If you don’t open your mouth then the sound just won’t come out! That’s why it’s important to use vowels in your vocal practice!
Say ‘oo’; Now using the same mouth position you said ‘oo’ in, I want you to sing the word ‘Guitar’. How does it sound? Did it feel strange?
Now, I want you to say ‘ah’; make sure you open your mouth wide, like when you yawn. Got it? Using the same mouth position I want you to sing ‘Guitar’ again. How does it sound? Does it sound clearer and much easier to sing?
The position of your mouth, when singing, is paramount for a clear open tone to come out. Where your tongue is placed, also plays a part in the sound that is produced. Always make sure your tongue is relaxed on the bottom of your mouth, sitting just behind your bottom teeth.
Vocal exercises don’t always sound pretty; they are designed to assist your learning of how to place your mouth when singing. So don’t be discouraged if doesn’t sound pretty. What you’re aiming for is an open and clear sound.
The vowels to use in your vocal exercises are:
AY as in day, stay, play (space in your mouth should be approx. 2 fingers wide)
EE as in fleet, plead, speed (1 finger)
AH as in guitar, fast, last (3 fingers)
OH as in joke, float, close (3 fingers)
OO as in taboo, food, you (whistle)
These vowels can be used together or individually to work your way up and down scales. Remember that you must breathe correctly before commencing any vocal exercise and practice (see blog, ‘What happened to the singer who didn’t breathe).
You may ask this question: “How does this apply to singing a song?”
Look at the phrase below from the popular Cold Chisel song, ‘When the War is Over’. Underneath I have placed the vowels/mouth placement that should be used when singing these words for a clear and open tone to come out.
Try it. It may feel strange at first but with practice it will become second nature to open your mouth to let that sound flow out!
Try singing this:
When the war is ov-er, got-ta get a-way_______
‘ay’ ‘ah______’ ‘ee’ ‘oh-ah’ ‘ah’ ‘ah’ ‘ah-ay’
Now try singing the phrase keeping your mouth in a closed position of ‘oo’ for instance.
Can you feel and hear the effect the shape of your mouth can have to the sound of a song?
When you open your mouth to sound a vowel - drop your chin. Your face and throat should feel relaxed. Breathe into the diaphragm and slowly sing the vowel of choice. If you are straining your face or throat, stop and check that you’re breathing correctly and the position of your mouth. It is useful to initially do your practice in front of a mirror so you can see the shape of your mouth when you sing and to ensure you do not lift your chest and shoulders when you take in a breath!
So much to remember! I hear you say… Singing is just like any other instrument, it needs to be tuned and practiced. Enjoy it. Have fun! Also ensure you are relaxed before you start practicing and take it one step at a time. Soon enough it will all fall into place. We all crawl before we walk and walking is now easy, right?!
I’d also like to recommend a fantastic resource, a book called, ‘Secrets of Singing’ by Jeffrey Allen. It’s full of vocal exercises and has great illustrations so you can also visualise what you are doing.
If you have any questions or comments please email me firstname.lastname@example.org