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r_worsham2000
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I have a couple of questions regarding the tongue. 1) How do you rid yourself of tongue tension? 2) If you can't do tongue trills does that mean your tongue is still tense? 3) I've seen great singers with a smooth, flat tongue with their mouths a little wide while they were singing, and I've seen singers with mouths more closed with seemingly more of a narrow tongue, and then there was Adam Lambert singing super high notes with his tongue sticking out of his mouth. Can anyone explain any of this to me? I am especially curious about it in regards to singing in the higher register between the A and male high C.

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Tongue tension happens when you use the wrong end of the tongue too much:)... you need to learn to keep the base of the tongue relaxed while you use the tip and front sides of the tongue to articulate.

Somethings I do that have helped my students a great deal:

1. Wake up the face and do tongue tanglers, trying for clarity and not allowing the voice to "fall into the gravel" at the ends of phrases. Act like you are speaking to deaf people... make your lyric show in your face. This gets it out of the back of the throat and stiff jaw.

2. Speak or sing with the jaw moving in sort of a slight chewing motion. Tongue tension and jaw stiffness go together.

3. Put your knuckle inbetween your molars (not the front of your mouth) and sing. It will sound weird, like trying to speak with the dentist's hand in your mouth, but your jaw and tongue will experience having to relax.

4. Sing only on the vowels for a while, again allowing the back of the mouth and throat to fall open. This is harder than you think, you have to concentrate on NOT forming consonants. Then allow yourself to slightly let the consonants sneak back in, but keeping the back of the tongue feeling the same and letting the jaw relax flexibly.

5. Put two fingers under your chin. You are feeling the base of your tongue. Speak or sing, telling yourself not to tense there (bunch the muscle up).

btw... some people can do tongue trills and some people can do lip trills and some people can do both. Just like rolling the tongue, forming French or German syllables, for some people it is easy and some hard. It doesn't matter. The main thing is to get your articulation out of the back of your throat.

Let me know how this works for you!

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Thanks Judy. I do those things regularly and are a great help. #5 is my favorite and works great for me. But I can't seem to get it right when singing the A to male high C. I literally feel the difference between the Ab and the A. The tension is crazy. Does something change physically between these two notes? I thought it was just a support issue, but it is not.

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In my experience as we go higher, even a half step higher, sometimes we don't allow the larynx to tilt like it needs to. We allow the muscles around the larynx to "grab"... and that can include neck, jaw and tongue muscle, trying to pull the larynx up to create the higher pitch.

Try the Jeannie Deva tip of putting two fingers lightly on your adam's apple. Simply purpose the touch to tell you not to tense there. Try singing with your fingers there and see if it helps.

Also, try my technique of singing at the wall. If you have typical male shoulders, put a towel between your head and the wall so your head doesn't go too uncomfortably far back. Put one heel at the wall. Now put your hands up about sternum level, put your fingertips together and press into your fingertips while trying to stand very tall. By all means do not lift your chin. Try singing again.

Another thing that happens is that your "mix is off"... Try doing a siren on an 'oo" or "ee" vowel. Don't start too low, but go higher than the problem area. Try to yawn the sound when you go through the problem area, and back off the pressure a bit. Rob Lunte calls this the "lift up pull back". Go slowly across the troubled note, pressing your fingertips in and squeezing your butt.

You also may be applying too much pressure, trying to get that note up there. This can cause the tongue to bunch, trying to deal with all that pressure at the vocal cords. Back off your pressure, expand your ribcage instead of letting it close in. Jamie Vendera calls the resulting backing off the "inhalation sensation". I call it a feeling of reverse breathing; you are of course breathing out but you back off the pressure so much that it doesn't feel like an exhale.

I hope I'm explaining this correctly. I wish I had you here in person, but see what these suggestions do for you.

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Thanks again. I will have to read and re-read that. I vocalize easily to a G above the high C, and the "oo" and "ee" sirens have been great for me. It's just singing the words that becomes the issue. It sounds as if this is all easier than I am making it. Most of what I have read make it sound as if once you get past your E-F bridge that you should be able to go all the way up from there, but that is not the case with me. I will try your suggestions and let you know how it works. I WILL GET THIS.

