Singing Better



Here are some representative pix that may make this clearer.

Don’t be confused by the way we say the vowel words A E I O U as we say “A” as a diphthong “ay-ee”,  “I” as “ah-ee” and “U” as “ee-oo:.  Here we are talking about pure single vowels not diphthongs (2 vowel sounds).

Understanding the production position of the various vowels helps us to be clear and consistent in our diction and thus help our communication to our audience.

Vowel uniformity is very  important in group singing.  We not only come to the group with slight variations in dialects but also individuals are not consistent in producing vowel sound.  For instance: For the word “Mom. do we pronounce it “Mahm” or “Mawm”?

There are 2 particular vowel problems - both caused by the same thing - lack of long vertical mouth opening caused by the jaw not being down enough.


Frequently we are lazy and just don’t open up as much as necessary for optimum sound.  Particularly the “er” vowel can be harsh if we don’t open up enough.  The graphic above of the position of the tongue in the mouth refers to the BACK OF THE TONGUE not the tip.  The tongue tip should generally be low.  Sing the following word making sure the sound is free with a lowered jaw.

    ER:girl”, “sir”, “learn”, “turn”, “word”, “world

    OH-ER:for”, (“four”), “adore”, “more”, “soar”, “Lord”, “core”,  etc/


We also tend to be lazy in opening up wide enough for the lower vowels of “ah”, “aw”, and “aa”  A deep open jaw will give you a fuller and richer tone.


    “Ma”, “Mom”, “Bob”, “John”, “sob”, “not”, “lot”, “hot’. “down”, “town” etc.


    “saw”. “call”. “fall”. “God”. “lawn” etc.


    “and”, “that”, “can”, “lad”, “mad”, “sad” etc.

  Sing or say all these sound with both a high jaw and then a low jaw.  You’ll notice the difference in the quality of sound.  Then try to remember to always keep the jaw down.


Don’t be deceived by the spelling of vowel sounds as the spelling of English words is very irregular.

    Variant Spellings                        No Variant Spelling Problem

    “EE”    “feet”  “heat”                                    “IH

    “AY”    “date”  “wait”

    “EH”    “bet”  “dead”                                    “AA

    “UH”    “but”  “love”                                     “AH

    “ER”    “jerk”  “hurt”  “learn” “myrrh”

    “AW    “saw”  “haul”  “bought”  “dog”

    “OH”    “no”  “boat”  “Joe””                            “OO” (both short & long)

Or to look at it another way.  Our 5 vowels make these sounds:

    “A”    “date”  “and”  “fall”  “heat’  “dead”  “learn”

    “E”    “feet”  “bet”  “Bert” 

    “I”     “sit”  “sail”  “dirt”

    “O”    “no”  “mom”  “love”  “look”  “moon”

    “U”    “but”  “hurt”  “haul”


Once you have finished this Page or Topic you may want to look at the other 16 Topics that we have on Singing. Click on this to get the Index.

How many vowel sounds are used in the English language? A E I O U?  5 Right?  Wrong! 12.   Here’s a visualization of the back of the tongue position in the mouth that produces them.  The only variant from this is the “long oo” sound of “boot” which in addition to the tongue placement requires lip protrusion.

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