Magic Choral Trick #383 Keeping It Squishy
Want to increase your group’s resonance instantly? (Although you’ll still have to keep reminding them about this for months)
One of the biggest barriers to gorgeous resonant sound is tension in the tongue. And while we directors may talk about this non-stop, many of our singers really don’t understand the specifics of what we’re asking for.
This is when the squishiness metre becomes a very useful tool.
With a bit of pressure, press the thumb up into the squishy underside of the chin – behind the V of the jaw bone. Swallow and feel that big hunk of meat, that is your tongue, tighten.
Say ‘ee’ normally and feel, with your thumb, the muscle (tongue) tighten. Sing that version of ‘ee’. It’ll probably sound edgy and not at all resonant.
Say ‘ee’ with the tip of the tongue relaxing on the lower lip (yes – this looks really, really dumb) and the back of the tongue being allowed to float up to gently meet the upper molars. Sing ‘ee’ in this position. Experiment until you feel no tongue tension with your thumb.
Now instead of resting the tip of the tongue on the lip, bring the tip behind the lower front teeth to the gum line, and let it relax there. Maintain the relaxation in the back of the tongue so that it still floats up to caress the upper molars. Sing ‘ee’ again and check for under-the-chin squishiness.
Do this with as many vowels as you can think up. ‘ee’ ‘ay’ ‘ah’ ‘oh’ ‘oo’ ‘eu’ ‘ih’ ‘a’ ‘eh’ ‘aw’ ‘uh’
Some consonants need to tighten the tongue – but when you’re singing a word, these should be released to the succeeding vowel as quickly as possible – ‘D’ ‘the hard G’ and ‘T’.
‘L’ – with conscious relaxation and the use of only the tip of the tongue to form the ‘L’, can remain relaxed.
Another squishiness challenging sound is ‘Y’. Say ‘you’ normally and feel it tighten – then try a fast ‘ih’ – opening immediately to an ‘oo’ (‘ih-oo’) and note how it stays more relaxed. This formation of the word ‘you’ has the added benefit of preventing singers from using the ‘y’ to slide up into the note.
It’s a great idea to create a warm up that incorporates many opportunities for Squishiness Checks – so that singing without tongue tension becomes normal.