Magic Choral Trick #26 Unison Warm Up to Clean Vowels
Most people, unlike me, don’t spend an abnormal number of their waking hours thinking about clean vowels. So I have a unison vowel warm up exercise that I use with all my singing groups at the beginning of every rehearsal.
It doesn’t really matter what the exercise is, though it should probably be a little rangy, and contain a couple of tuning challenges.
I ask them to sing the exercise through once on each of the formed vowels so that they can really concentrate on making the vowel as clean and clear as possible. Sometimes I pause between repetitions and ask them to do a Brass Buzz to bring the sound forward and focus it. Sometimes I ask them to sing a repetition through on Zzzzzz – or on a short vowel, using a Nothing Vowel Shape mouth. By the way, when they’re using this relaxed tongue and mouth shape, I still want them to be singing the short vowel as cleanly as possible. Even short vowels, through the Nothing Vowel Shape – especially when the back teeth are apart – can ‘lock and ring’.
This needs to be unaccompanied if the singers are to really hear what’s happening. When the vowel locks in they’ll be able to notice it instantly. With mixed choirs it’s a good idea to have each of the parts take a turn at the exercise so that they can experience this lock and ring as a section.
I know this seems like it could take up a lot of valuable rehearsal time, but once the preliminary teaching of the vowels has been done, it goes quite quickly. In fact my choirs get through all the formed vowels in less than four minutes – long enough to remind them about what a clean, locked in sound feels like. Also, because I have hand signals for each of the formed vowels, I don’t have to waste time by talking.