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Vowel Mod for beginners

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Can anyone point me towards any good resources that explain vowel modification? It's something i've come across a lot but have not been able to find much information on. Typical info i have come across seems to be "change e to ih and so on... but it's not that simple", but never a full explanation.

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Can anyone point me towards any good resources that explain vowel modification? It's something i've come across a lot but have not been able to find much information on. Typical info i have come across seems to be "change e to ih and so on... but it's not that simple", but never a full explanation.

ken tamplin's vocal academy, season 1

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Note that most vocal systems teach vowel modifications slightly differently. Here's a teaser for the CVT approach to vowel modifications (which I like best), among other things: http://www.completevocalinstitute.com/node/49

yes, but many books/cd'd/dvd's only touch on it. very few demonstrate it right in front of you, from beginning requisites, to completion.

ken is walking you through it from beginning to end and if you follow him you can "feel" them kick in...awesome dvd!

i personally think that some teachers hold that technique in their back pocket, and save it for lesson-buying students.

(note: bob may catch hell from that little tidbit....lol)

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Bob, doesn't Ken do the same with rasp, i.e. he doesn't teach it in his instructionals, does he? But probably could in private lessons. And he's one of those instructors that you'd expect to teach rasp (because he's a raspy singer) at LEAST in the third expensive part of his program.

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CunoDante, that's an interesting list, but don't you think it's slightly misleading since vowel modification is very related to volume? F.ex. in general it's not possible to say "we" as loudly as "may" without modifying the vowel. But I feel that for all those systems, it's hard to get into those modifications without understanding the entire system.

Maybe we can say that some vowels lead themselves well to soft volume, some to medium volume and some to loud volume. And those with loud volume may simply not be possible too high up in the range without modification to vowels with medium or low volume.

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Bob, doesn't Ken do the same with rasp, i.e. he doesn't teach it in his instructionals, does he? But probably could in private lessons. And he's one of those instructors that you'd expect to teach rasp (because he's a raspy singer) at LEAST in the third expensive part of his program.

i only bought the first one...no rasp even mentioned and predominately basic as we know it..but good.

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i don't believe vowel mods. are affected by volume, (steve fraser or joy, jump in if i'm wrong) but support and an open relaxed throat & jaw seem to help....

i look at them as ken stated... "release valves" or "enablers" .......they enable passage to the higher notes (and lower) easier and with more resonance........

the thing that makes them tricky is the trial and error to arrive at that nuance of adjustment per your particular voice. as you do it though, you'll hit on this pocket where the sound just releases with spot on pitch and tonality. it's an awesome discovery,

but you have to keep practising to increase the percentage you hit on it.

the really satisfying one is the "o" to "uh" as in look...but they're very subtle adjustments. now you can be off the pocket by a bit, and muscle up not as modified as you could be, but you'll incur more effort and the resonance and efficiency suffers.

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To me the most straight-forward explanation of vowel modification is CVT. Each mode (there are four of them) have their own vowels that can be used higher up in the voice. For lower notes, all vowels work. I couldn't explain it better than in this post:

http://forum.completevocalinstitute.com/viewtopic.php?t=5420

What Henrik says about learning the EXACT sounds of the vowels as described in the CVT sound library is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. I was not able to make a "free" curbing sound higher than C5 when I was using I as in "sit" the way I used to speak it. When I really memorized the sound off of the sound library, I realized it is a mixture between EE as in "see" and I as in "sit" (in a general american accent), what many people refer to as "covering". It is important that if you pronounce the I different than shown in the sound library, you might not get the results you wanted. When I started using the exact vowel in my higher curbing, it seemed easier and I seemed to struggle less.

It's funny that this came up, cause yesterday I saw Plácido Domingo live (amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!!!) and he was singing a Tango with a very powerful high curbing and the word was "bésame" (kiss me) and the last "e" would be pronounced in Spanish as the EH in "stay" (without the last "y" sound) but he pronounced it as the I as in "sit" described by CVT. It was a long glorious high curbing sound, and NOBODY in the audience paid attention to the fact that it was not pronounced as if he was speaking it. I learnt a lot yesterday at his concert!!! It was really fun to analize his technique CVT-wise, I think I enjoyed him better than if I hadn't.

