use of vowels when writing songs

armansrsa

New member
I am a baritone and want to write my own songs but am struggling to understand how to make use of vowels in my bridge. I notice that singers whose voices I study that have similar voices use very open vowels on the higher notes of chest voice or in their bridge. This is especially proved true when the vowels are sustained for longer periods in the vocal phrase. Specifically, I hear these vowels on the high notes

"eh" as in "get", "bet", "Ted"
"ah" as in "bob","up","not"
"oh" as in "home","so","no"

so I had some questions regarding this and was wondering if someone could help me out by first telling me if my observation is correct and also specifically why this is so? Also, what about the non-pure vowels like "aa" vowels such as in the word "back". I wrote a song that uses a word with this vowel in my bridge but after closer listening through a microphone it sounds a bit strained. Should this vowel not be used on higher sustained notes?



and lastly, the "oh" vowel seems to be a dipthong. Is this true? I thought pure vowels were "pure" and not dipthongs.



thank you!
 

andrushkiwt

New member
I'm not a trained singer nor have I studied any of the subject in detail, but I believe you are correct - I think there are vowels considered "open" vowels. These are usually the long, held notes. There is a physiological reason some are easier to sing/hold than others. I certainly test out vowels when writing hooks/big lines. Here, I found this:

vowel_chart.jpg

I'm sure someone will chime in with a more precise, detailed answer.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
I am a baritone and want to write my own songs but am struggling to understand how to make use of vowels in my bridge.

Not sure how much you can "choose" which vowels to use...I mean, yeah, when writing lyrics, I'm always testing them AFA how easy/well they fit my voice and the song....but comes a point where you run out of lyrics options if it's a specific line that is needed for the song, for the rhyme, etc.

So I guess I'm wondering what exactly are you after?
I think a HUGE amount of singing is based on personal styles and voices, even if the singers are formally trained. I mean, we are talking Rock/Pop vocals here, not opera, where everything is done "by the boo". :)

So...are you asking how YOU can sing in a certain way to utilize the vowels in the manner you describe...or are you asking...?

There is a process of discovery that each person needs to do with the voice they have, and you just learn to try and sing to your strengths and in your comfort zone. I mean, I don't believe that there is a specific way words need to be sung...etc...for Rock/Pop music....or that there is a right/wrong/better/worse way to utilize vowels or whatever...unless of course you are trying to sing/sound like someone specific....?
 

andrushkiwt

New member
Nah, OP is correct that the use of vowels in singing is a subject that has much study. Different vowels use different areas of the throat, and some are thus "easier" to sing...therefore, those are usually used in long, held notes. Not always, but usually. If he's interested in the study of it, there's surely material there, and his observations were correct. I wish I could explain in more detail, but it's something I only casually looked over when I realized I had a hard time hitting some words (though the "note" stayed the same) in a loud chorus or a held, fading note.

You're heading in the right direction OP, sorry I can't provide more info.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
I'm not saying there isn't "much study"...I'm saying you sing the lyrics that you have, and if you're trying to go for specific vowels in order to change the way you sing...that's subject to the lyrics, which only have so many ways they can go.

I mean...you might change a word here and there to accommodate the use of certain vowels on higher notes...but you're kinda stuck with the words you have, and how you stretch the vowel pronunciation is also subject to the rhythmic groove and phrasing.

I'm still not clear what he means by "how to make use of vowels in my bridge"...?
Your options are tied to and limited by the lyrics you have and the rhythmic groove....but then...he may be asking something totally different.
 

andrushkiwt

New member
I'm not saying there isn't "much study"...I'm saying you sing the lyrics that you have, and if you're trying to go for specific vowels in order to change the way you sing...that's subject to the lyrics, which only have so many ways they can go.

I mean...you might change a word here and there to accommodate the use of certain vowels on higher notes...but you're kinda stuck with the words you have, and how you stretch the vowel pronunciation is also subject to the rhythmic groove and phrasing.

I'm still not clear what he means by "how to make use of vowels in my bridge"...?
Like...options are tied to and limited by the lyrics and the rhythmic groove....but then...he may be asking something totally different.

I don't know, I thought the question was pretty clear, except for the bridge part I admit. I'm not sure he wants to "change the way" he sings, just understand why he sees (hears) the same vowels over and over again in certain passages of songs. I believe he noticed a trend and was confirming if such a trick/technique/strategy exists. It does. Open vowels are easier on the singer. If you're singing covers, then you're stuck with what's there. If you're writing your own, then you can sacrifice a word every so often to go for the one easier to sing.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
The "bridge" reference is what's key to my responses. I'm not trying to read in-between the lines and assume it's anyting else he is saying.

