How To Sing Vocal Trill Exercises The Right Way
I often espouse the importance of lip trill exercises and vocal trill exercises for building a consistent and powerful singing voice, as do many other singing teachers and vocal methods. The lip trill is the most important and versatile exercise you can possibly practice in your singing voice – but what do you do when you can’t sing vocal trill exercises? The problem with exercises like lip trills is that many people don’t bother to explain exactly how and why they work the way they do, so it’s very hard to fix any issues you might be experiencing. The truth is, any issue you experience in lip trill exercises will carry over into your actual singing. If you are having issues singing vocal trill exercises, this is a sign that there is something askew with your foundation – this tutorial will show you how to sing vocal trill exercises the right way!
The Soft Palate
Developing proper control over the soft palate is one of the very first things you need to learn in singing. This is especially important when it comes to singing lip trill exercises. The way a lip trill works is by air pressure building up behind closed lips, and then when there’s enough pressure, it’s released through the weakest point of closure in the lips – which then close again when the pressure drops. This continues in a cyclical fashion and creates the “BRR” trill sound at your lips that you are hopefully familiar with. Now, the soft palate acts as a two way switch between the nose and mouth – directing air flow through either air passage along with the added ability to ‘raise’ and alter your resonant space for singing high notes. If you sing a lip trill with the ‘door to the nose’ open, then the air pressure won’t build up behind your lips properly, it will simply escape through your nose and you will have to push and blow-out extra air to sing a trill. The first step to singing an efficient vocal trill exercise is to develop a healthy relationship with the soft palate and learn to moderate the passage of air properly.
Now, behind the “BRR” trill at your lips, there is actually a separate resonant sound that occurs in the vocal tract. You can also feel these two elements when you sing a resonant sound like “V” or “Z” – can you feel the buzz at your lips, and also resonance at the back of your head? A lip trill is no difference. This means that the way you start your resonance, known as a vocal onset, affects the manner in which you sing the trill. In singing, the only healthy onset that you should develop as a habit is a balanced onset, where airflow and vocal fold closure occur at the same moment simultaneously. Many singers do an almighty “BUH” when they first start their lip trill exercises – in essence defeating the purpose of the trill. A better way to learn how to sing effective vocal trill exercises is to start the trill at your lips first, then add in vocal chord closure and sound as a crescendo after the fact to ensure that you’re not using a forceful glottal onset behind your trill.
Air Pressure is key, not airflow
This is true for singing in general. It’s not air FLOW that vibrates your vocal folds when you sing, it’s actually air PRESSURE carried by airflow. The same is true for lip trills – it should almost feel like there is no air escaping when you sing a lip trill, or at least, very little air escapes when you sing a lip trill. If there is a whoosh of air escaping when you sing lip trill exercises, it’s likely you’re not setting up your breathing properly or singing with support. Support occurs when you change the balance between airflow and airpressure and skew it towards pressure instead of flow. This means that you sing with resonance instead of an airy tone. A lip trill shouldn’t occur like a big ‘raspberry’ with flapping lips and spit flying everywhere, instead, it should be performed with care and finesse with very little commotion or airflow.
Use your lips, not your hands
They’re called lip trills for a reason. If you have to use your fingers to push in your cheeks or lips to perform a lip trill properly, there’s something wrong with your approach. If you lack control over your lips, cheeks, teeth and tip of the tongue – all know as the articulators, you will experience issues later in your progress as a singer when you try to narrow your vowel sounds or sing consonant sounds. It’s better to do things correctly right from the start rather than cheating along the way and having to fix it later. If you experience any issues with your lip trills, like a lack of sound through your middle range, your lips being blown apart by air, the need for fingers at the cheeks or any other common problems, there’s something lacking in your foundation and you need to remedy the issue before moving on to the next stages of becoming a great singer.
What Are Lip Trill Exercises Good For?
Lip trill exercises are the first step you need to take towards building control and consistency in your voice, and eventually bridging a connection between chest and head voice. A semi occluded sound like lip trills are the best sound for learning how to connect chest and head voice in the first instance, as there is very little expectation for how you voice should sound or perform – a wide open vowel sound often comes with bad habits and ‘expectation’ of a certain vocal tone, so it can be much harder to develop a connection when you are first learning how to sing. Start light and small with a lip trill and move incrementally through sound like N, M, NG before attempting smaller vowels like EE and OO and finally the open vowels like OH, AH and AY.
Lip trills really are the most versatile singing exercise as they can be used in many different ways to develop your technique and can be used to help you with onsets, connecting chest and head voice, resonance and resonant space, middle voice, support and SO many other aspects of a great singing voice. For a humble little exercise, the lip trill is the most useful and practical exercise you can use to build a great singing voice. Are you practising lip trills correctly?
A great place to start is the free foundations 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a rock solid foundation so that you can sing lip trill exercises effectively and build your voice correctly. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional training, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your vocal range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about singing lip trill exercises and vocal trill exercises, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.