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Tongue Position For Singers

Hopefully, you are doing some daily exercises so that you can begin to control and manage your breath -where your breathing will naturally fill your lower cavities. In this way, when you are preparing yourself to sing, you will be able to run through a mental checklist that will ensure that all the 'parts' of your singing system are ready to perform. This type of self-monitoring should be done not only before a 'performance' (not all of us are learning to sing to perform), but also as a part of your warm-up routine when you are simply practicing singing or wanting to try out different melodies.

In this lesson, we are first going to talk about the tongue. We have touched upon the tongue's function and proper placement some lessons back, but we are going to expand upon that here.

Before, we talked about how you can lightly press your tongue against your bottom teeth so that a sort of curve (or hill) is formed in its middle section. The more you press, the more the slope of this curve will increase. This placement of the tongue is useful when you are trying to reach certain lower tones or when you are carefully pronouncing certain letters.

However, for higher tones, you do not want to place your tongue against your teeth. You will want your tongue to be raised high when you are attempting to create higher tones, as this placement will give the larynx its full flexibility and range.

And, remember when we were talking about head voice and resonance? Well, you will also want to monitor your tongue placement when attempting to use your 'head voice'. The tongue will also need to be raised as high as possible, giving your larynx its full range. But, there is a difference when trying to create higher tones and attempting to use your head voice.

Difference in Tongue Placement for Head Voice and Higher Tones:

Singing in higher tones and singing with your head voice requires your tongue to be raised. However, when you are attempting to reach higher tones, you want to make sure that your tongue has a sort of 'furrow' or 'center dip' as you release your voice. This 'furrow' will allow the sound to escape without hindrance and help you control its final formation. Remember that this 'furrow' should not exist when you are attempting to use the head voice. The tongue should be raised high, but should not have 'furrow' or 'center dip' in it at all.

Practicing the Placement of the Tongue:

This all has to be done so that the larynx is given its full, high-tonal range. Now that you have been practicing your breathing, you now have to practice controlling the other factors that control the sound you produce. One of the best and easiest ways to practice the proper placement of your tongue is to use a mirror. Hopefully you can use a mirror that is big enough for you to easily see what your tongue is doing at any given moment. And, the area should be well lit so that you can clearly see inside your mouth cavity to see what your tongue is doing.

Some Tongue Exercises:

This should all be done in a well-lit area and in front of a big mirror.

  1. Open your mouth and move your tongue all about to get it warmed-up.
  2. Press your tongue against your bottom teeth so that a curve is formed in its center. This is what we have already talked about. Notice the harder your press, the more the curve increases. This comes in handy for lower tones.
  3. Now, raise your tongue up and hold it in the center of your mouth. Notice it is a little difficult to suspend it in the center of your mouth cavity for an extended amount of time? That is due to the fact that the tongue is a muscle - one you can control.
  4. Next, as you keep your tongue raised high, raise your head slightly. As you do, attempt to create a 'furrow' or 'center dip' that we have already discussed. This can be quite difficult if you have never done it before. Do your best. You might attempt using a tongue depressor so that you can feel what parts of the tongue muscles should be used to create the 'furrow'. Try to practice this until the skill is mastered (perhaps over a period of weeks).
  5. Now, as you hold the 'furrow', attempt to make a 'yawing sound' and create the sound 'aou' together. This 'yawing sound' with the tongue help properly in its 'furrow' position is the best way to ensure that your mouth cavity and larynx are completely open. This will most likely be its most wide, or open position. Controlling both the sound that is created and maintaining the proper position of the tongue is difficult and should be practiced.
  6. As you try different sounds, watch the movement as you attempt to pronounce different letters (such as L, Z, R, S, & T). Your tongue will have to change its position and your mouth might have to close during certain sounds. But, as soon as the sound is created, your tongue should return to its position. This will take practice and is a skill that is essential for singing higher tonal ranges and notes.

The tongue is secondary to breath control, but is important because you will have to be able to monitor it without looking into a mirror. But, that will only come with time. The more flexible and trained your tongue, the more rigid it will appear. This is due to the fact that you are able to hold it in a certain place, in a certain way, for an extended amount of time. The trained tongue, while looking stiffer, is actually more controlled and flexible. The control of the tongue will also help you later with the expression of the face, the position of the mouth, and the movement of the lips.

All of this 'control' that we have been talking about is essential to being able to create proper tones, pitches, hitting notes on key, and extending your vocal range. We will get to all of this over the next few lessons. You may notice that we are taking our time with the basics. With the fundamental skills necessary, and with knowing how to control the different facets of your vocal elements, you will succeed at developing the skills needed to sing. After these lessons and daily practice, you will find that the proper management of all your singing parts will greatly help you as you learn to sing properly, comfortably, and with confidence.