vowel production

The Church Choir's Guide to Vowels: Part II

The Church Choir's Guide to Vowels: Part II

Earlier this week, I shared Part I in a new series called "The Church Choir's Guide to Vowels. Part I included everything you need (and ever wanted) to know about vowel production, vowel placement, tone, and diphthongs and triphthongs.

Today, I'm sharing Part II with some of the most common "problem vowels" and helpful strategies for fixing them in rehearsal.

But, before we can get talk about problem vowels, we need to talk about what they look (and sound) like and how to diagnose them.

Here are some common choir problems you may have faced:

Problem #1: My choir has a tendency to sing flat or sharp.

This might be related to a lot of things - breath, posture, vocal production, etc. But, it might also be a vowel problem. If that's the case, manipulating the vowels a bit might do the trick.

The Church Choir's Guide to Vowels: Part I

The Church Choir's Guide to Vowels: Part I

Whenever I think of vowels, I think of this scene from Singin' in the Rain:

Any other Singin' in the Rain fans out there?

All jest aside, vowels are a vital component of the English language - spoken and sung. We talk a lot about consonants with our choirs, particularly with words like "God" and "bread" and "heart" that have strong beginning and/or ending consonants. But, what about vowels? How do we talk about them?

For those of you who studied voice or have read up on vowel production, you might know the difference between pre-, post-, and medio-palatal regions off the top of your head. For the rest of the world, the subtleties of vowel production, tongue placement, tone, and IPA symbols are a little more vague and mysterious.

And when it comes to talking about these things with your choir? Well, you can imagine how that might go (and all the jokes the basses will make).

But, no matter your background or the level of your choir, vowels are a significant and vital part of choral-singing. In fact, "Vowels are just as important for intelligibility as are consonants." (source