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VOWEL MODIFICATION & DIPHTHONG VIDEO LECTURE - TVS & Robert Lunte

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Robert Lunte
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Hello TMV World Forum,

I just produced this video on vowel modification for my clients and internet blog stuff... thought I would paste it here for you to enjoy. Hope everyone is having a great day. Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the video.

http://thevocaliststudio.com/vowel-modification-diphthongs/

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Hmmm. I have 2 comments. First, a dipthong is combination of 2 vowels such as in the pronoun "I," e.g.: "uhh-ee"

and Im not sure that article is about that? Secondly, I always thought changing "me" to "meh" sounds ugly. Listening to Dio, I think he changes "me" to "mi"? Although "i" is harder than "eh," it seems to get much closer, imo?

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Hm... Never ever modified vowels in my life... Never thought about it... I'll try, may be it'll help, though i've been doing quite fine without it :/

dr. evil,

you modify. you probably do it without even realizing it.

a subtle adjustment has to be made in the higher areas of the voice.

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Hmmm. I have 2 comments. First, a dipthong is combination of 2 vowels such as in the pronoun "I," e.g.: "uhh-ee"

and Im not sure that article is about that? Secondly, I always thought changing "me" to "meh" sounds ugly. Listening to Dio, I think he changes "me" to "mi"? Although "i" is harder than "eh," it seems to get much closer, imo?

As Owen was pointing out, had you bothered to watch the entire video you would of viewed the discussion about Diphthongs. In regards to vowel modification sounding 'ugly', hmm... interesting...

James LeBrie from Dream Theater is modifying his vowels in this video of their song "Anna Lee". Listen from 3:02 - 3:34. You cannot sing these lyrics with closed vowels at this higher range. Oh... maybe you can... if you can sing these lyrics on the same notes without modifying the vowels, lets hear it... and then, let's watch you not modify your vowels for another two hours in a live situation and keep constriction from creeping into your performance, night after night. Call me crazy, but I think that James LeBrie and myself are probably hitting at something useful for singers.

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Well, the narrow vowels EE and OO are falsetto only, but the covered versions I (sit) and O (book) are great vowels for curbing. They sound really the same but are very different.

Me can be sung Miiii or Meeeeh depending on the feel you're going for. Neither is better, just different.

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yeah, perhaps ventriloquists have a couple of tips there?

I don't get it, is that a joke? Ventriloquists are not singing Matt. They are not phonating notes above G4 in front of a heavy metal band. It is a completely different art form and the use of the voice is completely different, so asking a ventriloquist their opinion on modifying vowels when singing into M2 register, would be completely irrelevant and a pointless excercis. But I think you know that. I think your just being a smart ass.

Thanks for your 'contribution'.

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He goes into diphthongs later in the video...and this is a video not an article! :lol:

It would technical be "me" to "may" (it's not meh, that would not be a diphthong and not end in the original closed vowel)

Even as a TVS student I'm still a fan of modifying "ee" to "ih" or "oo" to "ou" (as in book) sometimes. It tends to be aesthetically closer to the original vowel but runs a higher risk of constriction. And sometimes I'll combine the two and end up with something halfway between "ay" and "ih"...I'm still messing with it myself.

Also, lately I've been thinking, there has to be a way we can eventually learn to not have to modify these vowels, but just modify the physiology behind them. Cause if you think about it, we can all consistently sing a pure, clean, connected "ee" or "oo" vowel in the head voice without constriction, when it's isolated, and we use less compression, and we bridge earlier, etc. It's just that when you get into a song and the vowels change, if you try to keep the same general physiological setup that works for open vowels, you'll constrict when a closed vowel comes in. So if we really need the vowel pure, perhaps we can develop the control to modify the physiology each time a closed vowel appears in a song? If Rob comes back into the thread I'd like to hear his opinion on this.

As Sun was saying, there are other options, kind of... you can experiment with other ideas and it may work for you... but the variables at play here are; does it sound good? How long do you have to do it before you begin to constrict? Is it just a quick little demo for this forum, or are you going to be singing like that for two hours, live in front of cameras and a real audience? What is the genre/style?

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I don't believe I or O are inherently worse than any other vowel.

Most singers I listen to use I and O in every song, personally I is the easiest vowel for me especially high. Yes some modify more towards Eh but I believe both are perfectly healthy it's more a stylistic thing.

2:40 - 2:49 Lots of I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJeBvNuYPMM

0:22 -> Most is EH

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Agree Robert, but the thing is you can modify to other vowels thats suited better for that piece of lyric. James labrie has his style and it's very cool and metal, he always modifies towards the openvowels. There are other modifications that allows To shade towards the closed vowels.

Some singers modify aaah(lowrange) uhhh(middle) (ooo/III) highrange

Other ohh(low) (aaah)middle and(eee/aaa) high

And various others, some singers use all diffrent kinds of modifications to aid them.

