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How To Sing Better: Singing Vowels and Consonants

Note: Jeannie Deva passed away in 2016. Interested students can still access her complete lesson library here

No matter what language you speak, every word contains vowels and consonants. This relates to singing because there is a physical action that occurs when we're singing vowels and consonants. In this sample video from the ArtistWorks Vocal School, Jeannie Deva talks about how to identify the specific vowel sounds for each word in a phrase. Pay attention to her tips here and it can help teach you how to sing better when singing vowels and singing consonants.

The first thing to know in order to get a better singing voice is to recognize all vowel sounds that are made for each note that you are singing. You should know that this is especially important to master, because the notes of the melody align with the vowel sounds of each word or syllable when we're singing.

Jeannie demonstrates a short example of this by singing a line from Jars Of Clay's "Eyes Wide Open". After singing it correctly, she purposefully sings it again "wrong" with the consonants closed. You can tell it's the wrong way to sing this song because it just doesn't sound right hearing the words pronounced like that, it sounds constricted and strained. 

But what's actually happening in our voice when we close our consonants? It physically pulls on the muscles of the larynx (within which your vocal folds and your voice vibrations occur). Singing like this also pulls the tongue, which not only pulls the larynx in a bad position, but it also changes the position of the vocal folds. In order to counter act that pull, as a singer you'll need to do something instinctively (what Jeannie refers to as "Force / Counterforce" in her online singing lessons). So if you're not aware of what's happening to your vocal folds, it's much more likely to result in off-pitch singing. It's also something that can cause a lack of vocal tone in your singing.

So let's break this down. The first line that Jeannie sings here is "Keep your eyes wide open". The first word is "keep", which has a vowel sound of "eee" that's heard when you sing it. The next word is "your", which has a vowel sound of "oooh". Please note, the actual letters in the word don't matter, what's important is the heart of the vowel sound that you want to sing.

There's actually no right or wrong vowel pronunciation, it has more to do with how you pronounce your words and how you want to sound style-wise in the song that you're singing. For example, someone from the deep south will pronounce their syllables differently than someone from the mid-west, so it really just depends on how you want your words to sound when you're singing. Also, pronunciation can vary from genre to genre. Jeannie notes that she would sing the line differently if it were in a country music context as opposed to something more bluesy.

You can change tones and vowel pronunciations as long as you know what the vowel sound is. As singers, we are painters with sound. Much as a painter needs to know colors so that they can be mixed together to create different shades and dimensions, singers need to know vowel sounds.

A lot of our vowel pronunciations are combinations of sounds, like the word "your" for example also contains that "r" consonant sound. Consonant sounds constrict, they crush your vowels and constrict your muscles.

For the word "eyes", it actually contains an "ahh" sound as opposed to "eee", so you want to sing it more like "ahhhhs" than "eyeeeees". Next word is "wide" - which also contains an "ah" vowel sound.

A fun vocal exercise you can do to practice singing vowels is to write out a song's lyrics and slowly say each word. This will help you recognize and discover the heart of each word is without the tongue closing.

Are you interested in learning how to sing? Sign up for online music lessons right here at ArtistWorks to get full access to Jeannie's archived vocal lessons. You can even try some free sample lessons before you fully commit.

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