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The Role of Vowels in the voice

Our blog post today comes from Guy Babusek:

Today I’ll be discussing how vowels work to smooth out the bridges of the voice.  

My first 8 years of vocal training was with a teacher who specialized in the "Caesari Method."  While I don’t agree with everything Caesari has ever written, there is much wisdom in his writings.  One of the “mantras” I heard over and over again in those first years of my vocal training is that "the vowel is the soul of the voice." This is an interesting concept.  In any style of music, singers desire to be understood.  But in addition to having the lyrics be intelligible, the idea of singing with pure vowels means that the sound itself will be produced in a more efficient manner.  When I say "pure" vowels I simply mean that they are produced in an “unassisted” manner.  If we try to help the vowel making process we can too easily sacrifice the integrity of our tone. 

Often times when a singer is having trouble navigating through the passaggi, or bridges of their voice, a sensitive teacher can hear that the vowel being sung is not pure, or that the singer is trying to do something physically to "create" the vowel.  What the student requires most often in these cases is to be guided to mentally hear the vowel they want to sing, and then to allow that vowel to be sung, rather than trying to intentionally adjust the musculature of the tongue, jaw, soft palate, etc.  The muscles responsible for creating the vowel properly can work magnificently when they are allowed to function involuntarily.  Being aware of the vowels being sung can sometimes be the missing link to achieving the much coveted "mixed voice."  A key component in smoothing out the bridges of the voice that is often forgotten, is the training of our minds to hear the vowel we want to sing very clearly and then let the voice sing.  Another way to articulate this concept is that singing often requires more thinking and less doing. 

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