Resonance: Back Vowels (Part 1)

Resonating the /u/ Vowel

If you’ve ever noticed that you seem to sing better on certain notes, certain vowels or even certain keys, you’re right. You do. This is common to all singers. There are simply some notes and vowels that seem to resonate really well and give you a sense that you are singing powerfully but also effortlessly. This is where you want to attempt to be in every vowel in the spectrum.

The difficulty for most singers comes with the so-called back vowels. The consistency of pitch, and therefore resonance, suffers as the vocalist (even in speech) sings /i-e-a-o-u/. You can see, as you voice these in sequence, that there is a sort of arch downward in the acoustics.

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So, first I’d like to talk about how to brighten the /u/, which is the sound from the middle and end of the word, “you,” since it is the worst of the bunch. In order to mouth this darkest of the back vowels, most will pucker and round the lips. But this is how the resonate overtones get swallowed up. In this position the front lip comes down over the front teeth, lowering the zygomatic muscles facial muscles (muscles that form the smile and also flexed when closing eyes tightly), which disrupts both the internal and external resonators.

One great way to correct this problem of the non-resonant /u/ is to use the word “you”. When two adjacent vowels occur in the same syllable, as is the case with the word “you,” it is called a diphthong. In this case the two vowels are /i/ and /u/ are the two vowels. And the /i/ sound, being the most lateral sound, make the /u/ as a following vowels resonate, when you keep the same lip and mouth shape.

Start by quickly saying “You-you-you” in a 5-4-3 pattern, then “You-you-you-you” 5-4-3-2, then “You, you, you, you, you” 5-4-3-2-1. After doing the final one several times through (5-4-3-2-1), ditch the “y” and just sing the /u/ using the same mouth, lip and tongue position as you did using the diphthong sound of both /i/ and /u/.

This exercise can be done regularly for several weeks until your muscle memory kicks in and begins voicing the /u/ with plenty of resonant sound. And in the next post I’ll give you a couple other helps for the darkest of the back vowels /u/.

Hope this was helpful so far!


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