My Vocal Warm-Up Exercises: Changing Vowels

This week I will share with you another warm-up exercise that I like to sing whilst I am on tour. I call it: Changing Vowels.

How to do this warm-up.

In this exercise, the singer will sing five different vowels on one pitch. I usually sing: ee eh ah oh oo (IPA: [i e a o u]). You can repeat this exercise, ascending in semitones (minor 2nd intervals). I tend to focus on the middle of my range, typically E4 to E5. If I have time for a longer warm-up, I will repeat the exercise descending in semitones, i.e.E5 to E4. If I want to add a twist, to keep my mind more stimulated, I switch the vowel order [oo oh ah eh ee] on the way back down.

When do I do this exercise?

I sing this exercise early on in my warm-up routine. Usually, after my lip trills exercise.

Why do I do this warm-up?

The exercise focuses on the pure vowels from the Italian language. In classical singing, we use these vowels as they are monophthongs. A monophthong is a vowel whose articulation is the same at the beginning and the end. There is no movement of the articulator’s mid-vowel. Therefore this exercise is great for checking whether the sung vowels are pronounced clearly. It encourages me to make sure my personal accent doesn’t interfere with the pronunciation.

This exercise also helps me to establish a mindset of observation, which is great for practice. In this mindset, I ask myself questions to improve my self-awareness and try not to judge/critic what I observe. For example, I may ask myself how my weight is distributed across my feet. What is my head position? I will observe myself in the mirror or through touch and feel. For example, I will ask myself where is the tip of my tongue during the exercise.

I also find that it is a gentle exercise, as it doesn’t demand the voice to be agile. I like to think of it as a stretch you would do in the morning just to shake off any cobwebs.

Troubleshooting: Clarity of vowels

If you find that you can’t make a clear distinction between the five vowels, first, see if you can make a clear distinction when speaking. If yes, observe where your tongue is whilst speaking. Where does the tongue make contact within the mouth? Then sing the five vowels and see if the tongue mirrors the tongue’s position from speaking. If it doesn’t, you may need to explore this with a singing teacher to check which tongue area needs more flexibility to achieve clarity. It helps to work on this with a teacher, as your awareness of the sound will not be accurate to someone listening externally. My top tip when checking sound clarity. Don’t try to check clarity whilst singing. Instead observe what the body is doing whilst singing and check the clarity by recording yourself singing and listening back afterwards. This will give you a clearer representation of how you sound.

If you would like assistance in mastering this exercise, perhaps you would like to explore this exercise with me in a singing lesson. I offer online lessons from my home music studio, and I would love to help you explore the five pure vowels.

24 thoughts on “My Vocal Warm-Up Exercises: Changing Vowels

  1. Another delightful little video. Having a New Zealand daughter in law whose vowels all sound the same to us, yet who hears them all differently has set me wondering how NZ folk would get on with this.

      1. “Pin” indeed. Awstraylian is all right. Once you understand “Good dye” means “Good day”…
        I used to work for a Brit company. There was an annual conference with all country heads. When the guy (excellent chap BTW) in charge of NZ made his presentation, my English colleagues and I suggested an interpreter to the – English – CEO. He was not amused. But then he was rarely amused with our suggestions… 😉

      2. LOL.
        That particular accent is hard to qualify. I think you nailed it.
        Now, accents? I’m sure there are accents in the UK I won’t understand. I remember Steptoe and son, I couldn’t understand a word.

  2. Very nice! I am a basso, with a very narrow range, suitable only for a prummer. {At Christmastime, I stand in the back and go “♪Prummm, ♪prummm, ♪prummm…”}

  3. I knew someone once who was in a choir. She said a good warmup was just humming – i.e. lips closed. What would you say to that? I’m a musician and singing is the hardest part of my recording process.

    1. Humming is good too. I find that I can improve my breath support easier with a lip trill exercise as it directly shows me when I don’t have the right levels of breath pressure as I can’t keep it consistent.

      I often using humming after recovering from a cold as it’s very gentle exercise. Thank you for your message.
      Best wishes

      1. Thanks for your helpful reply. It’s always good to hear a second opinion on matters which one knows next to nothing.

        I wish you the very best and hope to see you at Naxos Classical soon! (My favorite spot to keep up on new album releases). 🙂

  4. OMG! You are amazing talented, and a consistent hard worker.
    A semitone…… I don’t hear that well. I always wanted to sing, but other than a few rock songs it doesn’t happen.
    Loved watching you do your vocal exercise.

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