Ok – I know this one sounds a little kooky, but it has to be heard to be believed.
I was working with some students recently, and realized that I still hadn’t managed to convey to them the huge importance of keep the air column narrow enough. They still weren’t getting it.
What I was thinking was that I really just wanted them to gather up their lips, and hold them there. Then I thought – why not?
I asked them to make a circle with the thumb and index finger (the other 3 fingers tend to stand up then like a cockatoo’s comb), and just insert their lips into the opening created by the circle.
Then I asked them to lock the lips in there with the circle, so that they couldn’t widen as the students sang a phrase. We tried this a few times, then sang the same phrase in the same position without the Lip Ring. Much clearer, much more forward.
As impressive as this is with individual singers, the difference in the brightness and clarity of the sound when a group is singing this way is very exciting.
It’s important to keep in mind that these various facial contortions that I recommend are not written in stone for all time. As soon as the singer can produce a forward, focused sound consistently, these tricks will no longer be necessary, except as an occasional reminder of how narrow the column inside the mouth needs to be.