Such a small, seemingly insignificant detail – but when I demonstrate singing a phrase, then immediately closing my mouth, it looks so jarringly uninvolved that people laugh.
The rule of thumb here is that if you’re a singer, and you’re onstage, your lips should not be closed except for the nanosecond that it takes to form the occasional ‘b’, ‘p’ or ‘m’.
Singers in the chorus who keep their lips closed look either grim or disinterested – neither of which is particularly desirable.
The tough part of this is that closing our lips is so unconscious for most of us that it’s a difficult habit to kick – especially on those days when we might be feeling grim or disinterested.
The temptation to close the mouth is the strongest when another part has a lead in, and we may have rests for a beat or two.
And this rule applies not only to the singing part of your onstage time – but also to acknowledging the applause, and when preparing to sing the next song. In fact, if the curtain is open, so is your mouth. And whenever I mention this to my groups, there’s always one joker in the crowd who thinks it’s hilarious to just leave his mouth wide open. (Directors – just giving you a heads up) By open, I mean lips open and relaxed.
There’ll be people reading this who say that if everyone is actually emotionally involved, then there will be no closed lips. And they’re absolutely right! But emotional involvement is so very difficult for a segment of every group, that to have this contingency plan – making a habit of leaving the lips open – will help the visual impact of the performance.
It’s a small thing, but the difference it makes to the overall visual excitement level is too obvious to ignore.