use of vowels when writing songs

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
I don't know how many people write songs based on which vowels to choose and how to use them in a bridge....???

I think there would be hardly anyone writing a song based on which vowels to use in a bridge. There's no suggestion that the OP is seeking out particular vowels for musical reasons without considering their lyrical context.

Personally, in the process of writing songs, I've had a number of equally acceptable lyrical choices for a line. I've made the choice based on what I believe is the most musical. So I may be making the choice based on vowels, but that choice doesn't negate the lyrical content.


Not saying it's out of the question and/or not possible...just a rather strange way to write songs.

No, it's not out of the question, and yes, it is strange. But there are plenty of examples where this has been done: "Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang" from "Witch Doctor" is a good example.

Most Rock/Pop songs start with a groove and some basic idea of the story, the lyric...

Yep


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.

I don't agree with this. I think this is a self-limiting assumption. I agree that you can sometimes 'write yourself into a corner'. This happens when you write a marvelous line, then struggle to find something to rhyme with it. If you persist with the original line, you get nowhere. So you have to change the first line and re-craft the thought differently. The 'finite selection' is imaginary, and choices are limited only by your imagination.

Of course, it it's mindless lyrics and sophomoric rhyme...then guess any choice is possible just to make it work.

It's usually the sophomoric and mindless lyrics that reveal lack of musical and linguistic knowledge. It is the writing of people who write without skill or art, just to make things work.

Gifted songwriters know how to use vowels to support the musical context, and they have the vocabulary to access words that do this and support the lyrical content.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
Gifted songwriters know how to use vowels to support the musical context, and they have the vocabulary to access words that do this and support the lyrical content.

True as that may be...I think we've gone way off from the original question i was asking:
Why is the use of specific vowels in the bridge of that much scrutiny/concern or problem to the OP?

I think I've agreed to all you say...and writers will make adjustments to word selection IF they also are strictly writing for their own voice....which is a little different than writing for the sake of the song.
Like I said...you can write with only your voice in mind, which may/will certainly lead to a different result than if you just write for the song.

Anyway....my writing my be the oddity, but this vowel/bridge thing has never really come up in all the years I've been writing...even if I'm considering how the song will best fit my voice.
Not saying word substitution to serve a specific vocal limitation never comes up...but I dunno...I've just never viewed songwriting from that perspective as a main concern. :)

YMMV.....

So I guess the OP will never return to answer my questions so we can all know for sure what exactly he's after and what he means by the vowels/bridge thing...and we're left to continue our speculation. :D
 

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
...and writers will make adjustments to word selection IF they also are strictly writing for their own voice....which is a little different than writing for the sake of the song.

We are left to speculate unless the OP comes back to clarify. But I will continue to speculate.

I don't think the OP was writing for his own voice, though he may have used his own voice as an example. I think it was more a case of wondering whether particular vowels are more suited than others to some musical applications. The OP, with this information in hand, would continue to write for the 'sake of the song', but, as a rather dodgy example, may choose to use 'appears' instead of 'seems'. I have no idea whether either word is easier to sing than the other, but one could be. Both, though, are reasonable synonyms. The point is that the writer has a choice of words when crafting a song, and part of making that choice is having an understanding of how the word is sounds when it is sung.
 

andrushkiwt

New member
bridge -

"the place in your voice where the sound waves vibrating in your chest on the lower notes begin to move upward into your head as the pitch ascends, and also comes back down again as the pitch descends. Sometimes it’s called a passage or passaggio."

- the internet
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
We are left to speculate unless the OP comes back to clarify. But I will continue to speculate.

I don't think the OP was writing for his own voice, though he may have used his own voice as an example. I think it was more a case of wondering whether particular vowels are more suited than others to some musical applications. The OP, with this information in hand, would continue to write for the 'sake of the song', but, as a rather dodgy example, may choose to use 'appears' instead of 'seems'. I have no idea whether either word is easier to sing than the other, but one could be. Both, though, are reasonable synonyms. The point is that the writer has a choice of words when crafting a song, and part of making that choice is having an understanding of how the word is sounds when it is sung.

