Chad Runyon is an award-winning vocal performer, conductor, and instructor.

Posted August 21st, 2017
Filed under Essays

Help Your Tongue Do Only What is Necessary

Most singers know that the tip of their tongue should rest gently against the bottom teeth. Few realize when it is not. Heightening awareness of what is actually happening with the tongue can produce quick results in beauty of tone and comfort during production.

To develop an awareness of what your tongue is doing, look in the mirror. Be diligent to focus on the tongue and what it is doing for each of the five singer vowels. You can see what vowels are the culprits and what vowels are helpful as you strive to keep the tip of the tongue where it belongs. If the tongue continues to pull away from the bottom teeth when singing, try speaking the vowel and see if it still does the same thing. Often the tongue behaves more naturally when speaking. If so, you can analyze what you are doing differently when speaking vs singing and adjust accordingly.

If a mirror is not close at hand, you can place an observational finger just behind the chin bone, where the bone is no longer felt and the flesh is soft and squishy. Keep it there and work through the vowels. If you feel this area tighten and push against the finger, that’s tongue tension. Removing unnecessary tongue tension will release your sound and production will feel more comfortable. Of course, some amount of tongue tension is necessary to create a defined vowel. The trick is to only use what is necessary. Generally, however, the tip is key and it’s ideal placement is to rest gently against the bottom teeth.