The key here is BE CONSISTENT.

Whatever you choose as your example words, make sure vowels are never spelt with more than one vowel (EE is the same vowel twice, so that’s OK, but AY is not – that’s a diphthong, and yes, Y is a vowel) and choose SHORT vowels whenever possible.

Below is my method of spelling, which works well with Australians and Brits – not sure about our US friends. I like to put an H after the vowel as it reads shorter: “I” could be said as “eye” but “IH” reads like the vowel in “itch”.

Vowel Spelling (reminder word)

  • IH (it)
  • EH (pet)
  • UH (hut)
  • OH (hot)
  • OO (ooze)
  • AH (part) – a classical vowel, not the Aussie crow… almost always comes before an R. Wherever possible, use UH instead – it’s shorter/brighter and less difficult to match!
  • EE (beat)
  • A (at)
  • URGE (urge) – this is a funny one: you might spell it ER or UR, but the whole point is to sing the vowel without introducing the R into it! Obviously, you don’t put the GE on when you sing it in context.

When a matching problem comes up, replace the syllable at issue with the reminder word for a few repetitions, then when you’re used to the sound it should be, try the real word again.

Often we don’t move to the secondary vowel soon enough, doing the old 80:20 target:diphthong. This is fine if you are still taking half of that 80% primary vowel to actually lock the chord. Once you can lock the primary vowel quickly and consistently, aim for a more 50:50 presentation so that the full meaning in the secondary vowel can be appreciated by your audience.

Make sure there is enough contrast between the 2 vowels of a diphthong. In “my” you can feel the distance between the target vowel “AH” and diphthong vowel “EE” – make sure you travel all the way, or you won’t hear it at all. Remember, every sound you make should be forward and above the sound before – everything travels on that energising trajectory!

You will find from time to time something you can’t spell using these rules…. find a reminder word that works for you!

Spelling Vowels
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