Problems with holding a pitch, lack of overtones, difficulty sustaining phrases: these are just a few examples of potential tension in a singer. There are so many ways a singer can tense up and obstruct her otherwise beautiful results, but there are also many ways to sing without tension. It’s a natural impulse for the beginner singer to try to control her voice, when in fact, she should learn to get out of her own way. There is no “controlling the voice,” because the actual voice is involuntary. The “control” aspect starts with the breath.
The Jaw is for Eating
I’ve heard voice teachers tell me, “you eat and talk with your mouth, but you don’t sing with it.” Really? I couldn’t believe that at first. Do we not open our mouths to sing? Yes, of course. But try to control your singing with your mouth and, most specifically, your jaw, and you will be committing vocal suicide. I remember one time singing in front of an audience when my nerves kicked in, my breath left me, and I tried to support my voice with my jaw. Suddenly, I felt I was going down in flames. I had no control of my dynamics, and my voice became fluttery and unstable. I was at that moment forced to locate my deep breath support and get away from my mouth, and once I felt my body underneath me, I could sing in a relaxed, legitimate manner. Whew! That was close! It is important to disengage your jaw when you sing. There’s no need to force it open; just let it fall open, as if you’ve just had some Novocaine from the dentist and you can’t feel your mouth. That’s right: pretend it’s numb! Another way to find a relaxed jaw position is to pull your jaw down with thumbs and index fingers, then release it so that it goes back to a natural opening. Look in the mirror. Chances are your mouth is open and relaxed, but not wide open.
Let Your Tongue Go
Allowing your tongue to fall forward, especially as you go up in pitch, is an effective way to release tongue tension. Look in the mirror when you vocalize, and if you see that your tongue is pulling back or looking rigid, you may have some unnecessary tongue tension. This kind of tension can impact your sound and cause discomfort. I can guarantee that it will feel unnatural and weird at first to sing with your jaw dropped and your tongue out, but try it for a while, until your muscles start to understand what you are asking of them, and eventually you can adapt this posture to a more normal, attractive facial expression.
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