5 Essential Singing Vowels: Tips and Techniques for Improved Vocal Performance Tuesday March 5 2024, 3:45 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
5 Essential Singing Vowels: Tips and Techniques for Improved Vocal Performance

Singing Vowels

When it comes to learning the foundation of singing, there are 5 vowels you want to focus on, which can be helpful for tons of different genres and languages across the board. 

Vocal coaches often use these vowels in exercises to improve vocal technique, resonance, breath control, and diction.

A (as in "father"): This vowel tends to open the throat and is used to encourage a rich, resonant sound. It's crucial for finding a balance in vocal resonance and support.

E (as in "bed"): This vowel can be challenging because it may cause tension if not properly formed. Singers work on keeping the jaw relaxed and the tongue positioned correctly to ensure clarity without strain.

I (as in "see"): This vowel, while narrower, requires careful mouth shaping to avoid sounding nasal or tight. Singers focus on lifting the soft palate and creating space in the resonating chambers.

O (as in "go"): This vowel helps in achieving roundness and depth of tone. Proper lip rounding and support are key to maintaining its fullness without losing pitch or volume.

U (as in "blue"): Often considered the most challenging vowel due to its tendency to sound too dark or muffled. Singers practice maintaining forward resonance and clear diction while singing this vowel to ensure it blends well with the others.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) provides a way to transcribe the sounds of speech, independent of spelling. It's widely used in the study and teaching of singing to ensure precise vowel production.

A (as in "father"): The IPA symbol for this vowel sound is [ɑ] or [a]. The sound is open and back in the mouth. In singing, it's important to keep the sound pure and avoid diphthongizing it into something like [aɪ].

E (as in "bed"): In IPA, this vowel is represented as [ɛ]. It's a more open, mid-front vowel. Singers must be careful to maintain the vowel's clarity without letting it become too spread or tense.

I (as in "see"): This vowel is denoted by [i] in the IPA, indicating a close, front vowel. Singers should aim for a pure [i] sound without allowing it to shift towards [ɪ] (as in "bit") or creating unnecessary tension.

O (as in "go"): The IPA symbol for this sound is [o] or [ɔ], depending on the dialect or the specific vocal tradition. This round, back vowel requires singers to focus on proper lip rounding and support to maintain its richness.

U (as in "blue"): This vowel is represented by [u] in the IPA, indicating a close, back, rounded vowel. Singers work on projecting this vowel without losing its warmth or allowing it to become too dark.

Tips For Singing Vowels

Support Your Breath: Always support your sound with steady, controlled breath from your diaphragm. This provides the foundation for a strong, consistent tone across all vowels.

Relax: Tension is the enemy of good singing. Be sure that your jaw, tongue, neck, and shoulders are relaxed to allow for good sound production.

Practice with a Mirror: Use a mirror to monitor your mouth shapes and ensure that your facial muscles are relaxed. This immediate visual feedback can be super helpful!

Use Vowel Modifications: Be open to slight modifications in vowel sounds at the extremes of your range or in extra challenging song sections. This can help maintain vocal quality and ease.

A ([ɑ] as in "father")

Open Your Mouth Wide: Think of creating a ton of space inside your mouth by dropping your jaw. Imagine you are about to bite into a big apple.

Think Brightness: While this vowel is deep and open, maintaining a hint of brightness can prevent the sound from becoming too dark or swallowed.

E ([ɛ] as in "bed")

Smile Internally: Instead of spreading the lips into a wide smile, think of lifting the cheeks slightly. This helps to create space in the resonator without adding tension.

Jaw Relaxation: Keep your jaw relaxed and slightly dropped. Tension in the jaw can make the E sound strained or too tight.

I ([i] as in "see")

Lift the Soft Palate: Imagine creating more space at the back of your mouth by lifting the soft palate (the soft area at the back of the roof of your mouth). This helps to bring out a resonant, clear I sound.

Tongue Position: Keep the tip of your tongue close to the lower front teeth, and the body of the tongue high in the mouth, which helps create the correct resonance for the I vowel.

O ([o] or [ɔ] as in "go")

Round Your Lips: Focus on rounding your lips forward, like you're about to blow out a candle. This helps give you the characteristic warmth and roundness of the O vowel.

Open Throat: Imagine there’s a small ball in your throat that keeps it open. This visualization helps maintain an open, relaxed throat position, which is essential for a rich O sound.

U ([u] as in "blue")

Forward Placement: Try to direct the sound forward, towards the lips, to avoid it sounding too back-placed or muffled. Imagining the sound resonating in your mask (the area of your face that includes the eyes and nose) can help.

Lip Protrusion: Extend your lips forward into a rounded shape, as if you are going to whistle. This helps create the right resonance and clarity for the U vowel.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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