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Eliminating tongue tension on the high notes!

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neugie92
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Learning to shape vowels the right way usually solves that problem, since the tongue is the main articulator in singing.

An important first step is to learn to keep the tongue forward, tip behind the lower front teeth, body slightly bunched against the upper teeth. You have to learn to pronounce all of your vowels and most consonants with the tip behind the lower front teeth (I've seen singers placing it *on* them, and it also sounded fine), although the hump against the upper teeth will change elevation for different vowels (but not much).

The problem most people have is the retroflex tongue - lifting the tip up and pressing the body inward, - so you need to learn the habit of keeping it down and forward. I used to press it inwards even when I spoke, and when in rest, it used to glue itself behind my upper front teeth.

I overcame that by simply keeping it in the correct position at all times, even when not singing. In singing exercise you can, in the most comfortable part of your range, try pronouncing each vowel while you "sweep" your lower front teeth with the tip of the tongue, moving it from side to side behind them, and then by not moving it. For the "l" and "r" consonants, where the tongue flips upward, try combining them with vowels in singing exercises and be particularly aware of having to drop the tongue after the consonant. The vowel "I" (ee) is the most helpful in sustaining correct tongue posture, because on it the tongue naturally stays where it should. Also, "I" is a great upward/downward siren vowel :)

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Learning to shape vowels the right way usually solves that problem, since the tongue is the main articulator in singing.

An important first step is to learn to keep the tongue forward, tip behind the lower front teeth, body slightly bunched against the upper teeth. You have to learn to pronounce all of your vowels and most consonants with the tip behind the lower front teeth (I've seen singers placing it *on* them, and it also sounded fine), although the hump against the upper teeth will change elevation for different vowels (but not much).

The problem most people have is the retroflex tongue - lifting the tip up and pressing the body inward, - so you need to learn the habit of keeping it down and forward. I used to press it inwards even when I spoke, and when in rest, it used to glue itself behind my upper front teeth.

I overcame that by simply keeping it in the correct position at all times, even when not singing. In singing exercise you can, in the most comfortable part of your range, try pronouncing each vowel while you "sweep" your lower front teeth with the tip of the tongue, moving it from side to side behind them, and then by not moving it. For the "l" and "r" consonants, where the tongue flips upward, try combining them with vowels in singing exercises and be particularly aware of having to drop the tongue after the consonant. The vowel "I" (ee) is the most helpful in sustaining correct tongue posture, because on it the tongue naturally stays where it should. Also, "I" is a great upward/downward siren vowel :)

Trip: Excellent advice!

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  • 3 years later...

A great way to reduce tongue tension is just hold your tongue with your fingers try to grab close to center and then start saying your vowels and try to keep it relaxed its tough but it will relax. also just push your tongue in and out ,side to side, till it gets tired

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The "tip against the teeth" thing depends on your tongue size. If your tongue is shorter you may want to let it float back in your mouth slightly on certain vowels and if it's longer you may want to shift the tip to on top of the teeth or even further out (check out Adam Labert's high notes!)

As for tongue exercises, I'll describe a couple my coach showed me

-hum with your tongue out and your lips closed in an oo shape around it (the tongue will kind of curl). Don't let the tongue pull in. I've been instructed to do this with a lower larynx, a kind of darker hooty sound.

-sing a bright "AA" as in "cat" on a siren or scale up and down an octave and look in the mirror, stick it all the way out (not to the point of pain just keep it comfortably all the way out) and look at your tongue and practice getting it to not pull back in or squirm around anywhere as you go up and down the siren or scale. also if you can stretch the soft palate up high during this exercise, drop the jaw all the way and keep it there...keep that whole space open, you can train the whole open throat sensation with this

Take both of these through your passaggio up and down your full range bridging early as comfortable going only as high as comfortable come back down. Stay at comfortable volume, don't worry about power unless it's comfortable. staying connected and keeping the tongue position is top priority.

Nothing in the throat should have to change from the bottom to the top, in both exercises it's just like you're just relaxing there letting the tongue hang out. The latter one is a bit more of a real stretch for the tongue though and for an open throat as well. The humming exercise is just a good way to get it going easier in the early part of the warm up if the AA one is too hard

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oh yeah this stuff takes time. if this is a noticeable issue with you, do these tongue exercises routinely to get the tongue release in as a habit because it won't just disappear overnight. I try to do these exercises every time I warm up (the AA one especially) because I have a tongue tensions issue that gets in the way sometimes. throwing this tongue release in the warm up is just slowly building a new good habit to replace the old bad one. My coach also says the AA exercise actually strengthens a particular muscle in the the tongue so that's another reason to do it a lot

Please don't screw it up and hurt yourself, be gentle or see a coach to show you. There was a guy on this forum a LONG time ago who gave himself a laryngeal spasm from overdoing an exercise where you grab the tongue and stretch it out. He pulled too hard and popped something I guess. Don't fear a comfortable stretch but listen to your body for when enough's enough.

