Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting High on Vowels

I've been practicing and practicing both Batti Batti and Gretchen Am Spinnrade. Without my voice teacher to guide me I'm still plugging along trying to figure out how to fix what I perceive as problems. I'm absolutely sure that there are problems that I'm not perceiving. That's why I pay someone to teach me. But really what still gets me is certain vowels on the high notes. Why??? Why can I hit a note nicely with one vowel, but it sounds like a tortured cat on a different vowel?

My latest attempt is to remember to drop my jaw and sort of fudge the vowel. I don't mean that I'll compromise diction - I really don't want to do that - but I do know that for some vowels, like, the word "you," for example, I can open my mouth wide, which makes it less U-ish, yet it still sounds ok. I just have to:

A. Remember to do it and
B. Allow myself to do it.

By allow, I mean, allow myself to almost pronounce it wrong, if that makes sense. Not wrong, but... modified.

One thing I am improving at (I think?) is keeping the energy in the vowel sound more consistently.

I've written this before, but I'll say it again - thinking about what my teacher might tell me, or imagining how she might demonstrate something, helps. It forces me to remember different things she's taught me, some of it several months ago. I'm also getting much better at holding all the various aspects of singing in that imaginary three-dimensional space in my brain. I know I've written about that before.

Then when I'm feeling frustrated I'll sing Una Donna, to remind myself of the trouble I used to have with some parts that seem easy to me now.


Susan Eichhorn-Young said...

sounds like you are discovering some great things! your teacher will be proud!

Caitlin C said...

The higher up you sing the more the vowels all turn into "ah." O becomes "uh," E becomes "eh," I becomes "eh," U becomes "oe"... My first voice teacher told me that the vowels are all placed differently along the palate. A or "ah" is the the furthest back (where the soft palate begins), then is progresses E, I, O, U to the front with U being the most forward vowel. Of course, the higher you go, the more space you need in your mouth to resonate (we're getting into the voo-doo magic of voice here... I'm not sure how this all works from a scientific standpoint). Thin, forward sounds like U are hard to make with the instrument as open/spacious as it needs to be for higher pitches, so you have to compromise and make your U sound as "oh" (or somewhere in between).

Bottom line, it's physically impossible to make the U sound above certain pitches without sounding like a strangled cat. I wouldn't worry. Fudge away.