It is important to keep in mind that these are exercises for the tongue which require that the mouth be open bigger than usual. I like to say this upfront so no one gets the impression that the mouth is always to be this open. Still, for the purposes of the tongue getting its exercise: the mouth must be open as much as is possible and comfortable! I like the image of “as if to bite into an apple”.
You will need to use a mirror. The benefit of these exercises is getting the tongue movements independent of the jaw! And, to develop sensations of how the tongue articulates with other speech articulators: palate, teeth, etc.
Exercise 1 is for the back of the tongue: 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1
IPA [ja ja ja ja ja]
- with mouth open and tip of tongue touching the back of the front lower row of teeth
- sing “ja ja ja ja ja” (as in the German word Ja for Yes! Bright Italian [ a ] with soft palate up
- on 5 note descending pattern [ 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1]
- make sure to NOT move the jaw
- as the tongue gets used to the position, you will see that is very close to the position for an [ i ] vowel.
- also, beware that there is no extraneous anticipation of sound, such as, an [ng] which indicates that the tongue in the throat wall is involved.
- what you are looking for is a sense that the precise point where tongue articulates with palate is where the tone begins!
- do not hold the last note! You will note that some singers tend to hold the last note by depressing the tongue. For the purposes of this exercise, you want to advise they avoid this. Just tell them: :”Get off the last note!”
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1
IPA [ge ……….. jo jo jo jo jo ] or
[ke …………jo jo jo jo jo]
- again, the mouth needs to be open!
- one [ge] or [ke] and then legato ascent in this position
- jaw remains passive
- I like to have the student clarify the sensation of how this consonant is articulated by the tongue touching- albeit briefly- in the roof of the mouth.
- watch like a hawk that the mouth is open enough. When it is, this exercise is so freeing for the tone as it truly gets the tongue OUT of the back of the throat. And, that lovely buccopharyngal resonator can just go to town!
- Check in with the breath often. It is easy to get tied up in these articulators such that we forget to breathe!
5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1
[la - li - la- li- la, na-ni-na- ni-na, ti- ti- ti- ti- ti]
- mouth still open!
- think Italian and experience just how forward and quick these sounds articulate; be sure the student sings a true [ i ] vowel alternated with a true [ a ] vowel.
- of course, after articulating the consonants between tip of tongue and behind upper row of front teeth, the tongue quickly flips down to touch behind lower row of front teeth!
NO JAW MOVEMENT!
5 4 3 2 1
(fa-na-la) (fa-na-la) (fa-na-la)(fa-na-la)(fa-na-la)
- mouth open! no jaw- except to articulate [ f ]
- each tone gets a [fa-na-la] as quickly as possible
At first the tongue exercises must be engaged slowly and thoroughly. As the singer gets used to them and knows what to watch out for, the exercises will ideally become part of the daily warm-up routine. As facility with tongue articulation improves, the entire series may be accomplished within 5 minutes!
I use these exercises frequently and also recommend to voice teachers: Richard Miller’s book, The Structure of Singing. I like to show students this diagrams in Chapter 4: The Resonant Voice, pages 52 - 54 to give them a sense of the tongue’s participation in shaping sounds.
Also, I highly recommend Thomas Grubb’s French for Singers. No matter what language you want to sing in, becoming aware and sensate of the sounds of the words is freeing for the tone. As my Italian teachers said, you want to taste the words!
I have in mind to make a video demonstration of these exercises and will let you know when posted!
Best wishes, Karen R. Clark, contralto
Voice & Feldenkrais Teacher
Petaluma & Oakland, CA