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Tongue positioning

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Elrathion
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I was kind of hoping that anyone could write elaboratly about the tongue, mainly about positioning, maybe with videos to demonstrate too.

I've been really researching it alot latly and experimenting w it myself, and I'd like to hear your take on it.

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Well so far Ive read there are different ideas on how to position your tongue. Some say a flat tongue [read: broad, flat] will need to larynx depression and tension, some say your tongue should be arched in the middle, kind of a italian che-ng-tongueposition, I watched a video from Darisson's favourite young tenor where his tongue was more compressed and back during his singing.

I was wondering what the theoretics behind it all are, cse Ive been doing alot of experimenting with my tongue myself, and I notice at a given point it was quite far back and really high [i mean it touched my soft palat, that high :P], I just want to get things figured out.

Also I'm interested in both classical and non classical sounds, maybe that'll cost more work, but I'd like to be able to sing Nessun Dorma one day and the next just sing Dance with my father... And not sound like this opera guy trying to do pop or like this pop guy trying to do opera :P

Btw Steve check your mailbox Ive send you a reply some days ago, no answer so far :>

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Elrathion- In opera for myself and what I've noticed in most is the (and you will also if you study performances) The throat for the most part remains open and the tongue wide slightly and more down then back opening the lower partials of the throat (almost rounding the lower half) beyond that it is used to articulate specific sounds, in faster passages and recitive. In rock and other types of music it is used much more A. there is much more distortion B. The vowels usually aren't as purified C. You may be using other vocal sounds,grunts etc that would not be used in opera(maybe in german) Most opera technique focuses on 1. Pure and rounded vowels, open throat 2. support, and a consistant even resonace tract 3. basic approachs one focal point

You should just exercise your tongue in general (some acting book have great exercises for your tongue and facial muscles) beyond that adjust for the material your singing , the sound you want. I would personally stay away form any instruction that tells you to intentionally keep your tongue in a particular position, it will find it's way to where it needs to be for the performance you want. You must listen to your singing and adjust. The reason I recommend you exercise your tongue separately from the singing is precises because if it's not strong it will feel uncomfortable when you try to hold it in certain positions, while singing- espeacially for long sustained notes or passages.

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Hi Elrathion...

My expertise is in contemporary singing, but I have done classical singing myself. I think of it as two different languages, try to imagine the sound I want to make and let a natural tongue movement take place.

My two cents to this conversation would be that no matter what you're singing, you need to keep the base of your tongue relaxed. Only articulate by using the front of the sides of the tongue at the front teeth. Try putting two fingers under your jaw and sing in such a way that this area does not tense. Other things that have worked for my students... think of a golf ball sitting on the back of your tongue. Or, try singing with your knuckle in beween your molars (not covering the front of your mouth) until you get used to being that open back there. Country, jazz, r&b, rock, pop, alternative... it works. And for formal singing it is a must because the throat must be even more open.

I believe we can cause tension by overthinking about an area... causing that area to try too hard to relax (which means it actually contracts!!) I find props like the golf ball or knuckle will allow you to get used to open the back of your throat without you trying too hard to do so. Hope this helps... I look forward to other's comments.

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Because of its particular position in the vocal tract, the tongue has a great deal of influence over the frequency positions of the vowel-forming resonances, and the resulting vocal tone quality.

Generally, the tongue separates the vocal tract into two sections, a 'front' section, and a 'back' section, based on how much the mid-tongue rises toward the roof of the mouth. The vowels for which it is the highest are /i/ (ee) and /u/ (oo), with the hump fairly far forward for /i/ and fairly far back for /u/. For /a/ (ah) the tongue is flat, that is, with no hump. Every vowel that can be identified has a characteristic position for the location of the hump.

As far as tongue positioning goes, IMO there is no 'one-size-fits-all'. Not between voices, and not even for a single voice in different sections of the range. Because of the acoustics of the vocal tract, some vowel sounds simply cannot be made in certain ranges. The soprano singing an /i/ (ee) vowel on the A natural above middle C does not sing it the same way she sings the A natural one octave higher, not if she wants the top note to be heard beyond the 1st row.

In moving throughout their ranges, what accomplished singers do to even out their tone quality is to make small vowel adjustments, note to note, that allow the voice to ring powerfully and be easily produced, and to preserve textual clarity as much as is possible. To make these small adjustments in vowel color, small positional changes of the tongue happen. The Italians have a great term for this: Aggiustamento.

As to exercises to reduce unnecessary/undesirable tongue tension, I've got some of those. I'll post them on another occasion.

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Tip of the tongue rested behind the back of the bottom teeth on all open vowels, most of the time. Only to be used when articulating consonants. :P

Look at the default profile picture at TMV (people that fail to upload a photo), that is a great example of where the tongue should be resting.

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Hey there,

I know you asked for an answer a while ago now but I just signed in for the TMV, though I've been on since the start.

I know of two tongue positions, depending on the size of your tongue.

You can try to put the tip behind the lower front teeth nearing the top of the gumline and then keep it relaxed while you sing. Smaller tongues find this comfortable and easy to keep the tongue relaxed.

The other position is on top of the lowere front teeth. Some people find this more comfortable becuase their tongues are wide or thick or just too big. Others think they look silly singing with what feels like, to them, with their tongues hanging out.

The reason to find a position is because the tongue is known as the worst enemy of the singer -- if it pulls back, it will close off your voice and you'll either sound and feel it trapped in the back, or sound quite nasal. If you've ever been told either of these two things, check out these tow tongue positions to see which you might be able to work with. I paracticed songs with my tongue right behind my lowere front teet (small tongue) for a while. It was fun because sometimes it sounded silly, but the whole point was to re-train it to stay forward all the time.

When Celine Dion first started out, she was extremely nasal on her high notes. She's done severeal interviews about how hard it was for her to re-train her tongue to stay forward so she could open up her throat. She said she spent hours and hours on it because her native language (french canadian) requires that you speak with the tongue pulling back for proper pronunciation.

If you, or one of your friends, has one of her earliest recordings of the Power of Love, you can really hear it. But since those days, she's re-recorded it so no one knows...

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