Vowels in the mask

One of my high school students has had drilled into him that ‘placement’ is the most important thing about singing.

He’s a barbershop kid, and so his reference point is understandable.

In order to humor his fixation on placement, and help him understand his possibilities for control of where a vowel’s focal point actually is, I put together this series of words that he is to sing on one single pitch:

  • fleet
  • flip
  • fled
  • flat
  • flop
  • float
  • flute

Notice that every one of these opens with a labio-dental fricative, followed by a nasal consonant; both sounds live at the front of the vocal tract.  Then we have a series of vowels that move from one end of the vowel chart to the other, and close with a forward-placed plosive consonant.  The idea is to isolate the consonants in one location, and help the vowel maintain a frontal focal point in the mask.

With a few students over the last few days, we have had real success in keeping the ‘o’ and ‘u’ vowels from traveling too far back.  And the resultant increase in the singers formant have been noticeable and notable!


About Jeffrey Carter

University administrator, voice teacher, choral director, professor, singer, professional theatre music director, brother, son, uncle, Anglican, Scotch drinker, chef of moderate talent, NPR fanatic, gin aficionado, proponent of the music of Herbert Howells and Elgar and Vaughan Williams, pianist, composer, theatre geek, dog love & cat hater, author & blogger, world traveler, church organist, Anglophile.

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