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Vertical jaw opening

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six20aus
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I have never seen a definitive answer to this question - and I wonder if there is one -

When I watch some people sing they open their mouth very wide vertically. Others barely open it at all for similar pitches/similar sounds.

I understand spreading the lips wide horizontally makes a smaller acoustic space and smaller vocal tract and this would seem the reverse of dropping the lower jaw.

What I would like to know is

- Is it a personal preference/habit or is it necessary for certain sounds/pitches?

- Why and when the jaw must be lowered vertically?

- Is there a limit beyond which it should not be lowered?

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The reason for dropping the jaw is a mechanical one. It aligns the throat muscles in a way that promotes twang configuration. Those who don't drop their jaw may still be twanging but they have such control over their muscles that they don't need the jaw drop to accomplish it. Many a singer drops the jaw because it works. For example, Axl Rose. The grimace looks strenuous and "mean" but is really a dropped jaw.

The limit to dropped jaw is that you don't want to drop so low (and you will know it when you do it) that it depresses the tongue on to the pharynx, choking off the sound.

The dropped jaw creates a twang configuration that is excellent for supporting high notes.

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I have never seen a definitive answer to this question - and I wonder if there is one -

When I watch some people sing they open their mouth very wide vertically. Others barely open it at all for similar pitches/similar sounds.

I understand spreading the lips wide horizontally makes a smaller acoustic space and smaller vocal tract and this would seem the reverse of dropping the lower jaw.

What I would like to know is

- Is it a personal preference/habit or is it necessary for certain sounds/pitches?

- Why and when the jaw must be lowered vertically?

- Is there a limit beyond which it should not be lowered?

siz20aus: What people do depends on the sounds they prefer to make, how they have chosen to position their own vocal organs to make those sounds.

Acoustically, the lip, tongue, palate, larynx, pharynx and jaw positions can all be changed, and these changes affect the frequency positions of the vowel and other formants. Dropping the jaw raises the frequency of the lower vowel formant, F1, with little effect on the freqency of the 2nd vowel formant, F2. This provides the singer a method to adjust the resonances to suit the sound they want to make on a particular note and vowel combination.

With this in mind, here are some answers to the specific questions you ask:

- Its a personal preference based on how the individual wants to sound. However, in the high range, the voice will not be resonant if the jaw is not dropped. To sing with powerful vowel resonance in that range, the singer must let the jaw drop to the appropriate level.

- The why is about resonance. The when is about the particular harmonics that the singer would like to be most resonant... how they want to sound for the genre they sing.

- the jaw should not be lowered beyond the comfort or mobility needs of the singer. Overly dropped, rigid lower jaw positioning is restricting. An overly-dropped jaw may also be lower than the singer needs to achieve their desired sound. The 'right' amount is best determined experimentally with a teacher who has good ears for tone quality.

I hope this helps.

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siz20aus: What people do depends on the sounds they prefer to make, how they have chosen to position their own vocal organs to make those sounds.

Acoustically, the lip, tongue, palate, larynx, pharynx and jaw positions can all be changed, and these changes affect the frequency positions of the vowel and other formants. Dropping the jaw raises the frequency of the lower vowel formant, F1, with little effect on the freqency of the 2nd vowel formant, F2. This provides the singer a method to adjust the resonances to suit the sound they want to make on a particular note and vowel combination.

With this in mind, here are some answers to the specific questions you ask:

- Its a personal preference based on how the individual wants to sound. However, in the high range, the voice will not be resonant if the jaw is not dropped. To sing with powerful vowel resonance in that range, the singer must let the jaw drop to the appropriate level.

- The why is about resonance. The when is about the particular harmonics that the singer would like to be most resonant... how they want to sound for the genre they sing.

- the jaw should not be lowered beyond the comfort or mobility needs of the singer. Overly dropped, rigid lower jaw positioning is restricting. An overly-dropped jaw may also be lower than the singer needs to achieve their desired sound. The 'right' amount is best determined experimentally with a teacher who has good ears for tone quality.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for a good post Steven, I must ask you about the part I highlighted though. Isn't it better to let the students themselves record when they experiment and decide what sound they want than to just hand over the artistic expression to a teacher? It's one thing to teach a student to sing healthy, but the tone should IMO be decided by the student.

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Thanks for a good post Steven, I must ask you about the part I highlighted though. Isn't it better to let the students themselves record when they experiment and decide what sound they want than to just hand over the artistic expression to a teacher? It's one thing to teach a student to sing healthy, but the tone should IMO be decided by the student.

Snorth: The difference in jaw positioning I am describing is fairly subtle. The process of recording/playing back is not real-time enough in my opinion, so it will be challenging for the singer to know exactly what position produced the sound they admired when they heard it. The teacher, with a simple gesture, can indicate to the singer, while the tone is being produced, that it is the one that suits the situation.

At a basic level, you have called into question the value of anyone who acts in the role of 'vocal coach' or voice teacher who makes genre-specific stylistic recommendations for tone quality, phrasing, dynamics or other musical elements to a singer as feedback. Personally, I have found great value in these sorts of relationships, and for the genres I sing, a second pair of ears is a great thing to have present.

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Six,

I certainly agree. Keeping larynx and tongue high is (typically) necessary for heavy/distinct twang, where dropping the jaw(too much) is likely to lower the larynx and tongue. It takes very little jaw opening to twang your ass off(although you may wish to color the sound any which way depending on genre/taste.)

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