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Mouth opening... smokey robinson vs ken tamplin

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Provocative title, right?

I've noticed that smokey robinson barely opens his lips when he sings, and I've seen the same from other light, smooth singers both amateur and professional. On the other end of the spectrum, ken tamplin advocates a huge mouth opening. Speaking just for myself, I can only do an impression of somebody like al green or smokey if I keep a small, slightly pouty mouth opening... kind of like I'm baby-talking. I assume this is a fake support kind of thing - like I'm using my mouth to resist air that my core should be managing - but I wonder if that's what smokey is doing too?

Long story short: when you're singing heady/mixy soul stuff, do you open your mouth a whole lot?

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It is all style and sound choice.

I would tend to think this is what it amounts to. It may not be a conscious decision but something that just happens naturally and then ends up being their sound. It's sort of like; it isn't that they are opening their mouth (or not) a certain way to get a certain sound/style. It's more that they are getting a certain sound/style because of their mouth shape. Unplanned.

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Thanks for weighing in guys.

Dan, I've noticed that about sam cooke too... actually both he and ray seem to do this kind of thing a lot (pictured below)

Some sounds definitely come easier if I imitate these different facial postures, but they always run contrary to at least one professional's pedagogy haha. Does a wider mouth opening generally amount to a heavier, more chesty sound?

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I would tend to think this is what it amounts to. It may not be a conscious decision but something that just happens naturally and then ends up being their sound. It's sort of like; it isn't that they are opening their mouth (or not) a certain way to get a certain sound/style. It's more that they are getting a certain sound/style because of their mouth shape. Unplanned.

well if you practice oh through oo lips small opening or eh with a small opening its going to be a closed vowel sound vs if you practice oh with open lips and eh with and open mouth it going to be more of and openish sound some may call it spread but when done correctly(sam cooke) its all good. i personally practice my notes open voweled and closed so im not put in a corner.

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I recommend that anyone curious on this issue watch a video of Ronnie James Dio sing. He uses both to their extremes for various effects and it is easy to tell what is going on when one guy does everything you are wondering about. He doesn't quite sing with a really small opening, but the effect on the notes is pronounced. He used very little of his range so, you can see the same notes with different effects being added.

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Professional pedagogy has nothing to do with greatness and swagger!!!!!!:)

I disagree with that statement Dan... A "pedagogue" can have swagger and most certainly can be great by the true definition of the word. Oh wait a minute... voice teachers are not suppose to be cool and sexy... is that it? Next we are going to hear that repulsive insult, "those that can't, teach" thing? Try telling that to you Formica, Lunte or Tamplin...

C'mon... in any case, this title is funny... "smokey robinson vs ken tamplin"?

Look guys, the shape of the embouchure ('mouth') is dependent upon many things; style, personal preference, the necessity to modify a vowel or not, the strength of the M1 musculature the singer may or may not have developed, etc...

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raphaels if you open more your mouth, yes you will evoke something closer to chest resonance but you will have to sacrifice a bit of volume (or better saying, control yourself to not go too loud). Still this should not be coupled with the execution of a note, not as something necessary, rather interpretative as jonpall said.

Movements tend to become smaller and smaller as you train, ajusting only the minimum necessary on the vocal tract and support and eliminating unecessary efforts. Then its easy to smile a bit a make it sound more open, or close more into focus to add weight and power. These two things are directly linked with larynx heigh (not neural connections, accoustically an ajustment in the lips posture will cause a similar ajustment on the larynx heigh to keep the ballance), and it helps when working above the tessitura on full voice.

We cant know what the other singers are doing, its normal that someone that did not receive trainning uses all sorts of tensions. As Daniel said, results are not coupled necessarily with technique. One thing I would add to what he said, is that it takes a lot of musicianship to do a work even close to what Sam Cooke did, having technique or not. As I said so many times in other threads about superstars, keep your eye in the good stuff.