Like, you have your lyrics, you have your groove...how do you learn to "make use" of vowels....in the bridge...huh?

Anyway...why don't we let the OP answer my questions, rather than you and I debating about what he's really saying/asking. ;)
 

andrushkiwt

New member
Like, you have your lyrics, you have your groove...

but you don't. They aren't written yet. He said he "wants to write" his own songs. When that time comes, he's wondering if there's an approach he should take because he sees/hears it in other singers.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
OK...I guess you want to debate it some more. :)

Not sure about you or the OP...but I don't know how many people write songs based on which vowels to choose and how to use them in a bridge....???

Not saying it's out of the question and/or not possible...just a rather strange way to write songs.
Most Rock/Pop songs start with a groove and some basic idea of the story, the lyric...and you get to a point with the lyrics where it's not an endless selection of words and/or vowels, but a very finite selection...once you start writing them.

IOW...after the first couple of lines, your goal would be (I assume) to stay true to the "story", and there are so many things that you can say, so many words that you can use...that will fit that story, and work with the groove.
Of course, it it's mindless lyrics and sophomoric rhyme...then guess any choice is possible just to make it work.

I'm saying that trying to base songwriting around which vowels to use in the bridge...mmmm...how can I say this without bruising anyone's ego...
...ahhh...it's rather "unusual"... :D
...but hey, maybe my way of songwriting all these years has been the odd way.

I would still like to hear the OP explain and answers some of my questions before any more assumptions are made.
 

andrushkiwt

New member
i do it all the time. i wouldn't hang a line on "seems", that vowel is tough and straining. I'd go for something easier on the throat. trust me, this is done all the time. When you think about it, it seems ridiculous. In reality, you don't notice it. ;)
 

Robus

New member
This is an important issue that I think about all the time in my songwriting. There's a huge difference in vowel sounds when it comes to ease of singing, especially long, held notes. A long, hard "a" sound as in "Laaaaaaayla..." or "I'm saaaaaaaailing awaaaaaay" has a different timbre, a different mood than a soft "o" as in "smooooooth operator" or a hard "i" as in "doctor my eyyyyyyes ." And they work better in different registers of your vocal range.

It's a vast subject. I'd love to learn more. It's something I'm thinking about as I am writing lyrics and melody, asking myself: do I really want to try to sing that long "ooooh" sound near the top of my vocal range, when a word with an "aaaah" or an "iiiii" sound would be so much easier to pull off (try it, it really is).
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
i do it all the time. i wouldn't hang a line on "seems", that vowel is tough and straining. I'd go for something easier on the throat. trust me, this is done all the time. When you think about it, it seems ridiculous. In reality, you don't notice it. ;)

Why do you keep "explaining" it to me as if you think I don't know what he's referring to...? :confused:
I knew exactly what he was talking about in his OP....how there are different ways to sing/say certain vowels.

What I'm saying is....how often do you write a song based on which vowels and how you will use them specifically in the bridge....? :)

If the only word that fits in your lyrics with your groove is the word "seems"...you just learn to deal with it.
Are you saying you will write something different every time...just to avoid certain words and having to sing them...?
 

andrushkiwt

New member
Why do you keep "explaining" it to me as if you think I don't know what he's referring to...? :confused:
I knew exactly what he was talking about in his OP....how there are different ways to sing/say certain vowels.

What I'm saying is....how often do you write a song based on which vowels and how you will use them specifically in the bridge....? :)

If the only word that fits in your lyrics with your groove is the word "seems"...you just learn to deal with it.
Are you saying you will write something different every time...just to avoid certain words and having to sing them...?

I will avoid certain words, yes. That's determined by the note/freq, sustain, and general "vibe".
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
Also...he's asking should certain vowels "not be used on higher notes"...do you do that too?

I agreed earlier that if the song allows it during composition, you can dodge a word and go with something different...but the OP is asking about doing this in a more regular, learned manner...like a stylistic thing....and I don't know how often that is done.
I mean...do you ALWAYS want to use (or avoid) certain words/vowels in longer high notes...?

So then...are you always writing for your vocal limitations...or are you writing for the song. and then working your voice around the song?
Like I said...maybe I'm doing it wrong...but I'm a songwriter, and while I do write in keys that are comfortable, and I might avoid a particular word here and there if it doesn't sound right....I've never written songs with that in mind as some learned approach.

I see Robus posted...
OK...not trying to be harsh...but by his own admission, his vocals need work...yet, I don't notice that he's ever written anything to try and favor his vocal limitations...he writes for the song.

