Resonance: The Tongue (Part 2)

Tension and Common Tongue Problems

In the previous blog I talked about the importance of taming the tongue, which is generally very difficult both when it comes to speaking and singing. We often say things that we wish we could take back and can’t believe we said.

Well, having an uncontrolled tongue while singing can create tension in your tongue, which affects your resonance, enunciation and timbre. Because the larynx is directly effected by whatever position the tongue assumes. The tongue is one of three primary delinquents of tension. The other two are the jaw and the neck, which I touched on in previous blogs.

So let’s talk about some common tongue positioning problems. As I mentioned in the previous post, the ideal position for the tongue us to have the apex (tip) of the tongue rest relaxed up against the lower front teeth. This position makes up of at least 70 percent of the time you will be singing. There are certain vowels where your tongue will move to back of the upper front teeth, too (like /t/ and /l/ for instance). Here are some of the common tongue positions that will cause tension in the tongue and vocal tract and negatively affect singing resonance.

The first is what is referred to as a retroflex tongue and takes place when the tongue is curled upward to the roof of the mouth (the hard palate).

The second is placing the tongue below the lower front teeth, below the gum ridge.

The third is lifting the sides of the tongue up, making contact with the upper molars in an extreme /i/ position.

In the forth, the tongue is either raised or lowered on one side without doing the same with the other side.

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The fifth is grooving the tongue in any fixed position that doesn’t ever change when singing (while, of course, up against the lower front teeth is the general position.).

The sixth is exaggeratingly lowering the base of the tongue in the vowel position associated with the word “soft” and keeping it there for all vowel sounds.

The tongue is a difficult muscle to tame. The best way to get it under control is with a mirror (having a hand mirror on hand is key). Watch what your tongue does while singing. Choose some exercises or even just parts of your favorite song. Good luck!

So, those are a handful of things to avoid doing with your tongue while singing. In the next post I’ll give you some exercises that will help you release tension in your tongue and also help you correct wrong tongue positioning.

I hope this helps out, and thanks for reading. I’ll see you next post!


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