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Russian vowel

Are there any native Russian speakers who could help me? I need to know whether the vowel Ы (stressed and unstressed) poses any problems for singers, particularly sopranos. In particular, is it pronounced any differently from when it is spoken, ie, does one still treat it as a monophthong, or is there any hint of "И" at any point? Many thanks.
on March 19, 2014 4:20pm
Hi Katie,
I am a choral conductor who was born and raised in Moscow. When I need to explain singers how to sing Ы, I just say this is like И with the lifted soft palate, and more in the back of your throat. Usually it produces good results. I do not hear a second vowel in there, so this reference is more to help to form the vowel. It is a bit modified I guess if soprano sings it in a high tessitura, gets more relaxed.I hope it helps you a bit, if you want you can sent a particular phrase or word and I could look in details.
on March 19, 2014 6:16pm
Because of the unfamiliarity of the sound, I think that native speakers of English may occasionally (mis)perceive a hint of a diphthong in certain environments, particularly when ы is preceded by a bilabial stop [m p b] or a labiodental fricative [f v].  In actuality, however, it is not a diphthong in any environment, stressed or unstressed, and its treatment in singing should be no different.  (For the philologically minded, the vowel goes back to an Indo-European [*u], and at some point in Slavic prehistory it may actually have been a diphthong, as in fact the written symbol suggests, but it is not a diphthong in any modern Slavic language that retains it.) 
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