I was asked recently about how one goes about raising the soft palate.
As a soloist, I never thought about this much – but it really does make a difference to the sound of a chorus. And of course, the amount of difference is in direct co-relation to the number of singers who know how, then remember to do it.
If a technique is explained only one way, only a small percentage of the chorus will understand – so here’s a list of all the different ways I can think of to get singers to raise the soft palate
1. Create the feeling of stifling a yawn. That feeling in the back of the throat tells you that the soft palate is raised.
2. In the back of the mouth, create enough space for a hard boiled egg
4. Imagine that you’re breathing in the delicate scent of a rose or the aroma of something wonderful, baking next door. The sinuses open and the soft palate rises.
5. As you breathe in, imagine that the air is flowing in through your eyes
6. Think of an inner smile
7. Imagine that someone is telling you something scandalous. During that slow, shocked breath right before you whisper “Whaaaaat???!!!” the soft palate will rise.
8. Opening the eyes really wide as you take a breath will make the soft palate rise – but this won’t always be appropriate for the Presentation plan.
9. Think of opening the space at the very back and top of the nose – where it meets the throat.
10. Sing like an opera singer – but be careful not to make it a caricature (no oversized wobbly vibrato). Just be that opera singer singing a straight sound.
11. If these mental tricks fail, go to a mirror, open your mouth, drop the jaw, relax the tongue – and look at your relaxed throat (don’t say “Ah” yet). The little dangly thingy is attached to the part of the throat we want to raise. Now try saying “Ah” and see if everything rises. If for some reason it doesn’t, don’t give up. Just start moving the muscles at the back of the throat, and through trial and error, you’ll come across the right movement – the one that makes the dangly thing and the soft palate rise.
Now the real trick is to make this a habit.