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Vowel Modification: Oh ---> ?

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JonAshEn
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Hello all, I have a question for anyone able to answer.

The other night I was singing with my vocal group and we were rehearsing a new song, "Daylight" by Maroon 5. I have the solo. Everything was going great until I got to the OH section of the chorus that goes from D4-F#4-A4 repeatedly. I couldn't hit the A for the life of me. Normally, I can hit a G5 no problem, and this was an A4, and extremely troubling to me (it was the end of the night).

I normally have no problem hitting these notes - and higher ones - in private practice, however, when I rehearsed with everyone, it's like I choked up and couldn't do it. Could this be just psychological, or something else? What's the natural vowel modification process on the OH vowel? Is it OH -> AW -> Ooh (as in book)? Or something else? Anyone have any idea what might have been wrong? I appreciate your help.

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Try modifying from oh to uh. Oh on the D4, a shade between oh and uh on the F#4, uh on the A4.

Could be psychological too. Or you could have been tired since it's the end of the night. Or since you say it is a vocal group, maybe you were distracted by the way someone else was singing and were subconsciously imitating them instead of focusing on your own individual technique. Or it could be a matter of needing to sing the phrase louder or quieter than what currently blends well with how loud the other vocalists are singing. You may have to tell them to sing louder or quieter according to how loud or quiet you need to sing in order to hit the notes.

It might help to be a little more specific about what this vocal group is like...small, big? Led by a separate director?

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How many songs do you guys have that go into that area?

If you got others that work fine, a temporary dirty band-aid is to sing the songs where it works, and then copy/paste what you do in there to the problem area of this song. Note that its not a G5 that will help, this area from E4-B4 is where problems arise.

An open Oh has a tendency to force chest registration if you dont take care, and if its what happened, you will need more than just modifying the vowel. The approach needs to change. So from a "clear" state, dont sing the Maroon 5 song, sing the song where the A4 works a few times, and then, still thinking of the other song, produce an Õh vowel thinking of it starting high, almost between your eyes. When it works, then you transpose into Maroon 5.

If no A4s work, and for a definitive solution. Instruction and trainning is the best course of action. Good Luck man. Keep in mind that this area is challenging and requires a lot of conditioning to become reliable.

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Felipe is right. "Oh" and "Eh" both have first formants in the 400-600hz range which is where A4 resides. Because of this, these vowels can very easily "force" what CVT calls Overdrive, or like Felipes says, Chest registration. I'm working on a song currently that has a similar thing - "Eh" on G#4 and I have to concentrate on lightening it so as not to go into overdrive. Of course there's nothing wrong with Overdrive on an A4 but you have to train for it. Also, overdrive may not be appropriate on the song you're singing. To stay away from overdrive you need lighten it significantly. This also takes a bit of training. Find the registration with a very small, quiet sound and grow into it - but not too much. This would give you CVT Neutral which doesn't need vowel modification. Easier said than done. This is a tricky part of your range.

Train safely - if it feels like your straining - you are.

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I think all the important things have ben said. If you go for an open OH you have to shout it (Overdrive), which means increased airflow/volume.

If you don't want to shout you have to modify the vowel because of the formant problem geno described. This modification usually goes into the direction of 'uh' or 'ah', because they have higher 1st formants.

The vowel of choice is usually a 'french o' (sometimes called 'nasal o'). Think of how the 'an' is pronounced in the french word 'croissant'. Another method to access this vowel is what Daniel suggested, to do an OH through OO lips.

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Thank you all for your helpful suggestions. Mr. Owen: It's a small a cappella ensemble, consisting of 6 people including a beatboxer. Three women, three men. I'm a "tenor" and the other male is the bass. Two sopranos and one alto. We don't have a music director or anything; usually we just get new music, rehearse it, record it, see what it sounds like and change things up for the better, then perform it. You may have been right, since we all try to match vowels with each other so much in order to sound more cohesive and blended, so I may have been subconsiously imitating someone else's vowel sounds.

We have one other song, Diary of Jane, that goes up into that area, stays there for most of the chorus, that I'm able to do with no problem, probably because I'd never heard the song before we rehearsed it and so had no preconceived ideas of how it should sound.

Thank you Geno, that makes sense as well, and that's exactly what happened: I brought chest up too high. I'll try your suggestions, as well as the suggestions of everyone. Thank you all for your help and feedback! I've been with a vocal instructor for a little over a year now working on bridging and smoothing our the registers and all that, and I've come a long way. Never used to be able to sing above an F4, as I thought that was the top of my range. It's nice knowing I have so much more, but it's also frustrating when you've been doing it well for a while and all the sudden, in front of others, you're not able to anymore for some reason.

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Jon, what an informative response.

And I must admit that I do not do choir or vocal group work. And a few times, singing along with a song, I find that using a vowel that fits me works better than what the original singer is using.

Which might be problematic for you, trying to blend with the others.

Let me ask, the problem area is where you are soloing? In that case, stand out and use the vowel that works for you.

Of course, I may be provincial, most of us here are interested in being lead singers, rather than choral singers.

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