Magic Choral Trick #14 The Nothing Vowel Shape
In the Beginning were the 5 formed vowels – and we all saw that they were good, and very necessary. EE, AY, AH, OH, and OO.
But then we had a hunger for more unified sound in the words where the main, formed vowels weren’t used. This is where the Nothing Vowel Shape came in.
Sea Belles – my women’s Barbershop chorus was being coached by a master – Judy Comeau – who directs A Cappella Showcase in Ontario. We were trying to match the vowel in the final, very long and sustained note on the word ‘band’ and it wasn’t working.
Judy pointed out that when we say the word ‘band’ the mouth is completely relaxed, and neutral in its shape. We realized that as long as the sound was being produced at the front of the mouth, the relaxed shape would allow us to have a big sound – and a matched vowel.
We now use the Nothing shape on every short vowel, and every unaccented word (and, the, a) and syllable. In English this is usually the second syllable in any two syllable word. (Christ-mas, child-ren) This has been easier than the concept of target vowels and diphthongs for my various singing groups to learn – because they can still actually think the English word as they’re singing – they just need to remember to relax the mouth.
Once the Nothing shape has become a habit I then remind singers that we still need lots of space between the back teeth – and Bingo – a big, rich, resonant, matched sound.