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Please don't screw it up and hurt yourself, be gentle or see a coach to show you. There was a guy on this forum a LONG time ago who gave himself a laryngeal spasm from overdoing an exercise where you grab the tongue and stretch it out. He pulled too hard and popped something I guess. Don't fear a comfortable stretch but listen to your body for when enough's enough.

​This was me. I was holding my tongue out, accidentally yawned (yawning lowers the larynx and pulls back the tongue), and heard a popping noise. It was within the next month that I developed severe pain and what felt like cramping. It has never been confirmed to be cramping by EMG and my neurologists have said there are extremely painful sensations that can feel like cramping.

 

I can't guarantee there is a causal relation, but it was in very close proximity to the event when the nerve pain in my tongue began. As best as I know, location, severity, and type of pain mirror glossopharyngeal neuralgia and that is leading diagnosis given by both a neurologist and pain management expert. 

 

I can only say if people want to do this exercise, maybe don't 'hold your tongue' but let it hang out and go a bit limp and relax. If you do hold it, hold it lightly enough it will pull back in the event you yawn or have a reflexive response to another event, like if someone startles you or something.

 

The tongue is connected to a vast network of muscles surrounding the hyoid bone and all of which are connected to the larynx so if the force was enough, trauma could have occurred at any pathway and damaged a nerve peripherally.

 

Personally, once I found medications to control this, I've learned to sing with a messed up tongue guys. My tongue is probably more messed up than anyone's here and I sing more proficiently on a technical level than prior to developing this ailment now. Sticking out my tongue is still painful so I wouldn't do this exercise even if it was helpful, but in my view it is likely not a necessary exercise for singing.

 

But if you really are interested, I imagine letting it hang (like James Labrie was known to do) would likely give similar benefits without risks in the event the retracting muscles are engaged.

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Which one and why does it need to be strengthened?

​Not sure, don't care. Just knowing that it's strengthening something and not just a one-time coordination trick is just an incentive to practice it a lot, from my perspective

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​Not sure, don't care. Just knowing that it's strengthening something and not just a one-time coordination trick is just an incentive to practice it a lot, from my perspective

​Hmmm, this statement is confusing/disturbing coming from a guy as knowledgeable as you Owen ...

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​Not sure, don't care. Just knowing that it's strengthening something and not just a one-time coordination trick is just an incentive to practice it a lot, from my perspective

"Here, keep taking this it makes you stronger"
"OK"

Blind and stupid.

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When an exercise or technique feels correct and comes from a trustworthy source (everything my coach has showed me has consistently been helpful for a year and half) I don't see the need to know the science behind it unless I'm curious. I've been too busy singing lately to be curious about the muscle names and stuff and the science of it, unless there was a reason for it that was important to me practically. What I trust is whatever improves my singing and that exercise does, so, I just leave it at that and practice it as correctly as I can. If I wanted to teach the exercise I can learn more about it later, but the past few months have been very fast paced with my schedule as a vocalist so there is no time to sit there and wonder and research theory and load up my mind with terms, I just have to DO - try things out in the warm up and be careful about doing them in a way that feels and sounds good. That's really what's led me to some of my best vocal improvements. I've never found out a vocal science factoid and had a physical breakthrough as a result, because the science means nothing if it's not connected to the experience and I'm finding it is easy enough to learn to experience great singing technique without needing to know a lot of science to get there.

If you considered me as "knowledgable" previously, take note that I am making a shift in how I view that...there is vocal science knowledge and there is practical how-to-sing-well knowledge...I'm shifting toward gaining the latter because to me that's what's been getting me better results. I hope these aspects will start to line up in a century or so, but right now I actually find the new science a lot more confusing and wishy-washy than the tried and true tradition of singing pedagogy - ways of practicing that have worked and shaped the sound of the greats and been passed down over centuries. That's just my personal opinion, nothing against more scientific approaches - we are going somewhere amazing by trying to make singing pedagogy more concrete and I think it will all line up sometime in the future, but as of now, as a singer, I'm forced to go with what works better, and for me it's been everything practically working to improve singing, much less of the book-smart type of stuff.

 

 

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I think it depends a lot on learning styles, Martin H is our forum god for absorbing book science into his voice. I personally have found more success with that as well than blind instruction into anything, but I've got nothing on that guy.

