This is one of my favorite things to think about. It’s also one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned that has transformed the way I do my vocal training.
When we want to learn how to sing high notes, we are sometimes told to start vocalizing very, very high in our range with our mouths open. It seems to make sense, since this is how we do other vocal exercises and also how we sing.
However, I’ve found that the best way to develop the ability to sing high notes is to spend weeks and even months vocalizing in the high range with the mouth closed. Here at Vocal Nebula we call these CMV’s, or Closed-Mouth Vowel vocal exercises. Sometimes we call them “nasals”. Humming is an example of a CMV.
Training the high end of our voice with our mouth closed allows us to get there easier and more safely. We remove from the sound making process the most problematic parts of our instrument,—the tongue, lips and jaw. When the tongue can stay motionless, the false vocal folds and larynx are also less reactive. This allows us to strengthen the true vocal folds in isolation. It also allows us to focus our attention on the arrival of inhibitory reactions so that we can use our training to relax muscle tension and more easily navigate through the passage that takes us into our “head voice”.
So, the CMV is the the tip of a drill bit that starts the drilling process. Our next exercise, the SOV, or Semi-Occluded Vowel, takes you one step further, like the next thickest part of the drill bit. These exercises are sometimes called “fricatives”.
It is only after we are very comfortable reaching those high notes with CMV’s and SOV’s that we are able to ease are way into the OMV’s, or Open-Mouth Vowels, in that higher range of our voice.