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Timbre - Lips

a singer's lips

Your lips have a surprisingly large impact on the timbre/color of your voice. I often describe the color change as "bright" vs "dark." When your lips are narrow, as when singing an "oo," your voice will sound "darker." When your lips are wide, as when singing an "a" like the word "and," your voice sounds "brighter." To hear this effect just sing the same phrase with your lips wide and then again narrow. You'll hear how the narrow lips sound deeper and more somber while the wide lips sound cheery and thin. If you're still unsure how to change your lips, wide lips are a full smile while narrow lips are similar to kissing but without the puckering.

How to Use Your Lips - First of all, no timbre/color choice should be done exclusively for entire songs. That being said, a happier song should be wider while a sadder song should be narrow. Think of how you can hear someone smile over the phone. The same thing can be said for music, they can hear the smile. Additionally, some genre's simply sound thinner or deeper. If you're singing classical music, you should almost always have narrower lips while if you're singing pop you'll lean wider. Usually you will use the middle ground and not fully wide or narrow, but they are all options.

Another thing to note when controlling your lips, is that the high and low sounds also make higher and lower notes easier to hit. If you're singing a happy song that goes to the bottom of your range, you may need to sing more narrow to even make the note happen. To feel this, sing the lowest note you can reliably hit and try it very narrow vs very wide. It should be noticeably more difficult to sing the low note wide than it is narrow. If you feel as though this isn't the case, I recommend trying it in a mirror as I've had many students who think their lips are wide but simply are not. In a similar vein, if you're struggling with high notes, widening you lips may be the straw that breaks the camels back to let you hit that note.

As with any aspect of timbre, focusing too much on any given aspect will have an overall negative effect as there are too many factors happening at once. The goal in practicing control over the lips would be to teach your brain the sound it creates so that you can do it unconsciously. In other words, practice it individually on your own, but don't focus on it for performances. Need extra help? Sign up for singing lessons here or leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you out!

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