Resonance: The Tongue (Intro)

Resonance and the Tongue

Resonance refers to a quality of sound, a sound that reverberates and is deep and full, the kind of sound that all singers would love to have not only in the lower register but the higher as well. Aside from a blended voice, a resonant voice is the primary key for the serious singer. Okay, that’s all well and good, but how do you get it?

The bad news is that there isn’t one particular way or method to get resonance. It is a byproduct of all that we have talked about so far. It comes from a good breath management system, a good onset and proper vowel shaping. The good news is that is all possible to accomplish, and with the right posture, chest high, shoulders down and relaxed, most of the other components fall into place naturally. And they fall into place much easier when regularly doing the exercises that we’ve talked about.

One of the greatest enemies of resonance is the tongue. But, for this reason, when tamed, it can be the greatest ally of resonance, since the tongue is the primary deciding factor of changes, good or bad, in the vocal tract (singing system from abdomen to mouth). This is to say that if you can tame the tongue, you are very far down the road of beautiful singing.

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Much of the resonance takes place in the pharynx, which leads up to the nasal cavity and down the larynx to the other resonators where the sound vibrates. The tongue has the ability to block that airway and kill the resonance or stay out of the way and allow for full resonant potential. When the tongue pulls back, which is often the case for many while singing, it pushes on the epiglottis, which pushes down on the pharynx, closing off the airway passage.

When the tongue pulls back, it has a tendency to pull back the arches of the soft palate. Notice in the diagram where it labels the palate. The hard palate is toward the front and the soft palate toward the back. You can feel it with your tongue. The roof of your mouth is hard, but when you follow it back it get soft. That’s the soft palate. When the soft palate gets pulled back, it can also block the airway of the pharynx.

All of this can be avoided if the tip of the tongue stays where it ought to be, which is resting behind the lower front teeth.


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