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.