Archive | September 2014

Does your accompanist like you?

From, here are some clear tips for auditions (and LIFE!).

Don’t fall into these common mistakes when it comes to bringing sheet music to an audition—be proactive and get the pianist on your side!

I would add to these:

1.  Be thankful.  Greet your audition accompanist warmly, and after the audition say ‘thank you’ whilst looking your accompanist in the eye!

2.  Do NOT use plastic sheet protectors.  Lights may glare on them, making your accompanist somewhat blind.

3.  Be certain the music is copied on both sides of the page.  This makes for 1/2 as many page turns.  And be certain the page turns are laid out exactly as they are in the source material from which you copied.  We always hope an editor has worked out with intention where to put those page turns.


Thin lips

I am one of those people with very British thin lips.  People like me (and the student with whom I was working this morning) have to work harder to round the vowel, to flare the bell, to give that last touch of polish to the sound before it escapes us forever.

This morning I worked with C. who had never really thought about this before.  She was really trying to activate that top lip, but was expending too much effort in the process.

So, on the spot, I listed off a bunch of words that she could repeat on an easy pitch, sustaining slightly so that the opening W sound is a little longer.  By doing any series of these words as a little exercise, she could train that top lip to kiss the vowel a bit more.  And by doing a portion of this series, she also hits several different vowel sounds.

Will of a wisp

By the way, I’m one of those who believe that the W sound is a vowel, not a consonant!

Morning routine

Robert came to lessons last week, tired . . . bleary-eyed . . . not ready to sing.

Ten minutes later, he was amazed at how easily he was hitting the tenor notes, and his voice had real ping in it.

All I did was remind Robert of the morning routine, AKA the routine to use before you go to class, or when just needing to get the voice moving without working hard on technique.

Here’s what we do:

1.  Starting at the upper end of the lower register, alternate between a hum and ‘ah’ on three descending pitches.  Continue by descending half-steps until you can’t sing any lower.  Then start again and work up by half steps until you reach a D or E as the starting note.  The hum will start to feel tight at that pitch level.


2.  Then broaden the pitch range slightly, following the other descending then ascending half-step sequence.


3.  Then broaden the pitch range slightly again.  As you move toward the upper register, change the ‘ah’ to ‘aw’ for better roundness and less tendency to spread the upper vowel.


Jerry Mitchell

In Playbill this week, Tony Award-winner and Webster University alumnus Jerry Mitchell talks about casting and auditions . . . .

Eden’s Rs

I have a student, Eden, who somewhere along the way picked up a great deal of tongue activity and tension on the retroflex R sound at the end of words (and sometimes at the end of interior syllables).  She doesn’t speak with the a tight R, so this is clearly a habitual event that is now part of the overwhelming muscle memory.

Aside from customary exercises attaining space and freedom and ease on the inhalation, I gave Eden a series of words to sing, slowly and with care.

On a descending 3-2-1 pattern, sing ‘rot.’ Repeat.  Sense the tongue activity that quickly disappears into the vowel.  Then on the same pattern sing ‘tore,’ saving the final R for the instant of release.  This is challenging when the tongue wants to starting seizing up into a lugubrious R sound two pitches early!


Other combinations:

  • rid/dire
  • crack/car
  • rent/tear
  • road/door

Words with initial R sound that are safe for vocalizing:

  • rum
  • rank

Words with multiple R sounds, where the student can be mindful of producing the final R the same way as the initial:

  • rear
  • dreary
  • roar
  • radar
  • rover
  • rare

Another exercise I gave Eden was to mindfully sing word combinations with R at the end, but with alternating fricatives and nasal consonants at the beginning:

  • fire/mire
  • fore/more
  • fear/meer
  • far/mar


And another exercise: on the same pitch, sing a long tone on the word ‘foe,’ then sing the same long tone, now doubled, on the word ‘forest’ or ‘foreign,’ keeping the R out until it’s the initial consonant of the second syllable.


IPA samples

Over 1000 art song lyrics were researched to find phrases that contain a frequent occurrence of the vowel and consonant sounds as introduced in the Lyric Diction Workbook Series. Each video includes IPA and highlights prominent Italian, German, and French artists.

Thank you for visiting the website!

Kind regards,


Cheri Montgomery
Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University
Author of the Lyric Diction Workbook Series and Co-author of Exploring Art Song Lyrics (Oxford)

Check it out!