Better Vowels In An Instant
Vowels, vowels, vowels. Choir directors are all about vowels. Vowels are all about shape. The biggest problem I encounter with vowels is that they lack height. Another problem is that they lack structure. Here are some tips to help both problems.
AW-ROO - your new best friend. AW-ROO came to me from Jean Barford, a champion Sweet Adeline barbershop singer/director. Just slowly say "AW-ROO." You should feel as if you are making the shape of a cheerleader's megaphone, only facing backwards. The larger end (AW) is in the back of your throat. The smaller end (ROO) is in the front with your lips. The theory behind AW-ROO is that all vowels are inside that megaphone/cone. Larger vowels (EH, AW, AH, OH) are in the AW space and smaller vowels (EE, IH, OO) are funneled through the ROO space. AW-ROO is tall and round - just what we want! Just saying AW-ROO can remind your choir to guard against "spreading" their vowels. Anything outside that cone is forbidden!
VOWEL BLOSSOM - This is my code for when singers take an especially long time to open their mouths from a closed consonant to a target vowel, thus creating a sound like an old record player getting up to speed. Say the word "swatch" in slow motion and you'll feel a vowel blossom. These often occur when singers are attempting a crescendo. They increase space and volume at the same time, rather than forming a firm, structured vowel and increasing the volume independently. The first step to eliminating vowel blossoms is to acknowledge their existence. The next step is...
INSTABANG - another barbershop gem, and the cure for vowel blossoms. It refers to the process of getting quickly from the formation of a consonant back to a large, open, pure vowel formation. BANG! Snap that vowel open in an instant: INSTABANG, as in, "Come on, choir - instabang those vowels!" (Notes: this was coined before Instagram, but that can't hurt for tying this concept in with young singers. If you are afraid of any giggles, you could also change the word to INSTAPOP.)