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i don't believe vowel mods. are affected by volume, (steve fraser or joy, jump in if i'm wrong) but support and an open relaxed throat & jaw seem to help....

Bob, it's one of the cornerstones in CVT that the vowel modifications are affected by volume.

I'm sure Steven Fraser would agree. Let's just ask him. It's even more helpful if he has the CVT book so he sees where I'm coming from. I think he does have it. And it's not just something that CVT invented. It's in many other classical teaching styles and frankly, it's just the laws of nature when it comes to the voice, i.e. accoustics and physics. So I respectfully disagree on that one :) .

But hey, what you've been doing has been working great for you, right? So don't change things TOO much, if at all. There are many different approaches to the same things.

Actually, if you feel that there is only one correct way to sing (let's say, as an example, the "Ken Tamplin way") - then you could say that vowel modifications aren't affected by volume, because then each vowel will always be modified the same way as you go up in pitch. And then there is really only one allowed volume. In Ken's case, probably loud (or slightly above medium loud), if I'm not mistaken.

This is an interesting discussion, by the way. Have a nice day (night for me) people!

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By the way, I can't stand people who constantly talk in that secret-society-like CVT language.

;)

Just kidding, but in a slightly serious manner I suspect some of you guys are thinking that. I know I did in the past (and even still do, a bit). For the record, I don't consider CVT to be the only, or best answer to all vocal things. In fact, there are several things in the CVT book that I consider they could have done much better. But you can usually learn something from every vocal coach.

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CunoDante, if you're singing all vowels at a very powerful volume, then you're either modifying the vowels (i.e. not really singing the narrow ones like Ee and Oo) - in which case you THINK you're able to do it with all vowels ... or you're adding tons of twang, which can get you CLOSE to the volume of the most open ones (but the narrow ones will have a thin, underlying tone) ... or you're not singing high notes (notes above E4) at all. You had some CVT background, right?

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Actually, if you feel that there is only one correct way to sing (let's say, as an example, the "Ken Tamplin way") - then you could say that vowel modifications aren't affected by volume, because then each vowel will always be modified the same way as you go up in pitch. And then there is really only one allowed volume. In Ken's case, probably loud (or slightly above medium loud), if I'm not mistaken.

Yes - Ken does believe in vowel modification no matter what volume. But in Stage 3 he gets into really quiet singing (CVT neutral) which is what I'm currently working on now. The vowel mods are much less apparent in the quieter parts of in stage 3 - which reminds me of what CVT says about neutral, which is that you can sing pure vowels throughout your range. Ken really shows his mastery of light singing in stage 3 - so, no, there is not only one allowed volume.

Your right about the lack of any distortion or rasp training, which was kind of disappointing.

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Just a side note ; non-native speakers have a hard time understanding vowel modification so if you're a teacher or trying to explain it please be very patient.

Being Greek, I've only known "AH" "OH" "EE" "EH" etc and it has been through ktva, cvt and this site that I started delving into vowel mod and most importantly comprehending

that there are! nuances between the sounds. It's extremely helpful though - even for a non-native's speaking pronunciation.

Anyhow, I thought you people should know.

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Thanos, even within English speaking people, there are different dialects so they can get confused, too. Most vocal programs who teach vowel modification (note - NOT vowel replacement) have audio files showing how they sound. That's the best way to hear how it's supposed to sound, although Bob is right about that the optimal vowels do vary ever so slightly between individuals.

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Most vocal programs who teach vowel modification (note - NOT vowel replacement) have audio files showing how they sound. That's the best way to hear how it's supposed to sound, although Bob is right about that the optimal vowels do vary ever so slightly between individuals.

I'm listening to exercises 76-78 (ees for curbing) of the cvt book and I've got to tell you, if they didn't say there was a difference, I wouldn't have known - I can't explain why.

