When was the last time you thought about where exactly your tongue was as you pronounced a vowel?
Never? You are not alone.
Vowels are lovely and necessary, and far too often, nebulous. This can make language hard to understand in speech but in singing, it is even more important. In singing, vowel specificity is sometimes the difference between being in tune and not, having a beautiful tone or not, sounding authentic in a style or not.
Observe the chart above. The vowel sounds to your left are those formed in the front of the mouth, the middle in center of the mouth, and the right in the back of mouth.
Today, play with specificity in the front vowels. Place the tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth and let the vowels travel from the lowest, flattest position on /a/ and then arching the tongue while maintaining the connection between the tip of the tongue and the bottom teeth. Observe the transitions between /a/, /ae/,/ɛ/,/e/, and /i/. These are slight but specific variations in the arching of the tongue from open to closed. Play with the spaces and get specific.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.