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The more I read that there is one way...or a suggested/preferred way... to do something, then the following arguments, the more I am convinced that there are many paths to the mountain top but, no matter the path, the view from the top is the same.

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Agree Robert, but the thing is you can modify to other vowels thats suited better for that piece of lyric. James labrie has his style and it's very cool and metal, he always modifies towards the openvowels. There are other modifications that allows To shade towards the closed vowels.

Some singers modify aaah(lowrange) uhhh(middle) (ooo/III) highrange

Other ohh(low) (aaah)middle and(eee/aaa) high

And various others, some singers use all diffrent kinds of modifications to aid them.

Cool, thanks Jens... that is the makings of a workout routine! Yes, I am interested in other kinds of vowel combinations for training.

Sun: I love that tune, Stargazer... the original recording with Dio is one of the few opportunities to actually hear him sing with little to no distortion. Dio with a clean voice? Listen to the studio recording of "Stargazer"... it is so cool! ... and its a song someone needs to cover...

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.... you know, listening to this "Stargazer" take, which is the original studio recording... I hear vowel modifications ALL over this?! I hear very TVS modifications all over this... ! Remember guys, when you are modifying for singing... you are modifying away from speech mode vowels generally speaking.

Listen from 2:54 - 3:39

Rain = Rehn

Chains = Chehns

Tower = Towuh

Bone = Buhn

Fly = Fluh-ee

Why = Whu-ee

Know = Nuh-oo

at 6:47

"Rainbow Rising" modifies to "Rehnbow Risehn". If Dio had sang an "ee' on that note, it would of choked him. He isn't even aware of it like we are... his body just naturally modified to prevent the constriction.

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thanks for giving us your time on that video rob.

vowel modification is a very, very, individualized thing. yes, there are basic "modify to" vowels as starting points, but then there are shades within those vowels every singer has to discover for himself. you may even need to modify towards vowel shades contrary to what you think you need to.

you must do a lot of experimenting, very similar to the way you used to tune in on a radio station with the old analog tuners when you wanted to tune the station just right you played with it till it weas clear of static...remember?

i have a way of looking at it as (generally speaking) the higher you go, the narrower the vowel.

the "oo" (and the shades of "oo") is one of the most underrated vowels for creating some serious ring in the upper range of the voice. but it requires good support to pressurize the soft palate and correct resonating bulleye enough for the ring.

another skillset that comes into play in the higher areas of the voice besides the vowel shading is the need to decrease mouth fluctuation. intelligibility takes a backseat to tone.

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.... you know, listening to this "Stargazer" take, which is the original studio recording... I hear vowel modifications ALL over this?! I hear very TVS modifications all over this... ! Remember guys, when you are modifying for singing... you are modifying away from speech mode vowels generally speaking.

Listen from 2:54 - 3:39

Rain = Rehn

Chains = Chehns

Tower = Towuh

Bone = Buhn

Fly = Fluh-ee

Why = Whu-ee

Know = Nuh-oo

at 6:47

"Rainbow Rising" modifies to "Rehnbow Risehn". If Dio had sang an "ee' on that note, it would of choked him. He isn't even aware of it like we are... his body just naturally modified to prevent the constriction.

It's more like R-eehhhhhh-iiii-n, Ch-ehhhh-iins, there is clearly an actual "I" briefly in these words.

And you didn't comment the sustained "I" on B4 just seconds before your time stamp :) Also "EE" is different from "I". "EE" feels like it sits in the front of the mouth while "I" is like Uh but with the tounge higher in the middle.

Singing open vowels is also usually more powerful sounding which is probably why he sung I f.ex. on my time stamp (not a power-phrase), and more eh on the power phrases.

The point was simply, narrow vowels can be sung fine - regardless of which is actually easier. That doesn't mean everything that could should be narrow or that narrow is always better sounding but if you completely exclude narrow sounds diction will suffer.

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In regards to vowel modification sounding 'ugly', hmm... interesting...

I didnt say that...I said I found me going to meh ugly, not vowel modification in general. for example, me going to mi sounds good to me...I apologize for not seeing the whole vid, though. I always hated the way bon jovi made an exaggerated and overt meh out of me. It just sounds like "hey, I simply cant sing 'Me' up here." On the other hand, dio seems to have a much cleaner meee vowel. Im guessing he goes to an 'I' thats very close to 'Ee'?

2:30 and 2:50

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vowel modification is a very, very, individualized thing. yes, there are basic "modify to" vowels as starting points, but then there are shades within those vowels every singer has to discover for himself. you may even need to modify towards vowel shades contrary to what you think you need to...<snip>

Good explanation Bob. I'm sure there are those singers who don't even need to modify. And then there are those who don't even know what modifying is although they may be doing it unconsciously. It just happens. Like walking on ice, you naturally start using smaller steps otherwise you fall. I think even a baby figures this out.

