Magic Choral Trick #54 A Tongue With a Mind of Its Own
If you check out diagrams of the tongue, you’ll see that it’s a huge lump of muscle.
Most tongues are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want – until their owners decide to sing.
For the ‘ee’ and ‘ay’ vowels the tip of the tongue needs to touch the back of the lower teeth – and relax forward. For the ‘oh’, the ‘oo’ and the ‘ah’ the tongue relaxes fairly flat along the bottom of the mouth (again with the tip of the tongue just touching the back of the lower teeth).
However, it’s when you try to instruct the tongue to do this that you discover that its permissive upbringing can be a problem.
I have discovered that if you try to tell a tongue to relax it’ll do one of three things: it’ll go too limp and be useless at forming any vowel, it’ll roil up and try to choke you, or it’ll just find a different and totally new place to store its tension.
Tongues (like two year olds) need to be tricked into compliance.
What seems to work for my students is for them to tell their tongues that they’re scanning for tension. This helps the tongue let go just enough – especially that band of tension that happens about ¾ of the way back – without freaking out and doing one of the three things described above.
The tongue doesn’t like to be bossed around – but it also seems to really want to do the right thing by you, the singer.