And even as we speak, I'm "forcing" myself to hear, sing and memorize the nuances. However, I've only just begun so it should be much much easier in a few months.

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I've had this discussion with Martin and he believes it is a modification of the vowel, although I don't hear it this way because I can sing both IH and EE in that same range and they sound different, although having about the same power. Now, if we're talking higher up like around a B4 or so, then yes, to keep power, the vowel does merge a bit more to IH, although still with the jaw opened long. I am adding twang too, but then again, the EE vowel typically has quite a bit of twang anyway, as does IH.

That was kind of what I was saying. They start to merge as you go up in pitch. As most of us know, if you DON'T modify the vowels, you can't get enough resonance to produce the kind of power you could with another vowel. Frankly, if you take curbing as an example, all vowels sort of come from the same throat configuration, just with a slight variation of the tongue. So when a good curber is singing in the high range he/she is probably thinking about many more vowels than I, O and Uh, but what comes out will always be something very close to those 3 vowels (for curbing).

I hope I didn't come out too confrontational, because that wasn't my intention. I do realize that I could be wrong. Even famous vocal coaches like Catherine, Robert, Vendera, etc. have probably all been wrong at some points, even today.

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I'm listening to exercises 76-78 (ees for curbing) of the cvt book and I've got to tell you, if they didn't say there was a difference, I wouldn't have known - I can't explain why.

And even as we speak, I'm "forcing" myself to hear, sing and memorize the nuances. However, I've only just begun so it should be much much easier in a few months.

Thanos, I thought the same thing a while ago about those Ee and I sounds in the CVT audio files. I thought they sounded VERY similar. And they do, actually - but there is a slight, important difference. Physically, the back of the tongue is a few millimeters more backwards in I than in Ee, which creates more resonance along with the chance to create cord compression or hold on the high notes. And I've found it a bit strange to say that the I vowel sounds like "sit" or "bit". If you listen to the I audio file, I sounds like a mixture of "sit" and "see", IMO. But again, perhaps some English speaking people pronounce "sit" exactly like that. I think people should experiment with this until they find that sweet spot that creates good, (fairly) easily produced resonance.

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if you take curbing as an example, all vowels sort of come from the same throat configuration, just with a slight variation of the tongue.

That is the biggest aspect I believe. Modifying vowels for curbing is like shifting the resonance amphitheaters in your mouth/throat. You can really disguise the modification so that it is very subtle and hard to hear - which makes it very tricky to learn. It is hard to learn just by listening to a CVT audio clip. You need to "feel" the sensation. It is the same sensation as yawning and crying.

The difference in sensation between overdrive and curbing is overdrive feels like the focused resonance is in the front of your mouth outwards. The sensation for curbing is further back in the throat and up and through the nasal passage. CVT says you can drop the soft pallet to help get the sensation, although Ken Tamplin wants you to keep the pallat high at all times. If you yawn the pallet immediately goes up. For me, keeping the pallet really high for curbing is difficult.

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let me chime in here too......i'm no expert, just a singer, and i respect any and everyone's opinions..the more i study the voice the more i learn..vocal study can be very ambiguous.

b.t.w., this "singing and the actor" book is highly, highly, recommended....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the concept of internal and external anchoring is something i do, now i feel like i have justification for doing it....lol!!

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All: Sorry I am jumping in to this discussion so late. What I will include in this post is not of my own origination, but passing on great information from the 20th Century's pioneer in vowel modification technique, Dr. Burton Coffin, who taught at the University of Colorado. While this thread is 'Vowel Mod for beginners', I wanted to let you know about the more advanced aspects of this topic.

Coffin's foundational book on this topic, entitled 'Overtones of Bel Canto' published in 1980, contains a complete, systematic explanation of the relationship of vowels with resonance, 100+ exercises for developing vocal resonance, and some very useful tools for the teacher and singer in that process. Principal among the latter of these is his 'Chromatic Vowel Chart', which for each voice type, can be used to find the most resonant vowels to sing on any note in the range. The writing is academic, but the content is golden.

