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soft palate drops

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ln9
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Hi all!

I've started taking singing lessons few months ago and still got some issues with my soft palate lifting.

I've learned pretty fast how to raise and drop it consciously and the sensations involved in this area. Now I can lift it easily at rest and pronounce vowels such as AH with a nice and steady tone and a well lifted soft palate.

However ...

When I sing, my palate keeps dropping when I pronounce consonants. Especially 'M' and 'R', these are the worst. In consonants such as 'F' (that involve only the lips) I can usually keep it up. But overall, most of the time it is dropped when I sing :(

Any advice ?

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If your formation gets back to the one you want on the vowels again after the consonants it should work fine, record a clip and put a link here and it will be easier to understand. Try singing first with only vowels, and then with whole words in the area you struggle with.

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Some consonants require a specific position of the soft palate. Ever tried saying " g " as in " good " with a dropped palate ? Same thing goes for " m ", " n " : it requires a dropped soft palate. There's just no getting around this that I'm aware of, unless you want them to turn into b, p and d :)

Basically, let your soft palate do its work for consonants : Its purpose it to shut either the passage to the nose or the mouth (with the help of the tongue) or none. Different consonants require different things shut : some sounds are nasal, and should be allowed to. As Snorth said, as long as you can do what you want with your vowels, everything's fine.

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in9: I'd add to what the others have said that the 'F' consonant is one of those for which the soft palate goes up automatically. Its simply not possible to make the F sound with the palate low.

The reason is that the F requires a build-up of a small amount of air pressure in the mouth. The soft palate goes up to shut off the port at the top/back part of the throat, so that air does not escape through it.

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Snorth, Ronron, and Steven - thanks for your prompt and helpful replies!

It does make more sense now.

So correct me if I'm wrong, my goal should be achieving open, lifted *vowels* only and not consonants? Cause I've been taught to lift my palate 100% of the time, regardless of the current articulation ... confusing.

p.s. I've just found out I wrote "constants" instead of "consonants". Oops :o

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So correct me if I'm wrong, my goal should be achieving open, lifted *vowels* only and not consonants? Cause I've been taught to lift my palate 100% of the time, regardless of the current articulation ... confusing.

p.s. I've just found out I wrote "constants" instead of "consonants". Oops :o

In9: You can always go back and 'Edit' your posts to fix typos if you need to. I do it all the time. :)

Where you put your soft palate for your vowel sounds depends on the vowels you intend to make. Some singers prefer, or at least don't mind, some nasality, so they are not so concerned about soft palate position.

As had been said, some consonants require that the soft palate be dropped, at least somewhat. NG, as in the word 'sing', M as in 'mama', N, as in 'nanny' fall into this category. The hard G, as at the beginning of the word 'gone', is produced by lowering the soft palate so that it contacts the hump of the tongue, and then they are separated rapidly to produce the sound.

Almost all the other consonants and vowels that occur in English, Italian and German languages use a high soft palate. The exception is French, which has some nasalized vowels in speech, but seldom in classical song. There may be other languages which have exceptions as well.

Its not an unreasonable generalization that 'all vowels and consonants should be done with a high soft-palate'. Thought of this way, all but the three mentioned are covered by the rule, and those three (and the French) can be considered as exceptions.

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Thanks Steven, great explanation ! :)

However I'm still struggling to keep my palate up while singing, and it's causing me unwanted strain.

This is weird because even though I do have great control over it at rest, when I start singing it is lost ...

Maybe it's just a matter of more training? Or should I use some image to help me, instead of a conscious effort to keep it up? If so, what kind of image? Or maybe some other way to deal with this loss of palate control while singing?

Thanks again, and hope I'm not overusing this thread ...

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I'm still struggling to keep my palate up while singing, and it's causing me unwanted strain.

This is weird because even though I do have great control over it at rest, when I start singing it is lost ...

Maybe it's just a matter of more training? Or should I use some image to help me, instead of a conscious effort to keep it up? If so, what kind of image? Or maybe some other way to deal with this loss of palate control while singing?

Thanks again, and hope I'm not overusing this thread ...

In9: Its counterintuitive, but 'trying' to raise the soft palate does not work. It responds readily to imagery, and IMO especially to association with sounds in which it reflexively, habitually goes up.

For example, since in most people the palate goes up for the voiced consonants V, Z, DZ (as at the beginning and middle of the word 'Judge', and TH in 'thee', you can sing those consonants on pitch, and then let your jaw down slowly to produce a vowel. Also, simply shutting your lips loosely will cause your cheeks to puff out when you phonate when the soft palate is up. Extend your awareness to the sensations at the top/back of your throat, and you will see how little effort is used to raise the soft palate. As with the other consonants, let the lips part slightly, and you will get a vowel.

For some, the contrast between the nasal NG and the vowel /e/ (ee) is helpful. With the jaw comfortably down, sing the word 'hung' and sustain the last syllable. For it, the soft palate comes down meet the tongue. From that starting position, sing NG-EE, and continue alternating between the NG and the /i/. This entire cycle can be pulled together into the word 'Singing'. The writting i vowel can be sung as /i/ (ee) or as /I/ (ih), or as /i/ in both cases (SIHNGEENG or SEENGING). When I do this exercise, I imagine that its the palate that moves UP to create the vowel, not the tongue moving down.

You can also use unvoiced consonants in combination with vowels to encourage the high palate position. P works in combination with all the vowels.

The soft palate also goes up on certain inhalation patterns. For example, if you shape your tongue quite high as if to say a very thin /i/ (ee), hold your nose and inhale, you will feel some suction in your nose if your palate is low. If you do not feel the suction, but only the flow of cool air over the back of the roof of the mouth, then your palate is high. Repeat the exercise with the thinnest possible /i/ vowel shape. Another variant of this is to make the sounds of the word 'key' while inhaling.

Finally, the throat opens with the emotion of surprise, as in those times when rapidly inhale on an inward unvoiced UH at seeing something wonderful.

I hope this helps.

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But how do I implement it within a song? Should I learn the "open" sensation using the exercises mentioned, and then simply try to achieve it when I sing?

Don't be afraid of songs. They are like scales, but with real words. :) Just pick ones that are in the range you wish to train.

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In9: I agree with Snorth. Songs need not be feared.. they are your friends. However, every singer does still go through a process of 'working a song into their voice', which is a general description for taking exercise technique and applying it to the specific notes and sounds of a tune. For what you are looking to achieve, this will take some attention over time to resolve. Be patient with yourself during this time of transition.

Specifically to your question.. if there is a word in a phrase that seems that it wants to be nasal, you can focus some attention on the vowel formation in isolation... just singing the vowel without the consonants with a made-up exercise until you get the vowel to the color you want. Then, re-assemble the word by adding 1 consonant sound at a time, retaining the vowel. Very frequently, its the transition from the consonant to the clear vowel is the culprit.

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