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The Tongue as Master of your Singing: Vowel Modification

Article by Shirlee Emmons

Vowel Modification

As mentioned in the homepage essay the system described here sprang from a unique experience with the natural trumpet. Post facto I discovered the writings of Shirley Emmons and Salvatore Marchesi and Ernest G White and more recently Robert Lunte. In my own teaching practice the calisthenics have proved themselves ideal for the realisation of the arguments expressed in these writings even though initially I was working on a very ad hoc basis. The basic ideas were reinforced by my working with pupils of all ages who considered themselves ( or had been cruelly told they were) as non-singers - in common parlance 'tone deaf'. (documentation here)

The Shirlee Emmons article concludes with this summation.

Thus, the crux of the matter is this: modifications persuade the resonator (vowel) to work
efficiently, and, vice versa, when the resonator (vowel) adjusts so as to amplify the sung pitch,
the vowels are, in that instant, automatically modified. This explains why singers experience
vocal unease and difficulty when asked to sing speech vowels in the more perilous parts of their
ranges. If vowel positions are kept in a fixed state rather than modified, the voice will run into
and out of resonance points, resulting in a sound that is out of tune, harsh, unfocused, and
unsteady in vibrato. Furthermore, it is a truism that critics and audience members are more likely
to point out bad sound than they are to mention slight modifications of language values.