As a teacher, Coffin's approach to vowel modification was based on language..., the different shadings which occur in natural speech. With students, he incorporates both concepts like 'darker' or 'lighter/brighter', with specific vowels as they occur in words of actual languages. To support the notation of these fine gradations in vowels, he extended IPA (International Phonetic Language) with new symbols, and associated them with specific pronunciations.

Here is the chart from page 3, provided here for reference purposes only.

Notice that some of the sounds included in this system are not present in English, or for that matter, in Italian.

Now, on to the chromatic vowel chart.

With these vowel sounds referenced and symbolized, Coffin produced a chart for placement above the keyboard during vocal lessons of classical singers. He oriented it so that the vertical arrow it would be positioned in different places for each voice type, and then indicated the optimal vowel(s) in each of the vowel groups in 4 wide horizontal bands (from the top, Front Vowels, Neutral Vowels, Back Vowels, and Umlaut Vowels) with narrow bands between them that show the best vowels shared between the two larger bands. I've clipped just a bit of the middle section of this so you can see the level of detail that Coffin included.

The chart, in its entirety, covers 5 octaves, and is included loosly in the book so it can be unfolded and placed on the keyboard with the arrow over particular notes for each voice type. For example, for high baritone and mezzosoprano, the arrow is placed on the F above middle C.

In lessons, the teacher can use this reference in a manner that does not confuse the student, but rather as a guide for the pronunciation of problem syllables when they occur. When a student is having an issue with a particular syllable on a particular note, the teacher can find the note on the keyboard, and then select the vowel group in which the required vowel occurs. The Vowels indicated in green are the very best, and those in yellow or blue, while less optimal, will also be workable. Vowels indicated in red are considered to be too open for classical singing, but will work. From the symbol, if needed, the teacher can cross-reference on the chart to the words which use that vowel.

If this sort of detail is interesting to you, I suggest the purchase of the book, and detailed study. IMO, the chromatic vowel chart and the symbol/word associations are worth the price, as the entire system encoded in the book is visible on the chart. Within the book itself are more than 100 resonance-building exercises for all voice types, built on the method he has constructed. These help the singer incorporate the pronunciations into the habitual technique, so are enormously valuable as development tools.

I hope this is helpful.

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Come to think of it, I think that the reason why CVT talks about vowel modification being dependant on volume, is because it's one of the few vocal programs out there that doesn't recommend a single sound ideal as "the way to sing", but instead realizes that different people from perhaps different genres may want different sounds and effects. And in order to serve every style out there, vowel modification starts to become dependant on volume. That's probably a part of the "complete" in Complete Vocal Technique (CVT).

From what I understand of Bel Canto, there are certain vowels that are simply unacceptable in the high part of the voice (f.ex. the "splatty" ones, Eh and Oh as in "stay" and "so"). But some styles, f.ex. some heavy metal styles use those vowels and the only way to sing them in the high part of the voice is to increase your volume. That's an accoustic fact. So what I'm saying is that if you follow any type of sound ideal, there is no big need to think of any relation between volume and vowel modifications.

(I still wish they would have put more emphasis on creaking over distortion in the book as a personal preference. I think they should tidy up those 2 chapters in the next version, even though the book probably has the most comprehensive section(s) on rasp there is. Just wanted to let people know that I don't think the book is perfect or anything, because lately I've been starting to sound like an ad or something - which I don't want to do.)

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Bel Canto was developed before the use of microphones and PA systems. They had to develop the an efficient way to sing to be heard over the orchestra. Also, the goal was to produce the most consistent and pleasing (subjective) tone throughout the entire range. Overdrive becomes too bright after a certain point, and it doesn't blend in with neutral when you finally have to transition into it. So you have overdrive to curbing to MLN in bel canto - with the optimum vowel mods - all with a relatively low larynx for the darker richer tone. In modern singning you have a lot more choices.

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