 

My current school of singing is seek out a wide variety of sounds that don't send me hoarse, feel painful (for someone with nerve pain), or fatigue my voice. I've found a lot of progress by mixing and matching each component, each coordination strengths and weaknesses in various ranges. It does help that I have a basic knowledge of anatomy and the actions involved, but it's more important to have a 'self awareness' of the movements of the mechanisms which imo takes time to development no matter what approach you take.

 

I might do voice acting for a video game or something some day. It'd be fun to apply all of the quirks I've found and voice 20 different characters. I never intentionally strength train anything though. I just build upon what I can currently do and range/control/versatility naturally improve. I feel like everything I currently do with my voice is 90 percent coordination, 10 percent strength. Even after taking a 4 year break from both singing and speaking due to severe nerve pain, this is exactly where atrophy of muscles should be at their most extreme, but when I came back a lack of strength wasn't at all the problem. it was a lack of coordination. I think even if you're a mute who never uses your voice, it must get used often enough when you cough, yawn, eating, or who knows.

 

If I compare that to what happened when I stopped lifting weights, it's night and day different. My body shrunk, I many pounds. I could lift significantly less. I haven't been able to reconcile strength training with voice training based on these experiences. Maybe it is like that if you sing in a different style, but for me it's only like that if I strain and hit a wall with an inefficient coordination. :P

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Hi Owen, I completely agree with you about knowing the correct name and spelling of all the muscles involved in singing doesn't translate into good singing. However, as a guitar player and lead singer, turned into a vocal student, just doing the exercises, even coming from experienced coaches, didn't take me as far as I've got on my own (thanks to everyone in this forum and several legit YouTube videos). That doesn't mean my coaches were bad, or that I'm a freaking genius. But it helps a lot that I'm a self learner. So, if you think you are improving more this way, as you described, good for you man. We are all in the same discovery journey of freeing our voices. Cheers

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When an exercise or technique feels correct and comes from a trustworthy source (everything my coach has showed me has consistently been helpful for a year and half) I don't see the need to know the science behind it unless I'm curious. I've been too busy singing lately to be curious about the muscle names and stuff and the science of it, unless there was a reason for it that was important to me practically. What I trust is whatever improves my singing and that exercise does, so, I just leave it at that and practice it as correctly as I can. If I wanted to teach the exercise I can learn more about it later, but the past few months have been very fast paced with my schedule as a vocalist so there is no time to sit there and wonder and research theory and load up my mind with terms, I just have to DO - try things out in the warm up and be careful about doing them in a way that feels and sounds good. That's really what's led me to some of my best vocal improvements. I've never found out a vocal science factoid and had a physical breakthrough as a result, because the science means nothing if it's not connected to the experience and I'm finding it is easy enough to learn to experience great singing technique without needing to know a lot of science to get there.

If you considered me as "knowledgable" previously, take note that I am making a shift in how I view that...there is vocal science knowledge and there is practical how-to-sing-well knowledge...I'm shifting toward gaining the latter because to me that's what's been getting me better results. I hope these aspects will start to line up in a century or so, but right now I actually find the new science a lot more confusing and wishy-washy than the tried and true tradition of singing pedagogy - ways of practicing that have worked and shaped the sound of the greats and been passed down over centuries. That's just my personal opinion, nothing against more scientific approaches - we are going somewhere amazing by trying to make singing pedagogy more concrete and I think it will all line up sometime in the future, but as of now, as a singer, I'm forced to go with what works better, and for me it's been everything practically working to improve singing, much less of the book-smart type of stuff.

 

 

​I think you (and not you specifically :P) just need to take everything with a grain of salt. Once you start to get your own technique mostly in order, stuff that used to make no sense suddenly does and you start to get a feel of what people mean with their respective definitions be it in the old school terminology or in the new school.

I mean we have all these threads here over the years saying Head Voice, Chest Voice, Mix Voice, Falsetto (insert weird muscle names here). And all the people are from different stages in their training and from different "schools" AND have different voices that needs to be addressed with different needs. I believe what have worked for me is finding a teacher that I click with who can translate all of these different words and sensations to something that has meaning and value to me and I think that is what you have found aswell.

This does not mean that former teachers or terminology is wrong (not saying that is what you said by the way) just that it didn't click with you at that point in time.

This became a weird rant but I hope someone can make use of it :)

Cheer!

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Anyone succesfully conquered a tension, jumbled tongue that blocks your sound when your trying to hit the high notes?

Learning to shape vowels the right way usually solves that problem, since the tongue is the main articulator in singing.

An important first step is to learn to keep the tongue forward, tip behind the lower front teeth, body slightly bunched against the upper teeth. You have to learn to pronounce all of your vowels and most consonants with the tip behind the lower front teeth (I've seen singers placing it *on* them, and it also sounded fine), although the hump against the upper teeth will change elevation for different vowels (but not much).

