Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vowel Modification: Practical Cure for Tight Throats

 Have you ever noticed how some verses are harder to sing than others? That some words are harder to sing a particular note that is easy with another word? That sometimes you seem to luck into a way to make it easier after you sing it a while and you'd like to know what you did to change it so you can do it on purpose?

I'd like to introduce you what vocal coaches call "Vowel Modification". Simply put, it's the act of changing the shape of the vowels you use ... usually applied to singing but in my experience also works for the speaking voice.

As Shirlee Emmons states in her comprehensive article on the subject:
...in order to reconcile with higher frequencies and intensities of higher and louder tones, a large resonating cavity is needed. A strained larynx will result when this is not provided.
You can get quite detailed with this process (if you are into the science behind the concept check out Karen O'Conner's article), but in practical application just imagine the vowel sound 'uh' ... as in 'duh' ... in the back of every vowel you use. Thus a tight, horizontal kazoo-like 'ee' would turn into more of an 'eh'. A pursed lipped 'oo' would turn into more of a relaxed lip "uoo"; etc.

The throat opens three ways... up (lifted soft palate/upper nasal membrane), down (relaxed and dropped tongue and jaw) and back (head balanced over tailbone/heel, chin level). When you, keeping your head positioned as I suggested, allow the 'uh' shape to influence any other vowel shape, you will be opening up and down more and you won't believe the instant cure this can provide for your tight throat.

This is part of what I call learning the 'dance of the melody'. If you'd like this personalized for your voice and your songs, train with a personal vocal coach. Even one voice lesson can open your throat and change your world.

Any of you experience vowel modification?

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  • At July 26, 2011 at 9:09 PM , Anonymous Pete Mickelson said...

    Coffin's book goes into fantastic detail on vowel modification, as is routinely used by international champion barbershop quartets, and it was one of the inspirations for our developing HearFones from a junky prototype using Diet Pepsi bottles into the refined acoustical instrument it is today. With HearFones, you catch all those subtle overtones/partials that Coffin describes, and you can work on honing your skills at reproducing them on demand.

  • At July 26, 2011 at 9:46 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Great to hear from you, Pete! Give us a link to Coffin's book. I must be one of your best customers for HearFones... they FLY off my shelves!

  • At July 27, 2011 at 4:29 PM , Anonymous Leigh Ann Otte said...

    I knew about vowel modification (didn't know it was called that though), but I just thought it was for aesthetic purposes. Interesting. Now I understand better when and why to use it.

  • At July 27, 2011 at 6:02 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Thank you LA... it makes me all warm and fuzzy to know people read this:) Thx again


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