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Relaxing - Tongue Tension

singer with tongue tension

Tongue tension is the type of tension I have noticed the most in my students and also one that they take the longest to learn to remove. The tongue has a mind of its own and tends to twitch and move of its own accord, making singing harder than necessary until the tongue is tamed. Tongue tension is bad because random uncontrolled movements inside the mouth lead to random uncontrolled sounds. Additionally the tongue can muffle pleasant sounds or even block off parts of the vocal tract. Identifying tension is not difficult, but removing it is quite hard.

Identifying Tongue Tension - Simply look in a mirror while singing. If your tongue looks "fat, floppy, and spongey" its relaxed. If it looks firm, pulls back, or indents strangely, its tense. As simple as that. Make sure to try singing text as well as random vowels when checking as the tongue can become more tense after moving to make certain consonants.

Eliminating Tongue Tension - Looking in a mirror while singing can also help eliminate tongue tension. Give your tongue a set place to rest, usually either lightly touching where your bottom teeth meet your gums or lightly touching your bottom lip. Then just work on maintaining the fat and floppy tongue.

One strategy to gain control of your tongue is to stick it out all the way. As far as your are able, then try to hold it still. Many of my students describe the feeling of holding it still as a slight feeling of forward motion in the tongue, even though its already all the way out and staying still. This is an excellent way to tame your tongue and control it consciously.

Another strategy is to place a small object under your tongue horizontally. A toothpick or a stirring straw work great. Try to sing while holding the object with your tongue against your bottom lip. Try not to use your hands to help. The goal is to keep your tongue from pulling back and dropping the object. It also encourages the center of your tongue to relax.

A third strategy is to keep your teeth shut and breath is quickly through your mouth. For some reason I've found my students say their tongues relax down and the back of the tongue moves a bit forward when breathing quickly through closed teeth like this. Then sing through the closed teeth and try to maintain the feeling of the back of the tongue relaxing.

Overall, its quite hard to relax the tongue and make it follow your commands without doing anything of its own. Its even harder once you begin saying text where your tongue must move quickly between consonants. If you need additional help, sign up for a singing lesson with me or leave a comment and I'll do my best to help!

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