Change vowel sounds

March 19, 2018, 3:44 PM · How can I change a vowel sound from something like honk to hay?

Replies (22)

March 19, 2018, 4:33 PM · VSO's often honk. Not much one can do about it. Turn them into art?
March 19, 2018, 4:57 PM · OK. It's maybe not a simple answer. Any techniques to produce different vowel tones?
March 19, 2018, 6:15 PM · ? I’m obviously missing something in the translation!
March 19, 2018, 8:06 PM · Yeah, I don't understand this topic.
March 19, 2018, 9:57 PM · Excellent question:

To make a "honk" we must make a "hah" exclamation followed by an "n" sound by touching the tip of the tongue to right behind the front top teeth. The "k" sound comes from clicking the back of the tongue to the roof the mouth.

"Hay" is different. Start with a "huh" utteration and immediately widen the corners of the mouth and finish with an "ee" sound by bringing the tip of the tongue close to the roof of the mouth (but not touching!).

Hope this helps!

Edited: March 19, 2018, 10:11 PM · Well I'm not sure I have the descriptive talent for this. Respected blogs on this site have described various tonal qualities as consonants and vowels. As I understand it, consonants are formed with various bow attacks at the beginning of the note. Softer such as chay, harder such as Kay. Hope I have that right. I'm not sure how the vowel tones are formed.
Edited: March 21, 2018, 9:34 AM · are you on the wrong forum? Try the the singers... 2days later... I ran across the source of this "vowels + consonants" jargon; it's in Galamian's book. I prefer to think of the topic this way; every note has three parts;attack,sustain,and release, and we can control all three. We should tolerate the white noise at the start of a note not following a slur. It doesn't carry very far and what the audience hears is a clean start.
March 20, 2018, 12:21 AM · Know what you mean. Hopefully someone will chip in with some sense. The B on my A string (C a bit too) always has a stronger vowel than any other note. It's like that with every violin and every bow. Must be my ears?
March 20, 2018, 3:30 AM · David, as you well know there is an infinitude of sounds you can make on the violin, all depending on soundpoint, bow speed, and pressure. You just have to experiment with them. Most productive to start is keep two factors the same and vary the other one, in order to get insight in the variety. For example fix a soundpoint and a bow speed and vary the bow pressure to get a whole range from light to full to heavy and even ugly sounds. So you can do this for different fixed soundpoint-bow speed combinations. Talk about an infinitude!
March 20, 2018, 4:36 AM · Thanks Jean. I had some hearing loss a few years back and might not be accurate about tone under my ear. Looking for bit more on the empirical side.
Sorry folks, didn't mean to offend.
Edited: March 20, 2018, 11:23 AM · David, my first post was light-hearted but accurate. The principal "vowel" sound of one's tone comes very much from the instrument itself (plate thicknesses & arching) but also its setup (bridge cutouts, height, thickness etc, soundpost mass, tension & placement), not from the player.

Honking or snarling tones are milder equivalents to the unstable "wolf" tones, where certains zones of the plates vibrate disproportionately. I had an old Maidestone VSO which howled like banshee: I found placing the soundpost directly beneath the right foot of the bridge (rather than behind it) helped a little to tame these exuberant vibrations.

I think we all want an AH sound, with a touch of a ringing EH, and some warm OH on the g-string. Like a fine Italian tenor voice? For a bit of fun, we can place balls of mastic (briefly!) on various parts of the plates to hear what changes.

Bowing nearer the brigde will increase the EH or EE component, but only within the limits of the instrument itself.

March 20, 2018, 12:25 PM · Basically you really need a private teacher; even if it's only one lesson, it would help you tremendously. Write down all your questions before going in.
March 20, 2018, 1:49 PM · David M, you did not offend, you merely baffled. I think I understand more what you are asking now. Erik is right; you need at least one lesson with someone who knows what they're doing.
March 25, 2018, 6:45 AM · Does this make sense? SP 3, same bow speed, lighter bow weight toward ee vowel, heaver bow weight toward onk? Ah somewhere between.
March 25, 2018, 11:33 AM · Adrian - while playing in the Maidstone SO for 20 years I often wondered what a Maidstone violin sounds like and if the entire violin section should be equipped with them? Probably not it seems.

Some years ago I remember we were rehearsing the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the moment when the whole orchestra shouts "Mambo!". According to the conductor it sounded more like "Maidstone".

Edited: March 25, 2018, 11:45 AM · I don't get the vowel sound thing. To me, violin sound is much too complex to even begin to be described in such simple terms.
Edited: March 25, 2018, 2:10 PM · David, I hear you, since I gather you only make rather good(!) violins.
But to my ears, one can compare two violins like two voices: after all, vowels are simply formants or resonant zones in the spectrum. If we whisper words, we hear a series of formants, or combinations thereof, which would normally be the balance of harmonics in the spoken (or sung) tones, and which can correspond to the main lower frequency resonances, say under 5kHz, on a violin. Which are not moveable..
March 25, 2018, 1:02 PM · In singing, the vowel dictates what type of color you give. Obviously a pure [i] vowel will give you a brighter sound than an [u] vowel, but even within those vowels there are different shades and resonances which you can achieve; everything from pop to classical/operatic.

However, singing, like violin playing doesn’t have a table of values you can plug into an equation and get a consistent result at the opposite end. I think when I was first learning I did look for such a table and found it, but immediately realized how foolish I had been. There was no way for me to translate practically that information into actual playing. Even if you could, playing and singing are based off of multiple finely-tuned micro-movements that you adjust constantly based off of your current feedback. Therefore the (x) you plug into f(x) will never truly be the same from moment to moment.

I hope this helps and I didn’t completely misunderstand what the OP was asking. Haha.

March 26, 2018, 7:19 AM · Laurie - Perhaps the next time vowels comes up in an interview, you could ask how they produce the various sounds.
March 26, 2018, 12:57 PM · All- Perhaps do not do very much with the vowel=violin tone analogy. Serious singers study multiple languages, linguistics, diction, and know the international phonetic alphabet. And they will sometimes deliberately alter, modify, vowels to get better clarity or projection. Italian and Spanish have a relatively short list of vowels that are open, simple, straight. French has special problems for non-native singers, with 14 vowel sounds, including 4 different nasal vowels. Most native English speakers are not aware that most of their vowels are mixed or dipthongs. Try singing, sustaining, the short [a] sound in the word [as] and you will be surprised how ugly it is.
March 29, 2018, 12:12 PM · Szigeti apparently used to be quite convinced there were different vowel sounds to be drawn from a violin. Steinhardt supposedly has a hilarious sketch where he sings a fast movement of Prokofiev 1 with the correct vowels, as his teacher designated them.

As for Szigeti, his Debussy Sonata from the 30s has an astonishing range of color. I'd love to know how he got all that.

March 30, 2018, 3:03 AM · Ah, Colour (my side of the pond..)
We can certainly modify the "tint" of our tone with contact point, speed and pressure, within the basic "vowels" of our Strad, del Jesu, Burgess, or VSO.

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