Monthly Archives: May 2015

Magic Choral Trick #332 Fast Resolving Diphthongs

This trick is really useful for cleaning up the synchronization of the onset of words that begin with a ‘w’ or a ‘y’, where the target vowel is actually the second sound.

For example in the word ‘we’ – the first sound is an ‘oo’ vowel, and the second, the target (and resolution) vowel, is an ‘ee’.

The trick is to sing the first sound, ‘oo’ through the shape of the resolution vowel – ‘ee’. Change as little as possible from that ‘ee’ shape when you sing the ‘oo’.

If it’s the first word in the phrase, you will also need to breathe in through the shape of the ‘ee’ vowel.

Tricky I know, because it means that singers must skip ahead mentally to the second vowel that they’ll be singing. This is why words beginning with these Fast Resolving Diphthongs need to be drilled – to eliminate the need for thought, by making the technique a habit.

It means not actually thinking in English for a while until the technique is locked in.

I find that with amateur singing groups there’s the tendency to sing any word beginning with a ‘w’ with a little ‘uh’ sound right before the lips completely close for the ‘w’. So between that opening for the ‘uh’, the closing for the ‘w’ and the reopening for the ‘ee’, it’s not surprising that ‘w’ words are tough to synchronize.

The other major problem in English is the ‘y’ at the beginning of a word. ‘You’ is a word that shows up in a huge percentage of songs.

If it’s at the beginning of a phrase, you need to breathe in through the ‘oo’ shape. Then, changing as little as possible, quickly sing through the ‘ih’, and go straight to the ‘oo’, which is the target vowel. This also prevents that great lump of badly behaved meat – the tongue – from tightening up and closing down the sound.

The natural tendency with singers (who have not been thinking non stop about vowels for many years) is to jam the tongue right up to the roof of the back of the throat for any onset ‘y’. Then there’s a little pop in the sound as they go to the target vowel. I don’t think there’s any way to synch the variety of pops that you’ll get from all the individual singers.

If a chorus’ singers really want better synchronization, they’ll be more than willing to drill this – especially during warm up when they can give their whole attention to forming new singing habits.

%d bloggers like this: