GETTING THE TONGUE ‘OUT OF THE WAY’
To unleash your true potential, you need to get most things out of the way. When I say ‘out of the way’ I mean, get everything in its natural, correct place. We develop bad habits when we force our voice to do things it shouldn’t do, such as bringing the chest voice up too high. Doing this regularly means you’ll be using a high larynx (which can pull the vocal chords apart – causing your voice to have that horrible break). This is just one example of a bad habit. Some singers have a nasally voice, others develop the habit of singing with a breathy tone.
Imagine the chords are your index and middle finger. Now apply press your other hand on top of these fingers. If you press down harder, the two fingers will not take the added weight and will push down, or at least strain. The same thing happens with the chords. The root of the tongue lies just above the vocal folds, so if the tongue is at the back of the throat, it will push the chords down which will push the larynx down, to create tension and block any air coming though. In other words, your tone is blocked and it sounds like you’re singing at the back of the throat.
Put your tongue to the back of your throat by moving it slightly. In this position say “how are you doing?” The words will be muffled and unclear. Now, put the tongue towards the front of your mouth (even hanging out a little) and say “how are you doing?” Notice that it sounds a lot clearer than the first time. This just shows how the tongue’s position can affect your tone and its quality.
Instead, we want to think about relaxing the tongue and bringing it forward to allow for a free flow of air. How do we do this?
Do vocal warm-ups with the tongue hanging out of the mouth. This may look silly, but the idea of this is to teach the tongue to lie at the front of the mouth and through muscle memory this will happen over time. This also works as a great exercise just before singing, as the tongue is already where you want it to be, so you aren’t forcing it to be in a different position. The sillier you feel, the better the exercise!
When pronouncing vowels, try to keep the tongue relaxed and touching just behind the bottom front teeth. Don’t force the tongue to stay there, just keep relaxed and allow the tongue to arch as it naturally does. Practice singing “ae, ee, ie, oe, oo” on a scale, while keeping the tip of the tongue touching the teeth. This will prevent the tongue curling up too much and touching the roof of the mouth, which can block the throat.
Being aware of the tongue will help you to control it and prevent it lying at the back of the throat. It takes time to get out of this habit, but once you learn, you will have no limits!