Improving Singing Tone by Relaxing the Tongue
To create great tone, your tongue needs to be just as released as the rest of your body while you sing. The tongue is a huge muscle, and if it’s tense or bunched up in the back, it blocks the tone or squeezes the tone, making it sound tight.
Your tongue should just lie like a rug — relatively flat — in your mouth except when you’re making consonant and vowel sounds that require you to arch your tongue.
Isolating the movement of the tongue and jaw is important because you don’t have to press your tongue down to move your jaw or move your jaw when your tongue moves. The tongue and jaw are members of the same team, but they don’t have to play at the same time. You can do the following to make sure that your tongue is released and working on its own:
Without moving your jaw, say “Yuk.”
Saying the y allows you to move the back of your tongue.
Again, without moving your jaw, say “Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya.”
Did you notice how your tongue was bouncing?
Bounce your tongue again and then let it rest in your mouth.
Notice what the tongue feels like when it’s resting in your mouth. It’s not tense or pushing up or down. It’s just lying in your mouth.
Bounce your jaw and say “Ya-ya.”
Say “Ya-ya” several times, and let your jaw bounce or move up and down as you say it. Notice how it rests in place after you say the syllables. You want your jaw, like your tongue, to hang loose, ready to move at any moment — but not tense.
Use the musical pattern in the following illustration to practice the following exercise (don’t forget to step into your alignment and breathe):
Sing “Yah” on each note to feel the movement of your tongue.
For now, don’t move your jaw. Just use your tongue to sing the “Yah.”
After you explore that sensation, sing the pattern again, but sing an “ah” with your tongue resting in your mouth.
Notice how released your tongue can be when you sing the ah vowel.
Sing the pattern again. This time, bounce your jaw and sing “Yah-yah.”
Allow the jaw to move as you sing. You’ll still be able to sing.
Sing the pattern again, using the ah vowel, and let your jaw be still.
Notice that the jaw is hanging loosely and is open.
In the musical example in the illustration above, notice how the syllables are divided underneath the note. The yah-yah is written underneath every note, but the ah has a line moving off to the right. That line indicates that you sing “ah” and hold it out for the length of the pattern.
You don’t have to re-sing the ah vowel for each note. Get out some music to see how the syllables are divided for some familiar words. Understanding this process helps you master a new song because you can guess which note and which syllable belong together.