Did you know that the word “VO-wel” and “VO-ice” share the first prefix in English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese?
I think this is an important distinction to make. A very very important distinction in fact, for pedagogical purposes. The two are truly interrelated.
Vowel is voice. Voice is vowel.
Want to improve your voice? Improve your vowels.
“Chi pronuncia bene, canta bene” (Who pronounces well, sings well) is an old Italian rubric, as is “Pronuncia bene ed il vostro canto saró perfetto” (Pronounce well and your singing will be perfect).
I am becoming more and more of a stickler for the quality of vowel in student’s voices in lessons. Tosi felt you didn’t get out of your first lesson if your teacher didn’t make you aware of the proper pronunciation of vowels.
I was happy to come across the remark below by Cornelius Reid, who shared the feeling that vowels in singing were PRIMARY, and should be worked out straight away in the singing voice.
From his book, “The Free Voice” (underlines are mine):
To describe a tone as beautiful is to say that it is free of throatiness, shrillness, nasality, thickness, or any other forced, unnatural, imposed quality. A more positive way of expressing the same idea would be to say that beauty of tone is dependent upon the purity of the vowel. From this it is evident that vowel purity should be a constant object of attention when the voice is being exercised.
Vowel purity is the same thing as physiological rightness there is only one way for the vowel to be pure and that is for the principal resonators, i.e., the laryngeal, oral, and post nasal pharynx, to adjust with precision.
No exercise is achieving its purpose as long as vowel impurities are being tolerated. By giving stricter attention to the form of the vowel and showing less concern for its qualities having ‘ping,’ ‘nasal resonance,’ or a specific area of ‘placement’, the vocal organs will automatically respond better. One of the focal points upon which successful voice training depends is an insistence on vowel purity.
Exclusive of interpretive goals, a complete mental picture of tone quality is one which includes tones of pure vowel quality combined with pitch, duration, and intensity, i.e., registration. In singing a musical phrase this concept must include, before the first note has been sung, the entire group of tones comprising the musical phrase, and an exact image formed as to the dynamics, scale contour, and vowel qualities to be used. To dismiss, or overlook, any of these elements by mistakenly concentrating on quality is a direct object of attention will only serve to destroy the purpose of singing.