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Thanks again. I will have to read and re-read that. I vocalize easily to a G above the high C, and the "oo" and "ee" sirens have been great for me. It's just singing the words that becomes the issue. It sounds as if this is all easier than I am making it. Most of what I have read make it sound as if once you get past your E-F bridge that you should be able to go all the way up from there, but that is not the case with me. I will try your suggestions and let you know how it works. I WILL GET THIS.

r_worsham: do you vocalize on other vowel sounds up there? If not, take the vowel of a problem word (that is, one where you feel some tension creeping in) and use it for your siren. The tongue goes to different positions to produce different vowels, and perhaps some of the tension you feel is associated with a particular vowel.

Another exercise you can do is to onset a note, and when it is comfortable, sing a vowel series on it. My particular favorites for this are the short vowels, ih, eh, a (as in cat) uh and oe (as in foot), as the pronunciation of them may need to change slightly note-to-note to obtain optimum resonance.

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Well Judy, I tried your suggestions for the first time today and I must say that they did much good! I obviously need to continue to practice it. The "tongue tanglers" were good for me primarily for how to focus the beginning of a phrase. I did the "Pickled Pepper" tangler since the 'p' is plosive. That helped me keep all my words in the front of the mouth much better. Though I have always hated the "beginning of a yawn" illustration, I must say that when everything is kept up front, even the yawn, it works well. The yawn never did much for me because I always felt it in the back of the mouth first so that was where I focussed, and was never told any different. So... I am working on those - the "pickled peppers", the finger under the chin and the yawn in the front of the mouth. Am I wrong on this?

Steve - my biggest vowel issues are the long "i" and the "ah", both of which are very similar. I try thinking more of an "aw" sound when doing these, though I am still not the best at it. I am thinking that these new placement exercises that Judy mentioned will help on these, but any other suggestions would be great.

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You're so right that it's the BEGINNING of a yawn sensation... not the end of it... that keeps the expansive feeling in the front. It lifts the soft palate without unduly lowering the larynx.

Try doing tongue tanglers or in fact reading any passage in a crazy voice, going up and down your range, including your head voice, and making free chewing sort of motions with your jaw as you talk. This should feel very free and easy. Keep forming your words in front instead of back of your mouth. When you sing, make it feel like this free talking.

Glad I could help... this is definitely a curable issue. You never need to bunch your tongue base up to vocalize; your body just learned a counterproductive strategy that can be unlearned:)

Blessings

Judy

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Alright Judy, practicing yesterday and today were the absolute WORST! I followed all the steps and started out fine while warming up; but then I went to sing again and everything went out the window. So bad that I was even losing range. I was just screaming. I don't think I know how to open and keep open the sinus area. I feel "capped" and the mix is not happening. When I just play around, I can find that upper sinus area and open it, but not when singing. Does this make sense??? Is this where the "Twang" technique comes in to play? I know I should be able to sing up there, but for two days it has not been happening. Anyway, I will keep trying.

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I'm sorry you're having trouble. Sounds like you need some personal coaching. There are lots of reasons for what you are experiencing. You are, it sounds like, for sure blasting with too much air pressure. One more tip I can suggest trying is this: Put a pad of paper up to your face, just a couple of inches from your face. Sing into the pad of paper and you'll hear your voice bounced back from the paper to your ears. Try to sing confidently but NOT SCREAM at yourself. Try singing confidently without leaving "breath marks" on the paper, pretending it's a piece of glass. Make sure your eyes are communicating, and that you don't move the paper forward. Your head then should be balanced on your spine, not moving forward.

Hopefully, this will get your breath support/balance back. But again, it sounds like you could use a personal lesson with a trusted coach.

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You are right on the blasting too much air. I figured that out and realized what I did. While going through your techniques, I ended up not getting the cord closure necessary. So today I worked on all of it and was back on track. I tend to do that sometimes - you know, drop one thing while learning something else. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that it wasn't your suggestions - they do work well. The technique I use for cord closure is saying eh - ah. This gets me the closure feeling that I need.

Trusted coach? I've only had one. The others told me I was a bass and trained me that way. Only one took me to the tenor that I knew I was. Anyway, this is a great sight for learning and I am definitely getting out of it what I need.

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