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Singing with a "smile"

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Berabouman
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Both vocal teachers that I've had recommend that I sing with/through a smiling position, since it reduces strain on the throat and neck area. I think this is pretty good advice, but I'd like to know if :

1) There are other positions one can sing in and

2) How do you sing sad songs then? Kind of hard (though possible) to smile and be sad, but I find it weird to sing like that. 

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Well, singing the open vowels through a different positions is ok. There is no position of the "embouchure" that is correct or incorrect, within reason. However, there are identifiable benefits of of different embouchure positions that can be realized and should be understood if you are a singer and/or student. There are three embouchure positions that are detailed in the TVS training course, "The Four Pillars of Singing" that come with videos and explanations and all that you need to get it right and train. 

Here is a video I recently created about "THE SNILE", which is one variation on the Horizontal embouchure that I cover in the training system. Let me know if you have more questions. 

 

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There are a lot of muscles in the face/lips area. When I sing a lot of times I'll have a grimace or frown but some of the muscles will be the smile muscles. It might take many years for the muscles to all go on an auto pilot that works for singing and emoting. I think the embouchure is recommended so the auto pilot can start sooner, but it's not a long term solution to 'lock' the face down like you had a stroke.

Anyway, experiment with your facial muscles. Pay particular attention to the muscles at the corner the mouth a bit into the cheeks. They can be closer to a smile position while the actual lips can be closer to a frown. A lot of times I emote from that position during sad/painful/anguished/struggling kinds of sounds. 

But it's probably faster to practice with easy and efficient 'stock' embouchure for awhile as some of the helpful parts may be retained when doing other expressions later. Subconsciously I gravitated over years towards positions that worked for both purposes, sometimes if people do something enough, that happens. But if you start with something efficient it's more a guarantee you'll wind up in something efficient. 

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Yes there are other positions, and this smile does not require a happy face at all, all that is necessary is to spread the upper lips and show your upper teeth more.

Use it to make the sound brighter. In training it can help on removing excessive darkening/covering and avoid depressing the tongue. You dont need to be doing it all the time, it may be something that is helpful in your particular case.

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Sing a steady note, then configure as people have described and take note of how your sound changes. You will find it useful to gain a little more brightness, efficiency and space in the back of the throat.

Make lift height adjustments and width adjustments and just listen carefully to the changes. Try different laryngeal height positions too.  You can also try to raise your ears and lift your forehead.

Play with it and experiment.  This lifting to me is one of the most important things you can do when training head voice. 

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    I think that singing with a smile/snile is more about what happens on the inside of your mouth than the outside.  It is just easier to move some of the muscles inside while moving bigger muscles outside: engaging soft palate, dropping the jaw, holding the tongue forward opening the space behind the tongue.........things like that.

    Some teachers may go the opposite direction by having you keep a straight relaxed face so external muscles do not get in the way allowing you to disengage unneeded muscle strain................. Another idea that I came across somewhere was to "Spread"  your top molars apart. You cannot really do that but it engages your soft palate and gives you that weird Snile look that Robert shows in his video. Just another way to get the inside of your mouth into position.......... I come across some crazy stuff. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

That smile pretty much helps with one thing, which is narrowing the vocal tract. Actually I do think that after a certain pitch (for me G4+) a little smile becomes neccessary to go higher with a metallic sound, but maybe it differs with anatomy.

For me it was really helpful to notice that the smile is not an action of the mouth, but an action of the cheeks lifting. In Germany we sometimes call this the "singer's cheeks". Lifting the cheeks helps to lift the back of the tongue towards the soft palate (which creates twang and a brighter sound color) and also helps to put the back of the tongue closer to the back wall of the pharynx (which raises F1 and allows for a "chestier" tone in the high range). By doing this, it can also help against over-darkening the vowels, as Felipe already wrote.

However, there is always the flipside of the coin. While it can help with all these things, it can also easily lead to forgetting to use the antagonist mechanism of all these things, which is the "yawning position" or the "dampening" of the voice, mainly produced by lowering the larynx (and often as a side effect lifting the soft palate).

What helped me a lot personally to balance all these things out (singing is about balance in so many ways...) is the following:

- Sing vowels like OH, OO, OU through a smile (raised cheeks)

- Sing vowels like EE, EH, AH, UH through a yawning position of the mouth

This can show you quite well, where "the real thing" happens, which is in the area between back wall of the pharynx, back of the tongue, and soft palate.

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