Resonance: The Jaw (Part 2)

Relaxing Jaw Tension

If you do, or have, experienced tension in your jaw, you’re not alone. This is common to singer and non-singers alike. Whether or not you’re a singer, you may grind your teeth when you sleep, which creates tension in your jaw, and even excessive gum chewing can do the same. Also, many people clench their jaw without realizing it.

Also, hanging the jaw, having it inordinately lowered while singing can also create tension. The jaw doesn’t make a ton of movements during speech, so it shouldn’t have a ton of movement while singing. One good way to get an idea how much the jaw should or shouldn’t move, or be lowered, is to take your hand and put it just below your jaw, and say a few sentences. Notice how little the jaw moves around. The same, for the most part, should be true when you sing. While the higher the pitch, the more the jaw should lower, it should never be in a hung jaw (idiot jaw) position.

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Well, no matter what the reason you may have tension, it’s essential to relax the jaw. Tension in the jaw is the enemy of free singing and can diminish good tone and resonance. Here is a good sequence to relieve that tension.

  1. Gently mimic chewing in a circular motion, with your lips apart, for thirty seconds.
  2. Continue the chewing movement but more side-to-side and with the lips closed.
  3. Add a hum to the previous step.
  4. Then sing a short phrase a few times, while continuing the chewing, side-to-side motion.
  5. Then sing the same phrase without chewing, making sure the jaw is loose.
  6. Sing a longer phrase while chewing.
  7. Sing the same longer phrase without the chewing motion.
  8. Finally, speak the phrase while looking into a mirror, without chewing, and then sing the phrase, using the same jaw movements.

Different methods are used to relax the jaw, like forcing it down or apart. This method may have some benefit, but what needs to happen is the jaw must return to natural speaking-like postures and movements (because how you speak—the mouth movements—is how you sing). And this isn’t going to happen by stretching the jaw downward.

I hope that’s helpful. If you continue to have an exceptionally tense or sore jaw, especially if it’s most severe when you wake in the morning, you may want to get a mouthpiece made by a dentist.


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