Then there is the modification one might hear in a particular song. I'm sure if one listens enough-and closely enough- they will hear whatever it is they want to hear. Whether it's there or not.

And then on the other hand there are probably those who have trouble in certain areas and no clue how to fix it. That is where a technique, such as modification (which you'd think would be natural) helps. Like an "A-ha, moment.

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And then on the other hand there are probably those who have trouble in certain areas and no clue how to fix it. That is where a technique, such as modification (which you'd think would be natural) helps. Like an "A-ha, moment.

This is a really good point. For me, the video hit home how important this could be to my technique - but at the same time, I hear singers hitting high notes with oo and ee with no modification at all.

So as I understand it, it's about staying away from high oos and ees and using uh, eh and ah.

I know there is no better way than constant practical application. But this info is so helpful as a starting point.

Z

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It's more like R-eehhhhhh-iiii-n, Ch-ehhhh-iins, there is clearly an actual "I" briefly in these words.

And you didn't comment the sustained "I" on B4 just seconds before your time stamp :) Also "EE" is different from "I". "EE" feels like it sits in the front of the mouth while "I" is like Uh but with the tounge higher in the middle.

Singing open vowels is also usually more powerful sounding which is probably why he sung I f.ex. on my time stamp (not a power-phrase), and more eh on the power phrases.

The point was simply, narrow vowels can be sung fine - regardless of which is actually easier. That doesn't mean everything that could should be narrow or that narrow is always better sounding but if you completely exclude narrow sounds diction will suffer.

Agreed with Sun.

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Rob, I watched your lecture last night. Well done on posting that up and subjecting yourself under the microscope like that. I liked how you progressed through from basics to more complex illustrations later on, really made it clear what was meant to be happening (kudos for doing it all in one take as well).

However, I'm not satisfied with your choice of vowel modifications. Let me explain why and where I'm coming from... and where I'm trying to end up.

To my mind, what is happening with vowel modification is the need to correct the word being sung so that it sounds like the intended word out front, regardless of pitch, i.e. the word heard by the audience sounds like the word that it is meant to be, at all pitches. This is difficult because what we think we are doing doesn't always translate into the right word out front.

For example, when we try to sing 'uh' at (say) C4 - it sounds like 'uh' - no problem. Our brain sends our voice the electrical signal we understand generates an 'uh' at our speaking range. However, the problem is that this same electrical signal from our brains that gets an 'uh' at C4, will actually sound like 'ah' at (say) C5. We THINK we're telling our voices to make an 'uh' (and at C4, it would be!) but at C5 we need to send an electrical signal associated with a narrower vowel (e.g. towards 'oo') in order to make it sound like 'uh'. We narrow to correct for this unconscious change in the vowel. Overnarrowing is a problem, overwidening is a problem. We just need to listen for the vowel, but until our ears learn to do that, a vowel modification system is helpful.

The two vowel families that SLS teaches (with logic behind them) is:

CLOSED > OPEN

oo-ouh-oh-uh-ah

ee-ay-ih-eh-ah

If you are finding a word hard to sing, or it sounds too shouty or volume is not controllable, we narrow by one. Maybe it's not having enough of the desired effect, narrow by one more. However over time the body adjusts to this and learns the correct shape/vowel it should be making, so overnarrowing can be a problem. Similarly, some singers get too heady, we widen in the same way to compensate.

Through experiencing this system working first hand (both in myself and students) I am wholly convinced this is the correct association of vowels. It is able to maintain the integrity of the lyrics over all pitches, and it also helps you to hear when vowels are not the intended vowels when sung by other singers. You may notice these don't quite match up with what you were advocating. Let me explain what I was hearing.

If I'm honest, what I was hearing wasn't 'me and you', it was 'may and yo', and the choice of vowel modification explains why that was. In your video you discuss eh to uh to ah. You are advocating going for a very open chesty vowel at the highest notes. I also (personally) thought it sounded too shouty, it felt like the voice changed in quality at that point. Now, perhaps our goals are different, and perhaps it's my own limitations that means I don't fully appreciate what you're shooting for... it's certainly not to say that wouldn't work for rock. I should also state that I am not wishing to take away from your experience - it is far in excess of my own. I literally just want to chip in in the interest of furthering our own development of voice teaching and understanding of what does what.

Feel free to chip back in. I certainly have some other thoughts on what you said about choking vowels (e.g. 'ee') but I can't cram any more into my response right now. I'm off on holiday soon, but would love to do a video to explain where I'm coming from.

P.S. As an aside, you have a really great groove and speaking manner once you settle into things a bit more in your longer videos. You became a whole lot more relaxed about 5-10 minutes in and you become that really personable and engaging guy that you are, but (and it might just be me) the starts of your longer videos don't reveal 'that guy' - they feel a little bit overprepared? I don't know exactly what it is, but I think you can afford to relax more and just be you right from the start, because you rock.

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