Here’s a question from one of my YouTube subscribers.
“Hi sir, it would be great if you could make a video about mouth shape when singing. That will help a lot”.
Inside this video I discuss mouth shapes we should and should not use when singing. It all comes down to the “Goldilocks Rule”! Watch!
Mouth Shape When Singing
This question about mouth shape directly affects our singing in several ways.
Let me begin by defining the word “vowels” from a singer’s perspective. From “Singing for the Stars” (pp.94) by Seth Riggs he says a vowel is this:
Vowels are created and altered by the shape of the mouth cavity and changing the position of the tongue. Watch what happens to the vowel “ah” when I change my mouth without changing my tongue.
Can you see that if your mouth shape changes too much, you can distort the vowel or change it completely?
If I sing “amazing grace” with a basic “a” vowel sound, look what happens to the vowel and the word when I change my mouth. [Demo]
Open naturally where I speak and it sounds like: [Demo]
Open too wide: [Demo]
Open too long: [Demo]
Too Closed: [Demo]
A simple rule of thumb would be like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It needs to be just right. Not to hard, and not too soft. In the case of singing, not too closed, not too open (too long or wide), but just right. I’m calling it the Goldilocks Rule.
Watch what happens if I sing the phrase “Mother Mary comes to me” from the Beatles’, “Let it Be”. [Demo]
Using the Goldilocks Rule, which might also be labeled, using your speech level rule…or how you talk, if you talk normally, you will generally be in the “just right” zone.
Mouth Shape When Singing – Unwanted Resonance Shift
Depending on your singing experience, not only can the vowels and words be distorted by being too open or too closed, you may get an unwanted shift in resonance.
For example if you are singing a pitch that is in your first bridge or head voice, you naturally want to maintain a more narrow vowel.
If your mouth opens too wide and spreads the vowel, the resonance will shift from your head and drop down into your mouth. This will cause the vowel to distort. It will also pull the chest voice up and drive the larynx too high. The result is a splatty sound.
If I was singing the phrase “this ain’t love it’s clear to see” from Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” which starts on the E above middle C and moves through the A and B above middle C which is into my 2nd bridge, if I opened my mouth too wide the resonance might drop from my head down into my mouth. That would cause the chest voice to pull up and the words to splat. [Demo]
With experience I’ve learned to keep the resonance in my head so that doesn’t happen. [Demo] but it’s slightly easier if I keep my mouth at a more natural speech level or “just right”
Mouth Shape When Singing – Learning to Bridge
Mouth shape definitely helps or hinders you when learning to bridge. For example, if I am doing vocal exercises like this [Oct up Repeat with sustained no], watch what happens if I open my mouth too wide. [Demo] It starts to splat. It drops from my head down into my mouth. [Demo] Do you hear the splat?
By keeping my lips in a more closed position as in [u], I am able to maintain the resonance in my head, rather than having it fall down into my mouth and losing the head portion of my Head-Chest mix. [Demo]
You’ll find this to be helpful with various vowels where narrowing your lips slightly will help you feel and control your resonance. After a while you can maintain that same feeling while leaving your lips in just the right place which is more normal.
Mouth Shape When Singing – Errors of Extreme Singing
It’s definitely possible to over enunciate which can cause you to sing too much with your face and mouth. This can also add too much tension and cause you to distort your vowels. I’ve been guilty of this and I’ve got to “watch it” or I fall back into old habits.
I sometimes am over dramatic! At least that’s what my family says about me! That doesn’t help my singing sometimes.
The Goldilocks Rule is a simple way to think about your mouth when you’re working for what’s best. It will help keep your vowels and your voice balanced.
Another way to balance your voice is to practice exercises for your vocal type. Your vocal type is what you tend to do as you sing higher through the first bridge of your voice.
Go to PowertoSing.com and take the PowerTest. Take the quiz and get your vocal type. Then visit the Knowledge Center and watch the videos about your vocal type.
Download the free exercises for your vocal type and start practicing them. You’ll begin improving your voice immediately.
I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing. You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power.
I’ll see you inside the next video.