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Space between back of tongue and soft palate

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eggplantbren
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Hi everyone

I habitually sing with a light sound colour most of the time (lots of twang, raised larynx, lowered soft palate etc) and I don't really mind that because it goes alright with the styles I like to sing (i.e. not classical). But I would like to be able to control it consciously rather than have it that way automatically 100% of the time.

Anyway the other day I was looking in the mirror and practicing raising my soft palate, and found that I don't really have a clue how to control it consciously. Yes, I can raise it by doing the "surprised" thing, but it drops back down as soon as I vocalize.

Anyway another thing I noticed while looking in the mirror is that when I sing the back of my tonge raises and there is hardly any space near my pharynx. Sometimes I can't even see all the way to my throat because my tongue and soft palate completely block the view. It seems like nothing I do can prevent this from happening. It happens on all vowels and all modes.

Is this normal? I know it's not wrong because it feels fine and I don't constrict, but it might be responsible for my very light sound colour. Any suggestions?

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Ah the joys of CVT sound colours. They only teach you the black and white, light and dark. So students are more inclined to pick one and form habits using that imbalanced tone. When in fact the medium is most preferable artistically in most situations.

Anyways, here's a cool way I found you can learn to control the soft palate.

Get a straw, put it in your mouth, sing through it. Do the nose pinch test and work to get all the air through the straw so that when you pinch your nose the sound doesn't change. You may want to keep your nose pinched and attempt to remove the pressure building up in your head. And you may want to try channeling the surprise sensation while you are phonating. Anyways once you've figured how to direct the air just into the straw, now relax the soft palate and let some air go through the nose so you hear a hum.

The drastic sound difference allows you to really hear what you are doing. As it can be hard to feel the soft palate. So train going and forth from the nasalized straw to the sound just coming through the straw. You will notice that when the velar port is completely closed (raised soft palate and closed velar port is basically the same thing IMO) it will totally plug up the humming sound in an instant, in an almost click-like way. So you'll also know when it's fully closed or not.

So practice going back and forth, learning the sensation of controlling between the two positions.

Mind you, I didn't come up with this idea until after I learned how to control it and was just practicing Titze's straw exercise which requires you don't let air through the nose. Then at some point I changed it at will from open to close velar port while singing through the straw, heard the sound difference, realized, hey this would be a cool way to teach it someone else.

I honestly forget how I personally learned to control it. Some super vague combination of auditory feedback and subjective sensation does it for me I guess?

I could maybe even practice it more with the exercise I suggested, just to really get a hold on it...

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Agree that medium is often desirable. I didn't choose these habits, I brought them from my woeful-singing days and they're still there affecting the tone even though the underlying phonation is much improved.

I will try your suggested exercise. It sounds interesting!

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Oh, also, about the tongue space. Yea, you should be able to drop the tongue. You can easily just look in the mirror to monitor this. Maybe set it dropped first, then phonate. If it immediately rises it might be because your larynx is too high.

The dropped tongue should be easier the lower the pitch is.

As for which is preferred most of the time, I think both the dropped tongue and higher tongue position associated with covering are both good, depending on the sound you want. And when going up really high I find it becomes more necessary to keep it higher.

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Raised soft palate and closed velar port is not neccessarily the same thing. You have to lift your palate just a little bit to close the velar port, but you can lift it A LOT more if that is the sound color you desire.

A closed velar port will erase nasality but the sound can still be very sharp. It is the additional lifting beyond the point of just closure (which often goes hand in hand with lowering the larynx) that gives you a rounder and softer sound color.

Raising the tongue in the back is totally normal and actually a good thing. Remember that this is one of the main triggers in CVT to produce twang: Putting the back of the tongue on the level of the upper molars (which is also the main movement of the famous NG excercise). If you sing "open throat" technique (like Ken Tamplin for example) the tongue will be lower, giving a better view on your throat.

Controlling the palate consciously is quite hard. Most of the time I just think of the sound color and try to imitate it. What helps to raise it consciously is to "redirect" some of the air flow against the soft palate. So take that straw excercise for example and while blowing out air imagine that you would redirect the air towards the soft palate using the back of your tongue but don't let it pass into the nose. The palate has to block the way towards the nose, so everything will still go out of your mouth.

The more you redirect towards the palate the more you will feel something like a "pillar of air pressure" that presses against the soft palate and "pushes it up". But don't sing completely against the palate, the main focus of airflow has to remain the mouth.

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Thanks guys. Seems like the tongue thing must just be a symptom of my favoring of distinct twang and a high larynx. So not a problem except for if I want a darker sound colour, in which case thinking of lowering the larynx is probably easier rather than directly thinking about the tongue.

Controlling the palate consciously is quite hard. Most of the time I just think of the sound color and try to imitate it.

That's my best approach too, in general, but it's hard to develop the ability to control the elements independently by doing that. If I just think "darker sound color" I probably change multiple variables at once. Still, that's good enough for many purposes.

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