OK...I guess we can continue to speculate. :)

So your example above underscores what I was getting at earlier.
Regardless who the songs are written for...it's not that easy to write based on advance vowel selection, as is being made out.

Yes, at times you can choose a word that is easier to sing for a given note or set of notes...but in your example, "appears", while maybe easier to sing on long, high notes than "seems"...it's not a straight substitute. One has two syllables the other has a single, so you might have to change the lyric's rhythmic pattern to substitute, and that may not work....not to mention, the meanings of the words each have their own "shade".

Sometimes when searching for a particular word that fits into the intent/meaning/rhythm of the lyrics, I'll see dozens and dozens of words that are 1.) synonyms and/or 2.) that have the same sound to fit the rhyme...but most just don't work within the intent/meaning/rhythm of the overall lyric.
I mean, it's not a parts-is-parts, easy kind of thing...to just substitute the "a" sound with "ahhhhhh"...etc.

Not saying you can't begin to write a song from the "vowels in bridge" perspective (as the OP is asking about in his opening sentence), and then use that as the foundation for the rest of the song...it's just IMHO, a pretty odd way to write songs.
 

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
Regardless who the songs are written for...it's not that easy to write based on advance vowel selection, as is being made out.

I don't recall anyone saying it was easy. In fact, I think it is far from easy.

Yes, at times you can choose a word that is easier to sing for a given note or set of notes...but in your example, "appears", while maybe easier to sing on long, high notes than "seems"...it's not a straight substitute. One has two syllables the other has a single, so you might have to change the lyric's rhythmic pattern to substitute, and that may not work....not to mention, the meanings of the words each have their own "shade".

Sometimes when searching for a particular word that fits into the intent/meaning/rhythm of the lyrics, I'll see dozens and dozens of words that are 1.) synonyms and/or 2.) that have the same sound to fit the rhyme...but most just don't work within the intent/meaning/rhythm of the overall lyric.
I mean, it's not a parts-is-parts, easy kind of thing...to just substitute the "a" sound with "ahhhhhh"...etc.

I agree with all that.

Some people will take the very easy road . . . they write whatever pops into their hand, then say, "there, that's done." They may, as a result, have written a gem. Maybe they are a creative genius. But most likely, it will be obvious
that it has been given little examination. The words will be full of cliches, stock phrases, forced rhymes and so on.

Some people will pay more attention to what they write . . . they will try to be precise about the language they use, they will try to think of new and inventive ways of saying things, they will look for rhymes that sound natural and not contrived, and so on. But this takes a lot more effort.

And then some people will do all the above, but add another level of complexity, i.e. thinking about originality, avoiding the banal, but now also thinking about how the words sound in a musical context. That requires more effort still. I think that's good. A lot of people think lyrics don't matter. I think they do, and I appreciate it when it is obvious that they've been thought abut carefully. And the most telling thing about this is that the work involved becomes invisible (i.e. you don't notice the care that;s been taken, because the words flow so well and naturally with the music). What does stand out, for me, is junk lyrics. They draw attention to themselves.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
I don't recall anyone saying it was easy. In fact, I think it is far from easy.

No one specifically said "easy"...but more along the lines that it was done all the time, which makes it seem that it's an easy thing to do....to plan/write things around the vowels...which it isn't.


A lot of people think lyrics don't matter. I think they do, and I appreciate it when it is obvious that they've been thought abut carefully. And the most telling thing about this is that the work involved becomes invisible (i.e. you don't notice the care that;s been taken, because the words flow so well and naturally with the music). What does stand out, for me, is junk lyrics. They draw attention to themselves.