 

The problem most people have is the retroflex tongue - lifting the tip up and pressing the body inward, - so you need to learn the habit of keeping it down and forward. I used to press it inwards even when I spoke, and when in rest, it used to glue itself behind my upper front teeth.

 

I overcame that by simply keeping it in the correct position at all times, even when not singing. In singing exercise you can, in the most comfortable part of your range, try pronouncing each vowel while you "sweep" your lower front teeth with the tip of the tongue, moving it from side to side behind them, and then by not moving it. For the "l" and "r" consonants, where the tongue flips upward, try combining them with vowels in singing exercises and be particularly aware of having to drop the tongue after the consonant. The vowel "I" (ee) is the most helpful in sustaining correct tongue posture, because on it the tongue naturally stays where it should. Also, "I" is a great upward/downward siren vowel :)

​I think you (and not you specifically :P) just need to take everything with a grain of salt. Once you start to get your own technique mostly in order, stuff that used to make no sense suddenly does and you start to get a feel of what people mean with their respective definitions be it in the old school terminology or in the new school.

I mean we have all these threads here over the years saying Head Voice, Chest Voice, Mix Voice, Falsetto (insert weird muscle names here). And all the people are from different stages in their training and from different "schools" AND have different voices that needs to be addressed with different needs. I believe what have worked for me is finding a teacher that I click with who can translate all of these different words and sensations to something that has meaning and value to me and I think that is what you have found aswell.

This does not mean that former teachers or terminology is wrong (not saying that is what you said by the way) just that it didn't click with you at that point in time.

This became a weird rant but I hope someone can make use of it :)

Cheer!

​Hey guys,

Can all 3 of you please add pictures to your profiles? It really helps the community. Thank you.

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Anyone succesfully conquered a tension, jumbled tongue that blocks your sound when your trying to hit the high notes?

​Practice singing while trying to keep your tongue at the bottom of your mouth as much as possible.

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It's a bit extreme, but stick your tongue out and point it down (almost a pull) as you are singing the phrase. You want to resist the tongue's retract. Maintain the stick out position as your sing and keep your vowels as pure as you can over the top of it. 

Then, after that, you can rest your tongue behind your teeth and try the phrase again. Keep going back and forth until you notice improvement. 

vowels or ee are going to be the hardest here because of the shape that the tongue takes. Be patient with yourself and make sure that you are looking into a mirror as you do this to make sure that the tongue isn't retracting (because it will want to.) Remember, that this is an exaggerated exercise and you should bring it back to neutral when you are done.

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When an exercise or technique feels correct and comes from a trustworthy source (everything my coach has showed me has consistently been helpful for a year and half) I don't see the need to know the science behind it unless I'm curious. I've been too busy singing lately to be curious about the muscle names and stuff and the science of it, unless there was a reason for it that was important to me practically. What I trust is whatever improves my singing and that exercise does, so, I just leave it at that and practice it as correctly as I can. If I wanted to teach the exercise I can learn more about it later, but the past few months have been very fast paced with my schedule as a vocalist so there is no time to sit there and wonder and research theory and load up my mind with terms, I just have to DO - try things out in the warm up and be careful about doing them in a way that feels and sounds good. That's really what's led me to some of my best vocal improvements. I've never found out a vocal science factoid and had a physical breakthrough as a result, because the science means nothing if it's not connected to the experience and I'm finding it is easy enough to learn to experience great singing technique without needing to know a lot of science to get there.

If you considered me as "knowledgable" previously, take note that I am making a shift in how I view that...there is vocal science knowledge and there is practical how-to-sing-well knowledge...I'm shifting toward gaining the latter because to me that's what's been getting me better results. I hope these aspects will start to line up in a century or so, but right now I actually find the new science a lot more confusing and wishy-washy than the tried and true tradition of singing pedagogy - ways of practicing that have worked and shaped the sound of the greats and been passed down over centuries. That's just my personal opinion, nothing against more scientific approaches - we are going somewhere amazing by trying to make singing pedagogy more concrete and I think it will all line up sometime in the future, but as of now, as a singer, I'm forced to go with what works better, and for me it's been everything practically working to improve singing, much less of the book-smart type of stuff.

 

 

​I'm just liking you more and more. :) We have similar philosophies. Hello, friend.

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And I will continue to push and strain (especially down below).....because I've learned how to and it's just feels too right to be wrong....

There...I've said it.  It's my story and I'm sticking to it.  LOL!!!

To me you have to do this....take the voice up and down and down and up...take it for a spin almost every day...challenge it.  Experiment and carve with the vowels. Find the resonance and the colors and play with them......paint with your voice. 

One voice.  I'll talk about chest and head voice, but i'll sing with one voice.

 

 

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