s story emotion and meaning.
Vowels in speaking and singing are usually parts of syllables which make up words. For example in the word “love”, which has only one syllable, is the vowel “o”. Where I live in the States, it’s usually pronounced “luhv” (“uh” as in bud) when we talk.
Here’s the vowel “lineup” I use for singing. They’re in a special order. The closed vowels are on the left. As you move right they become more open vowels.
Feel the difference with the tongue movement as you say the vowels moving from left to right in both groups. [Demo]
Vowel Group #1
Closed (Narrow) Open (Wide)
[u] (boot) [ou] (boat) [ʊ] (foot) [ʌ] (bud) [a] (father)
Vowel Group #2
Closed (Narrow) Open (Wide)
[i] (beet) [ai] (bait) [I] (bit) [ɛ] (bet) [ae] (bat)
In both groups as you move from closed to open vowels can you feel that the tongue is flattening and exposing more of the hard palate or the roof of your mouth?
Vowels in Balance
Let’s talk about vowels in balance. Generally speaking, a pure vowel is a vowel sung the way it’s spoken in these two groups. A pure vowel is a balanced vowel.
This is easy to do when the pitch is in our lower chest voices. However, as the pitch ascends to about the E above middle C for the men and the A above middle C for the women, the vowels become harder to keep pure. These are the beginning pitches of the first bridge in our voices.
Vowels Out of Balance-What do they sound like?
When the vowel is changed from its pure form to another, it’s out of balance.
For example if you are singing the word “love” on a pitch that’s in your first bridge or higher, and you sing the word L[a]v instead of L[ʌ]v, the word is distorted. The vowel has spread or opened to a wider vowel. The vowel is out of balance.
Consequences to the Voice with a Vowel out of Balance
What are the consequences to the voice when a vowel is out of balance?
- The larynx rises
- Resonance falls into the mouth and hits the hard palate
- Chest voice is pulled up too high
- Loss of a mix voice
- Increased tension
- Pitch goes flat
- Word is distorted
- We push more air to help the pitch
- Over tighten the vocal cords or the opposite, lighten up to an extreme.
The result is the voice is out of balance because the vowel is out of balance.
How to Improve Your Singing? Balance the Vowel!
Here’s the simple way to balance the vowel. In the above example, if L[ʌ]v spread to L[a]v, think of a word with the vowel that’s to the left of [ʌ]. It would be in this instance a word that rhymes with [ʊ] like “look”.
Think of the word “look” as you sing “love”. This will have the effect of keeping “love” sounding like “love” as you sing higher. It will balance the vowel. Let me show you. (Demo)
In the Off-Broadway play, The Fantasticks, there’s a duet in the show which I sang in high school. It’s called “Metaphor”. And in that they sing the word “love” repeatedly and it goes something like this. I’m just going to do it a capella. “Love.”
Now let’s suppose that was just a little bit higher. I don’t know what the pitch is exactly. “Love”
Well what happens if I say “L[a]v”?
You can hear that spread. “L[a]v” Now if I using this example think of the word “look” [ʊ], because I’ve spread to [a] and it should be [ʊ], now I’m going to move just to the one more narrow side of this vowel graph that I showed you.
It would be [ʊ]. So let’s think of the word “look” while I sing “love” and see if that will keep it from spreading to “l[a]v”. “Love” It works!
You can do this with any vowel that looses balance and distorts as you sing higher.
This is the simple way to balance the vowels to improve your singing.
You can over narrow vowels. When this happens the word is distorted and the audience wonders why you said “loov” instead of “love”. Rather than saying “loov”, try just thinking “loov” and see if that’s enough to balance the vowel. (Demo)
A balanced vowel and voice produces great singing. Knowing your vocal type is a great first step in balancing your voice. By vocal type, I’m not referring to whether you’re a bass, tenor, alto or a soprano.
You’re vocal type is what you tend to do when you sing. Visit PowerToSing.com and take the vocal test, which I call the PowerTest. Take the quiz and immediately discover your vocal type.
Then go to the Knowledge Center and watch the videos and download the exercises for your vocal type. These exercises are designed to balance your voice and help you rapidly improve your singing.
I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing.
You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power.
I’ll see you inside the next video.