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Problem words/sounds

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dirksteele
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Hi all, first time poster having just discovered this great forum. I'm a regularly gigging singer with his fair share of vocal problems, trying to improve like everyone here is.

I just wondered if many people on here have trouble with particular 'problem' words or sounds, by which I mean those ones you have real trouble getting on pitch, pronouncing or just getting out.

My current problem area concerns the sound 'OH', as in 'rock' or 'long'. No matter what I do I end up pulling chest on this sound and find it incredibly difficult to get out. Does anyone have any advice on where to begin with this please? I'd really appreciate it. I realise some sounds are easier to make than others, this just seems to be a real 'sticking point' with me!

What are everyone else's particular problem words/sounds at the moment?

Cheers :)

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gotta write quick today so here we go.....

without getting too detailed, assuming they are high notes, you need to do some experimenting with subtle shades of the vowels that are causing you the trouble. select vowel shades that will allow the voice to release per your particular voice. that's why i say experiment to see what works for you.

vowels which allow the voice to get into a more head voice oriented throat socket. vowels such as "uh" "oo" and "aw" are particularly helpful. the very nature of the these vowels engage much less chest voice musculature.

for example, with "rock" if you approach it as it's spoken, "r"ah"k" you will likely engage way too much chest voice musculature as "ah" is a very chest voice instigating vowel. what you want to do is inject a vowel shade that is more head voice instigating but one which won't detract from clarity, such as "aw" or "uh."

now when you go to sing, sing "rock" but think of mentally shading more towards "r"uh"k or "r"aw"k. this will have the effect of narrowing the tone and releasing the tone with less constriction.

remember it's subtle, and you need to tweak it a bit to arrive at the release you need without taking away from intelligibility.

basically, any closed vowel such as "ee" and certain breath interrupting consonants such as "b" and "p" have to be dealt with as they impair a fluid release of air.

hope i've helped. i'm sure other folks can add to this.

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That's great, thanks very much! I've read a few things about modifying certain troublesome vowels or shifting them away from their 'spoken' sounds when singing, so this sounds like something I should definitely work on.

Funnily enough, getting my 'uh' on pitch is also tricky for me, so it sounds like a lot of experimentation is needed!

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i had a moment of "oh hell, now i get it" recently when i was reading frisell's book the third time.

he mentions the importance of making the clear distinction between the speaking vowels and the italian singing vowels. this is critical to developing channels or thoat sockets per these vowel sounds. i now look at vowels as "sound shapes", shapes of the tongue, shapes of the vocal tract, rather than elements of speech.

i had to really dissect each vowel to understand their inate formations and their impact on the singing voice. for example, "ah" as a new yorker like i might say it, pulls in the chest voice musculature right off the bat and locks you up because as you ascend the voice with "ah" you haven't got a "pulling up" vowel inside of it's formation. you need a head voice pulling up vowel inside that "ah" to allow you to ascend and release.

so by listening to italians you hear the 'ah" isn't flat, "like "that" or "cat" it's more rounded and has the "oh" vowel in it's makeup. so, when you shade the "ah" to more of an "aw" as in "hawk" you really make progress because you've given the voice the narrower shape it needs to move up the voice.

i love studying this stuff, because you get these little nuances of information and you begin to understand how it all fits together.

you also start to realize why opera singers sing so beautifully. when frisell has you sing "oo" "ee" 'eh" "oh" and "ah" the way the italians sing those vowels (mouth, jaw barely moves, if at all) you really start to understand how tonally similar they can be, and yet they're not.

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What Bob says here is all very true with a small sidenote I need to make.

There are two type of singers. OO singers and EH singers. People who have an OO voice [i think the majority these days] really need to go heavy into those more rounded vowels to balance their voice. They can get away w the more open vowels, but up high w more chest it's gonna mess up their voice in the long run cse their voice doesn't wanna go there.

However, EH singers naturally can get away with more spread vowels and will sound more pharengeal EVEN with that OO function under it. Listen to alot of black singers for examples. Shaka Kahn for instance. Or take people from this forum like Martin [musical theatre singer]. For the life of me I can't get as much EH with that much chest high without imbalancing, he gets away w it cse it's a different physiology.

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yes, this is so true. thanks for adding elra and welcome back!!

but the only way you get to these realizations is to really grow to understand your own voice. i hear singers that also have a lot of "uh" in their tones, but the exact sound i mean by "uh" i can't think of an american word to get it across...lol!!!!!!!!

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Hey Dirk, I was going to pull the old doctor routine. "Doc, it hurts when I do this (whatever "this" is.)" The doctor replies, "Well, quit doing that."

You say that you pull too much chest on the aw sound on long and other similar words. Well, quit using that sound. As Bob says, it's a matter of vowel use. The closer you get to italian vowels, like those in the IPA chart, the more your problems go away. I tend to go flat on the uh sound, as in buzz, fuzz, etc. I'm better off shading to the oh sound for that part of a word. Or, avoid dropping the tongue too much on the uh sound.

If I remember correctly, the italian vowels do not have an uh sound. It is a problematic american english dipthong or partial vowel sound. In fact, I would say, you are better going to AH for words like long, strong, etc.

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