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Limbering on ‘h’

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This is a standard precursory exercise for introducing the concept of easy onset.

Identifying vibrations of the vocal cords

You have already introduced the clients to the vowels. If you have not already done so, ask them to place a hand on their voice box and say the sound /ɑ/ (ah) for a few seconds. Help them to identify the fact that their voice box is vibrating and that this signifies that their vocal cords are vibrating. Now, still with a hand on their voice box, have them produce the sound /h/ for a few seconds. Now, help them to identify that the voice box is not vibrating and that this, therefore, signifies that the vocal cords are not vibrating – the sound heard is merely the friction of the air as it passes unimpeded through the mouth (oral cavity).

Now explain to the client that we can exploit this knowledge of their physiology: by simply putting a /h/ sound in front of a vowel sound this causes the vocal cords to come together gently. In other words, the vocal cords begin wide apart (when saying /h/) and that they then come together gently before they fully vibrate (when saying the vowel sound).

Exercise 1 (see below)

Have clients use a proper abdominal technique when breathing in, yawning if necessary. Then, on the out breath, have them produce a relatively long /h:::/ that glides smoothly into the relatively long vowel /u:::/ (oo). Remind the client of the following.

  • This should all be done on one breath.
  • This exercise can be carried out at any comfortable pitch.
  • The sounds should blend into each other (so, for /h:::/ + /u:::/ (oo), this should sound like someone is saying the word “who” in a long, drawn out manner).
  • This is not an exercise about volume and it is not expected that this would be a loud sound.
  • You are not asking them to force the voice but, rather, they should relax and allow the body to produce the sound combination with as little conscious effort on their part as possible.

Exercise 2 (see below)

This is much the same as exercise 1 above except that, this time, the sound combination is repeated. The temptation in this exercise is for clients to snatch a quick breath between the first /h/ + vowel combination and the second. Keep an eye on this and help clients correct this if this is a feature. The same reminders as above apply here, i.e. all on one breath; at any comfortable pitch; blending sounds into each other; relatively low volume, and no straining.

Exercise 3 (see below)

In this exercise clients are expected to produce the vowel sounds in isolation. Remind them that, even though the /h/ sound is no longer present, they should still retain the same ‘vocal set’ (relaxed, open, free throat) as when performing exercises 1 and 2 above.

Each vowel should be produced on a single, separate breath and sustained for a few seconds (perhaps a count of 3).

If any client reverts to a hard attack when producing the vowels in isolation encourage them to again place a relatively short /h/ sound before the vowel and try again. The length of the /h/ sound can then be gradually shortened until they are producing the vowel on its own without any hard attack.


Limbering on ‘h’

vowel wheel with h as initial sound USA

Exercise 1

h-oo     h-oh     h-aw     h-ah     h-ay     h-ee      [x5]

Exercise 2

h-oo-h-oo     h-oh-h-oh     h-aw-h-aw     h-ah-h-ah     h-ay-h-ay     h-ee-h-ee     [x5]

Exercise 3

oo     oh      aw     ah     ay     ee     [x5]


  • When you first start this exercise, take a breath before and after each sound combination.
  • Then, build up so that you speak two sound combinations together, i.e. breathing after a pair.
  • Finally, see if you can speak the sound combinations in a series of three, i.e. you would take a breath at the beginning, then breathe once in the middle (after 3 sound combinations), and then breathe again at the end.
  • There should be NO HARD ATTACK when saying the vowels on their own without the h sound preceding them.

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