Yeah...it's a lot of work to write a good yet simple lyric that speaks to people. :D
I mean, you can make the lyrics "smart", as long as they speak to the average audience...but when songwriters get too crafty, and try to write beyond that....I don't think those high-brow lyrics are better.
Again...write for the song, and keep the audience in mind too if you want others to hear you music.

I'm not one of those who knows or memorizes all the words to every song I like...but, I DO listen to the lyrics when I listen to a song, and I HATE when they mix the vocal so that only every other word is understandable, and you have to find the written lyrics to know WTF the singer is singing about. :p
I'm amazed when watching bands on TV, and they pan the audience, and you see like EVERYONE singing along to EVERY WORD.
So yeah, a lot of people DO pay attention to the lyrics.

For some songwriters...well maybe for a lot of songwriters....lyrics come hard. If you abandon trying to write meaningful lyrics and just grab anything you can to fit the rhyme or the beat...then IMO, you might as well just do instrumentals, and have the melody played by instruments instead of sung with lyrics.
I also think instrumentals are 10 times easier to record and especially to mix...but the minute you add the vocals, and you want the lyrics articulate and to stand out....it's a lot more work to get everything playing nice...
...but that's another topic altogether. :)
 

armansrsa

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"...?
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.

When you sing in your passaggio or "bridge" you modify vowels. From what I understand, if you sing closed vowels you will start to modify them sooner than the open vowels so this is why I guess the open vowels are saved for higher up. Is this reasoning right?
 

armansrsa

New member
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....???

I think most good singers know this and choose their vowels accordingly. It can't just be a coincidence. Also consonants are very important. for example, using the "m" consonant in a word can bring out a lot of resonance which sounds good whereas a word with "p" might sound bad becuase it is a plosive and you will kill the mic everytime you sing it. I doubt you hear many "p" consonants on big chorus "money notes" in pop for this reason.
 

armansrsa

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. ;)


You are very right... you can modify the ee vowel somewhat and it sounds good but up to a certain point. If you want a long sustained ee vowel best use it lower in your range from what I can see in other pro singers
 

ido1957

9K Gold Member
I personally hate to sing the letter (or word) "I" on the same note for more than a second or so. It sounds like crap.
 

andrushkiwt

New member
can you give an example or two please miroslav?

That was me, not Miro, but no I can't really. As I wrote, it is not anything I've really studied or focused on. When I get up to sing, which is recording time for me since I don't practice my tunes before recording them, if I have trouble reaching certain vowels, I try to sub in another in. That means rewriting the line quickly for another word. Usually an "o" sound or an "I" sound. I've just noticed this is something real within the last year or so. That long e is something I try to avoid "move" is another.

Look at that picture from my first response. It shows where the vowels come from and the ones further back are typically more difficult the higher up you go.
 

armansrsa

New member
I personally hate to sing the letter (or word) "I" on the same note for more than a second or so. It sounds like crap.

well that is a very common word on big notes...just think Whitney houston... and I will always love you. I think that I is what made her career. I is an open vowel but it is actually a dipthong because it is "AH" and "EE" at the same time. If you sing it, you need to sustain the "AH" part then just add the "EE" part at the end
 

armansrsa

New member
That was me, not Miro, but no I can't really. As I wrote, it is not anything I've really studied or focused on. When I get up to sing, which is recording time for me since I don't practice my tunes before recording them, if I have trouble reaching certain vowels, I try to sub in another in. That means rewriting the line quickly for another word. Usually an "o" sound or an "I" sound. I've just noticed this is something real within the last year or so. That long e is something I try to avoid "move" is another.

Look at that picture from my first response. It shows where the vowels come from and the ones further back are typically more difficult the higher up you go.

Yes I did see it thank you. I have actually seen diagrams like these many times. I was hoping to get more educated answers on this thread (no offense to anyone) but it seems all you guys are just guys trying to make music which is awesome but maybe this is not the right forum. Does anybody know a good vocalist forum?
 
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