Sam Cooke "magic" surely was not on how he openned/not openned his mouth, pick one song, listen to it like 20 times and after you know it inside and out, start to map all the small details he did on his interpretation, understand the vocal line in musical terms, take the first verse, try to understand what he is doing, what is low dynamics? what is high? which vowel is he placing on evidence on the resolution of a phrase? how the parts of the music fit together and so on, thats where the magic is comming from. This way you can pick the good things he was doing without having to mimic him.

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Thanks again for your replies guys. If I'm understanding correctly, it's alright to mess with your mouth A LITTLE in pursuit of the tone you're looking for. You don't want to marry any unusual facial postures, but it's not like every sound can be made with a floppy jaw as long as it's perfectly supported... sometimes you have to look/feel smokey to sound smokey? Hopefully I'm not way off the mark here... thanks again everyone!

Edit: I also didn't mean anything against any vocal pedagogue, Ken was just the first big-mouthed singer to come to mind. I wonder what he would sound like with pursed lips like smokey, or what smokey would sound like with a big crazy grin like ken.

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That makes perfect sense, thanks man. The only thing that's a little confusing about that is the fact that pursing the lips lowers the formants rather than raising them... it seems like that small mouth opening would be more akin to a violin than a cello, but maybe making a smaller mouth opening causes a person naturally opens the back of their throat, thereby making a larger space where it really counts? Similarly, it seems like spreading the lips would create a bigger space up front(more akin to a cello), but maybe this somehow decreases the size of the opening in the throat?

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raphaels, if someone hasn't mentioned this already, a lot of this becomes your own experiment and tweaking per your own individual voice.

the key is to monitor yourself continuously to keep the throat nice and open first.....then you can play with mouth heights (much more than mouth widths) which i feel are so open to experimentation....

another thing is to work to minimize mouth movements within those mouth heights.

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Wow. This thread has helped me a lot. Didn't realize how subconscious this was. I copy singers so going from the two extremes has seriously been hurting the tone and ability to accentuate the deeper folds.

Thanks everybody!

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Jorn Lande, in my opinion the god of rock vocals and one of the absolutely best rock singers alive today, is having a very small mouth opening att all times when he sings. I've seen him live a few times (last time was actually a concert with him only 2 weeks ago) and it always fascinates me that he can have such a huge sound when he don't open his mouth much at all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlSsrGhZIUc

Personally, I feel I have to open my mouth a bit more to get the sound I want, especially when singing higher up in my range.

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The more you build M1 musculature, the less you have to open for modifications (James LeBrie) if you don't want to... (Jorn Lande). It is a stylistic choice once you become a master at both.

I will tell you this... unfortunately, there are some jaw and mouth structures out there I have seen that probably are not super advantageous for singing, not to say you can't tune it and make it work, YOU CAN... Im just saying, a smaller mouth, tongue, etc.. seems to be a little bit more of a challenge for a few, rare students...

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That makes perfect sense, thanks man. The only thing that's a little confusing about that is the fact that pursing the lips lowers the formants rather than raising them... it seems like that small mouth opening would be more akin to a violin than a cello, but maybe making a smaller mouth opening causes a person naturally opens the back of their throat, thereby making a larger space where it really counts? Similarly, it seems like spreading the lips would create a bigger space up front(more akin to a cello), but maybe this somehow decreases the size of the opening in the throat?

raphaels: Its not so much about the throat opening... its about the mouth opening. Reducing the size of the opening of the mouth lowers the formants due to changes in the end effect. If the lips are pursed forward, the tract is lengthened, and the lowering accentuated.

A side effect of the reduced opening is that the passaggio location for all vowels is lowered, inducing earlier bridging. For a singer who wants to get into head voice lower in the scale, this is highly advantageous as a practice discipline.

The comments about smiling or spreading the lips shortening the vocal tract are correct, but only part of the picture. The other side of this is that a larger mouth opening, achieved by smiling, gets formants shifting upward because of both the end effect and the shortened vocal tract.

Similar to the above comment, the singer who uses the large mouth opening will have a higher passaggio point for all vowels, and is highly advantageous as practice for the singer who wants to bridge later.

I hope this is helpful.

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