How to sing using Italian vowels? What do Italian vowel sounds bring to singing?
The only way to get the power and clarity in your singing is to italianise your vowels. However this is a problem if you’re a pop singer or even sing musical theatre, as it can sound a little odd singing pop and rock with Italianised vowels. In pop and rock lots of bended notes are used and, as most singers sing with a mic it’s not a problem. However perhaps occasionally choosing an Italian vowel will help you sing for longer, with more power and with less damage to your voice.
All opera singers are taught to sing with Italian ones. The vowels are –“a” or“ah” make the sound with jaw dropping down and the cheeks flat, make sure the cheeks aren’t raised and the mouth moving out to the sides. The “e” or“eh”, this is not diphthongised as in eh-i. For English speakers from the North of England, Scotland and Ireland this will be their normal a sound as in “lake”. Next “I” or “ee” which is a long sound, avoid cutting this short, for example when singing “in” lengthen it to “een”. After this we get “o” or “oh”, again make sure this sound is similar to the North country one and finally “u” or “oo” this is a sound to avoid at the top of your range (not so bad down the bottom), convert it to an “oh” and even higher turn it into an “ah”. For example “room” becomes “roam”. In “Where ere you walk” by Handel the “crowd” in “shall crowd into a shade” becomes “Shahl crah-d intoe/ or intaah a shade”.
English has a lot of neutral vowels i.e. togeth-er, when singing this give it an “ah” sound as in togeth-ar. Italian just uses pure vowels. Some singers attempt to sing everything on an “ah” vowel as this is the most natural and most powerful vowel sound. Try singing a top C on an “ah” and compare it to singing it with an “i”. The difference in power and control is huge. Most composers will know their stuff and make the libretto show the singers voice off. For example in Carmen Don Jose’s “La fleur que tu m’avais jettee” by Bizet, he gives the singer a chance by putting both Abs on the same vowel sound –“te” and “car” and then “qu’a” afterwards. It’s probably the reason why Mozart chose Italian so much for his operas as he knew so much about music and technique.
The way the vowels are produced is in different parts of the head. A, O, U are produced at the back and I and E are produced at the front. It’s hard to describe, but imagine finding the notes with an imaginary radar either at the back and or at the front of the head, and then producing the sound with the voice. This takes practise and awareness. The higher you sing you will need to find the note with the head voice, which will be a resonant lighter sound and then fill it in with the chest voice using the larynx, this is called the mixed voice.
Practise speaking your lyrics with the Italian vowel sounds so you get a feel for them. Obviously the skill is disguising the pronunciation as it may make it difficult for the listener to understand the meaning of the words and phrases. However having confidence and understanding in this area will make your singing stronger, more expressive, and confident and you will have a greater clarity of tone.