Free Your Neck, Jaw and Tongue to Strengthen Your Voice

Author : RyanFeest
Publish Date : 2021-03-15


Free Your Neck, Jaw and Tongue to Strengthen Your Voice

Which muscles do you use when you sing?

If you answered, "vocal cords," you're partially right. The vocal cords are muscular bands that rapidly adduct to create a buzzing sound, the basis of speech and singing. Sometimes vibrating thousands of times per second, they're certainly the superstars of the vocal instrument. However, how you use your neck, jaw and tongue muscles will also dramatically affect the quality of your singing voice. Since these peripheral muscles are still so closely tied to your singing, I refer to them collectively as the "outer muscles." Of course, your shoulders, as well as every other muscle involved in your overall posture, are also key to how you sing. For starters, though, let's focus on your neck, jaw, and tongue.

Vocalists who have never worked on "refining" their outer muscles typically carry a lot of muscular tension in these three muscle groups. Unfortunately, the habitual tensing of the neck, jaw and tongue can massively interfere with how you sing. Imagine you were a violin player and you constantly had your finger muscles tensed taut. You'd be completely unable to play, as a masterful technique requires the skillful and differentiated tensing and relaxing of all the related muscles.

I refer to this process of mastery as learning "coordinated movement patterns." Just by practicing small, controlled movements and then gradually increasing their complexity, you can regain and expand your freedom in using these outer muscle groups. For example, to "release" your jaw muscles, use your hand to gently open and close the jaw, always within a range that feels easy and comfortable. Combine the gentle opening and closing movement with diaphragmatic breathing, expanding your belly each time you inhale. Finally, add in the sound, "aye," repeating it as you continue to move your jaw with your hands. Make sure that you're letting your jaw relax completely, with your hands performing the movement independently.

Just by keeping the movements gentle and light, with your hand moving your jaw, you can teach your jaw muscles to let go of excess tension. Try singing a phrase from a song you're working on, both before and after the jaw release exercise. Note the difference in your fluidity, control and dynamics.

You can expand the free sensation to your tongue, as well, another muscle that too often retains habitual tensions and interferes with a free and powerful voice. Get in front of a mirror and say "aye, aye, aye" again, as you did with your jaw. This time, watch the movement of your tongue as you do so. Is it smooth and fluid? Can you initiate the movement with the back of your tongue, instead of the tip? After exploring and smoothing the tongue's motion for a few minutes, resume your usual practice. Listen for any differences, even after just a couple minutes of tongue practice!

Freeing up your outer muscles has far-reaching effects on your singing. It's common for the blend between head and chest voice to become smoother once a singer has relaxed the jaw, neck, and tongue muscles. You may find it easier to use your vocal cords gently, without straining them as easily. Plus, like many of my students, you may find that a freer jaw leads to more frequent smiling and laughter, sometimes with the side effects lasting long after the practice session is over.

Learning to free up your jaw with the "aye" technique can go a long way toward more effortless singing. However, it's a good idea to combine this first step with similar strategies for the neck and tongue as well as the other four "systems."

Which muscles do you use when you sing?

If you answered, "vocal cords," you're partially right. The vocal cords are muscular bands that rapidly adduct to create a buzzing sound, the basis of speech and singing. Sometimes vibrating thousands of times per second, they're certainly the superstars of the vocal instrument. However, how you use your neck, jaw and tongue muscles will also dramatically affect the quality of your singing voice. Since these peripheral muscles are still so closely tied to your singing, I refer to them collectively as the "outer muscles." Of course, your shoulders, as well as every other muscle involved in your overall posture, are also key to how you sing. For starters, though, let's focus on your neck, jaw, and tongue.

Vocalists who have never worked on "refining" their outer muscles typically carry a lot of muscular tension in these three muscle groups. Unfortunately, the habitual tensing of the neck, jaw and tongue can massively interfere with how you sing. Imagine you were a violin player and you constantly had your finger muscles tensed taut. You'd be completely unable to play, as a masterful technique requires the skillful and differentiated tensing and relaxing of all the related muscles.

I refer to this process of mastery as learning "coordinated movement patterns." Just by practicing small, controlled movements and then gradually increasing their complexity, you can regain and expand your freedom in using these outer muscle groups. For example, to "release" your jaw muscles, use your hand to gently open and close the jaw, always within a range that feels easy and comfortable. Combine the gentle opening and closing movement with diaphragmatic breathing, expanding your belly each time you inhale. Finally, add in the sound, "aye," repeating it as you continue to move your jaw with your hands. Make sure that you're letting your jaw relax completely, with your hands performing the movement independently.

Just by keeping the movements gentle and light, with your hand moving your jaw, you can teach your jaw muscles to let go of excess tension. Try singing a phrase from a song you're working on, both before and after the jaw release exercise. Note the difference in your fluidity, control and dynamics.

You can expand the free sensation to your tongue, as well, another muscle that too often retains habitual tensions and interferes with a free and powerful voice. Get in front of a mirror and say "aye, aye, aye" again, as you did with your jaw. This time, watch the movement of your tongue as you do so. Is it smooth and fluid? Can you initiate the movement with the back of your tongue, instead of the tip? After exploring and smoothing the tongue's motion for a few minutes, resume your usual practice. Listen for any differences, even after just a couple minutes of tongue practice!

Freeing up your outer muscles has far-reaching effects on your singing. It's common for the blend between head and chest voice to become smoother once a singer has relaxed the jaw, neck, and tongue muscles. You may find it easier to use your vocal cords gently, without straining them as easily. Plus, like many of my students, you may find that a freer jaw leads to more frequent smiling and laughter, sometimes with the side effects lasting long after the practice session is over.

Learning to free up your jaw with the "aye" technique can go a long way toward more effortless singing. However, it's a good idea to combine this first step with similar strategies for the neck and tongue as well as the other four "systems."

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https://canvas.umn.edu/eportfolios/6521/Home/Oracle_1Z0106120_Exam_PDF
https://canvas.umn.edu/eportfolios/6521/Home/Oracle_1Z0106220_Exam_PDF



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