When I talk with singers and ask them what they’d most like to improve about their singing, the top 3 answers I get are: more vocal range, more power and less strain while singing. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at one of the key factors that contributes to vocal strain as well as reduced range and resonance – pushing too much air while singing. If you missed that post, I highly recommend that you check it out! More Range, More Power, Less Strain – Part 1
This month we’re going to look at another factor, tongue tension!
Okay, a little anatomy here. Most of us think of the tongue in terms of the part that we see in our mouths. This however is only a portion of the tongue, which actually goes much further down into your throat to where your larynx is located.
To sing freely and easily across your range, your larynx must be permitted to maneuver freely and easily. Any amount of tension in your tongue, particularly in the base of your tongue, will restrict the movement of your larynx, thus contributing to a decrease in vocal range, a reduction in resonance as well as increased vocal strain. This movement of your larynx isn’t something you need to make happen, but rather allow to happen naturally.
This doesn’t mean that your tongue shouldn’t move as you sing, but rather that it should not be pushed, pulled or held in a tense manner.
Try this! Extend your tongue slowly out of your mouth so that it rests on your bottom lip. Using a comfortable volume, sing the vowel sound AH (as in FAHther) on a pitch right around your speaking voice. Sustain this sound for a moment or two. Now put your tongue back in your mouth with the tip gently resting against the back of your bottom teeth and sing the same AH vowel sound, this time on a slightly higher pitch. Repeat these steps 3 or 4 times. It should begin to feel easier as you do this and your voice will likely sound fuller and richer. If not, check to be sure that you aren’t forcing your volume or pressing down with the back of your tongue as you sing the AH sound.
This technique can also be used with a song melody. Sing through a section of the melody on AH with your tongue extended out of your mouth (as above). Again, use a comfortable volume and make sure that the vowel pronunciation remains consistent throughout. Do this 2 or 3 times. Now sing through that same section of the song with the words. You should experience a greater ease in the production of your sound as well as an increase in resonance.
Singing with freedom and ease is a tremendous joy! Releasing tongue tension will go a long way towards helping you achieve that freedom.
Until next time, happy singing!