Foundation 101 | Part 2
Part 2 of this singing course will focus on releasing tension and developing the most important and versatile foundation singing exercise anyone could show you – the humble lip trill. Many of us aren’t aware of the strain and tension that we are experiencing in our every day lives, this first video will help you identify and release any tension from your voice before we start singing. Remember, singing should be easy, strain free and enjoyable – if something feels difficult then you’re doing it incorrectly.
Most tension in singing occurs from improper use of muscles that have very little, or even nothing to do with the singing voice. The main culprits of tension are the jaw, the hyoid muscle, and most of all the digastric muscle, which is located below your tongue underneath your chin. By releasing this muscle, you will experience a much freer and relaxed voice when you sing.
Once you’ve released the digastric muscle and you achieve a ‘slack’ feeling jaw, it’s likely you will notice tension around your jaw, which can be released by placing your flat palms on either side of your face and gently freeing your jaw downwards. From this point, it’s possible you also have tension up towards your temples which you can now release.
The vocal mechanism
If you experience strain and tension in your singing voice, it’s likely you also have strain in the vocal mechanism, or one of the secondary muscles like the tongue root or even the hyoid. This can all be released with a simple yawn that occurs at the back of your throat. The air should travel through your mouth, not your nose, and the yawn should be ‘high’ in the back of your mouth, not low and strained from the larynx and your throat.
As we start to progress and add some exercises to your singing routine, you can return to these simple steps to ensure your voice remains strain free and you thwart any tension before it becomes a habit, or worse, vocal strain.
The #1 foundation singing exercise
The most important singing exercise anyone could ever show you is the humble lip trill, which occurs when you build up air pressure behind closed lips, and the weakest point of connection then releases the pressure when it builds to a high enough level – this release of pressure then allows your lips to close again. This happens over and over in a cyclical fashion and creates the ‘bubble’ that we associate with a lip trill. This is truly the most versatile singing exercise and will help you manage your air flow, develop support, release tension, achieve vocal fold closure, develop your onsets and so many more important aspects of a great singing voice.
Unfortunately, many singers experience various issues with the lip trill and ultimately avoid doing it altogether, or practice inefficiently due to these issues.
Now that you can sing a lip trill efficiently and confidently, you can start to increase your range and develop a light connection between chest and head voice. Instead of dragging up your lower voice, it’s important that you allow your sound to resonate high in the back of your head as you sing through the centre of your range. This will make the basis of the full connection between chest and head that we will develop later in this series. You can use this scale to start practising your lip trill regularly:
Keep it light and strain free. If you experience a vocal break in the middle of your voice, sing a little lighter and quieter through this passage for the time being – we will develop your middle voice in the upcoming lessons. By the end of this lesson, you should now be able to release strain and tension from your voice and also practice a lip trill effectively without pushing or releasing excess air.
If you have any questions about releasing tension and singing a lip trill, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
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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.