There are a handful of different things that help to contribute to balancing the voice, and one is narrowing the vowels. So why is narrowing your vowels important?
Well, narrowing the vowel while singing is important for a lot of reasons, but the main reason is this…
when you sing with widened vowels, you cause unnecessary strain on your vocal cords. When you narrow your vowels, the cords can come together more easily and can create the sound without unnecessary tension or effort.
You see, what happens in the back of the mouth effects the throat area. If you widen that space in the back of the mouth, the area around the vocal cords also begins to widen, which can cause your vocal cords to pull apart while you sing. This forces you to use tension to squeeze the cords together to counteract that widening effect to prevent tonal distortion or cracking.
Ultimately, when you do this, you’re pushing and pulling on your cords at the same time, working twice as hard to get a sound that’s not as good. If you narrow the vowel, this will no longer be an issue (so work smart, not hard 😉 ).
This is ESPECIALLY true when you’re looking to sing high notes, as negotiating your bridges with a wider vowel is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
So, how do we narrow the vowel?
First off, when I say narrow the vowel, I’m talking about the space in the back of the mouth. Now typically if you narrow the corners of your lips, you will also narrow the vowel. But that’s not always 100% accurate, so lets get a feel for narrowing in a different way.
We’re near Halloween, right? So find the person nearest you and make an over exaggerated, dopey “Boo!” noise. You’re likely narrowing the space in the back of the mouth quite a bit when you do that. Whereas if you were to mimic someone with a thick southern accent saying the word “night,” that space in the back of the mouth would be much wider (and that’s not hating on the south… I’m just southern and we talk about what we know).
Get used to that narrow or widening sensation in the back of the mouth. As a general rule, the higher we singers go, the more we naturally want to widen the vowel, and therefore the more likely we are to crack.
All that said, you don’t have to be saying boo to narrow the vowel. You can generate a narrow or wide sensation on any vowel or word. That said, what you want to do is start working that narrow “oo” or “boo(k)” shape into your singing. This may add a little warmth to your tone, which most would argue is a good thing. But don’t worry, even if you don’t want the added warmth, it this can be balanced out with some pharyngeal resonance. And trust me, the result is well worth it!!
I hope this all makes sense. I’m in the process of moving to a different house here in Orlando, so I wrote this article w/ my mac air sitting on top of a box with a bunch of books I just threw in it. That said, if any of this doesn’t make sense or you have any questions, feel free to private message me on my facebook page and I’ll try and I’ll get back with you once I emerge from my sea of boxes at the new place.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more ways to open up your voice and expand your range, I am available for lessons both via skype and in the Orlando area. You can find out more about lessons at LessonsWithKen.com.
Otherwise, I hope this article helped, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon!