Resonance: The Tongue (Part 1)

Tongue Anatomy and Position

I was always taught that taming in the tongue is one the most difficult things to do in life, and that this is important because the words that come out of your mouth can radically effect the direction of your life and the health of your relationships. Many animals can be tamed, but the tongue is the hardest among the beasts to tame.

The same is true when it comes to singing. The tongue must be tamed and is often out of control, not staying in the positions it needs to in order to have a great resonant tone.

The tongue, being the principle muscle for making vocal tract changes, is connected to the larynx and the hyoid bone and resides in the mouth and part of the larynx. The base of the tongue is attached to the hyoid bone and then the larynx is actually suspended by tissue membrane. The tongue is an odd and unique muscle bundle. It’s the only muscle that is attached at one end and free to move around at the other.

Since there must be freedom in the vocal tract, the tongue’s position and lack of tension in vital in order to have proper resonance. An out of place tongue that lacks freedom will upset the entire vocal tract and negatively effect both timbre and enunciation.

So there is a little bit about where the tongue is, what it’s connected to and how important it is that the tongue remains in its proper position. Now let’s talk about what the proper position is.

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For the most part the tip and top part of the tongue, its apex, belongs up against the lower front teeth. This is true for at least 70 percent of the time you are singing, for all vowels and a good majority of both voiced and unvoiced consonants. There are a handful of consonants that require that the tongue move directly behind the upper front teeth, and a few other voiced and unvoiced consonants require that the tongue use other postures. But, again, for the most part, the apex of the tongue should live flat behind the bottom front teeth.

When the tongue doesn’t stay where it needs to be, the entire tongue tenses up. I’ll talk a little bit about some of the common unnatural positions of the tongue as well as tongue tension and how to begin to get rid of this tension that will upset the vocal tract and inhibit good singing.

I hope some of this is helpful!


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