Anyway...I think we've covered the topic enough...I don't want to get accused of not "letting it go" like in your MP3 thread...so unless there's some new angle to this discussion, or unless the OP responds to my questions...I'll step out for now, but feel free to post away. :)
 

andrushkiwt

New member
Also...he's asking should certain vowels "not be used on higher notes"...do you do that too?

I agreed earlier that if the song allows it during composition, you can dodge a word and go with something different...but the OP is asking about doing this in a more regular, learned manner...like a stylistic thing....and I don't know how often that is done.
I mean...do you ALWAYS want to use (or avoid) certain words/vowels in longer high notes...?

So then...are you always writing for your vocal limitations...or are you writing for the song. and then working your voice around the song?
Like I said...maybe I'm doing it wrong...but I'm a songwriter, and while I do write in keys that are comfortable, and I might avoid a particular word here and there if it doesn't sound right....I've never written songs with that in mind as some learned approach.

I see Robus posted...
OK...not trying to be harsh...but by his own admission, his vocals need work...yet, I don't notice that he's ever written anything to try and favor his vocal limitations...he writes for the song.

Anyway...I think we've covered the topic enough...I don't want to get accused of not "letting it go" like in your MP3 thread...so unless there's some new angle to this discussion, or unless the OP responds to my questions...I'll step out for now, but feel free to post away. :)

lol, we're good. nothing but friendly chatter here. He'll have lots to sort through when he gets back around to it (OP).

But I wouldn't say "for my own vocal limitations" - I would say, for people's physiologic limitations, in general. It's about the anatomy of the throat and that some vowels are simply tougher to sing in certain situations. That's why I added the picture in my first post for him - you can see which vowels are made by the back of the throat and are more closed off, while the front ones are front and open vowels. Those are the ones easier for people to sing, in general. So yes, I avoid those back-of-the-throat vowels sometimes. Depends on the song, frequency of that note or whatever, and the inflection of the word too.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
I never had a problem with chatter...friendly or otherwise...but there's way too many people on edge about the type and amount of chatter that occurs on HR lately...know what I mean. :)

Anyway...I'll just again agree that we all "adjust" at times when we sing
Heck, when my sinuses are swollen, I can get a nasty nasal buzz on certain notes/vowels/words depending on how open/closed I sing...so I try to adjust for it *when I can*, but I've never thought about writing songs around that. It's more of a reactive singing approach...not a default vowel substitution process or deliberate writing.

That's all I'm saying...and I think, really...we've covered it all at this point.
Let's see if the OP ever returns.
 
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Robus

New member
I see Robus posted...OK...not trying to be harsh...but by his own admission, his vocals need work...yet, I don't notice that he's ever written anything to try and favor his vocal limitations...he writes for the song.

Totally fair.
 

andrushkiwt

New member
Heck, when my sinuses are swollen, I can get a nasty nasal buzz on certain notes/vowels/words depending on how open/closed I sing...so I try to adjust for it *when I can*, but I've never thought about writing sounds around that. It's more of a reactive singing approach...not a default vowel substitution process or deliberate writing.

Last one from me...yeah I get that nasally buzz too sometimes. I hate that. It actually almost hurts sometimes, like it vibrates in my nasal passages and is very uncomfortable. It usually goes away after warming up for a bit more. I wouldn't write around that, that's just when I'm not ready to sing that it happens. The other topic is more of a constant thing in the throat, not the nasal passages.

ok. done. :D
 
No real debate here, guys.

I am a baritone and want to write my own songs but am struggling to understand how to make use of vowels in my bridge.

People choose their lyrics or phrasing with vocal comfort in mind often enough.
This guy wants to write songs and wants to learn more about how to do that. That's what I take, anyway.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
This guy wants to write songs and wants to learn more about how to do that. That's what I take, anyway.

Yeah...for sure... the debate was more over his comment about that confounded bridge.... :D

I'm sure everyone who is a seasoned singer has some "trick" that they will employ when dealing with a tricky phrase or a difficult sequence of notes. I personally never reduced it down to "use of vowels in the bridge", or have ever seen that considered during the actual writing of songs...but like anything, I guess if you really drill deep into any music process, you have the guys who will approach things as "just play", and then you have the ones who have to micro-analyze everything and get each little step just right, in order to get the most out of a music process.

So...no right/wrong implied...just curious what exactly the OP was/is stuck on WRT the correct/best use of vowels in the bridge?

Maybe he'll post back soon...if he ever finds that confounded bridge.
Has anyone seen the bridge? ;)

[EDIT]

For anyone born after the mid-1980s who is confused by the bridge comment...that's a Led Zeppelin reference. :p

.
 
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