Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
In September 2016, I blogged about the difference between internal and external hearing and how it can impact a singer’s perception of her vocal quality. Today I am sharing a simple trick that takes advantage of our internal hearing to perfect vowel quality.
Have the student use his index fingers to gently press on the tragus of the ear, blocking the ear canal and limiting his external hearing (see photo above). Have the student sustain a vowel while pressing in on the tragus and ask him to concentrate on the quality of his vowel. By blocking his external hearing, he should become acutely aware of formants one and two, which are responsible for vowel quality. As he sustains the pitch, ask him to make small adjustments to his tongue, lip, and jaw position and observe how those changes affect the vowel. When he finds the vowel quality you are looking for, point at him (he can’t hear you with his ears closed), and let him know he has found the target. When he can consistently produce the new vowel quality, have him remove his fingers from his ears and see if he can maintain the new vowel while hearing himself both internally and externally.
This is an exercise that empowers the student to make adjustments on his own outside of the lesson. It can be used in all genres but is especially useful in classical and legit musical theatre styles.
Do you have other ways to help students improve vowel quality on their own? If you do, please share in the comment section below. If you are not already following the blog, be sure to subscribe in order to receive an email notification each time there is a new post. As always, thank you for reading! Have a great week of teaching. ~ Matt