Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jaw movement and the voice

The position and movement of the jaw has significant effects on the voice. You may hear different points of view from various vocal teachers about what you should try to do with your jaw. Whatever you are taught, just know that you can over-do what is being suggested.

Here's what I've learned by experience with both my own voice and that of my students and recording clients:

A stiff jaw (I call it "lockjaw") will limit your control of pitch, vocal range, tone color, and articulation. It will numb the eyes, which need to sparkle with communication in order to stimulate and expand the upper nasal membrane (yes, the eyes are intricately connected to the nose). It will tighten the throat, causing the larynx to rise uncomfortably (not good) with high notes. It thins the voice and causes vocal fatigue to quickly set in.

Sooooo... what to do?

  • First of all, drop the jaw loosely. Don't drop it tightly like pliers, drop it at the hinge like a monkey wrench. You know that phrase from the movie "Forrest Gump" - "Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates"... try talking in that slack-jawed way and you should feel the jaw dropping.

NOTE: DO NOT OVER-DROP the jaw!! In fact, Forrest Gump drops the jaw too much for good vocal production. You need to feel distance between your molars, but to do this correctly you need to lift the upper jaw more than drop the lower one when you sing or speak. Anatomically, when I say "lift the upper jaw", I'm really trying to get you to lift your soft palate and the back of your nasal membrane. If you're doing this, your eyes will show it. The upper jaw lift feels like the beginning of the yawn. If you over-drop the jaw, you'll compromise this upwards lift.

  • Secondly, move the jaw in a chewing motion. Don't over-chew; what I'm talking about is a slight sideways movement that unlocks the jaw much like a slight twist unlocks a frozen nut or screw. I noticed this when one of the members of my church choir was having trouble holding a note. When I suggested that she move her jaw in a slight chewing motion, all her vocal fatigue with this note disappeared.

So, give your jaw permission to be free...JUST DON'T OVER DO IT!

FYI: I have two cd packages available on my vocal training method "Power, Path and Performance".

  • My 6-cd package sells normally for $130 + $5 s&h; if you order it by calling 615-347-5195 or emailing, I will discount it to $99 + $5 s&h.
  • My 1-cd condensed course sells for $17 plus $3 s&h. It's new, not even on the internet yet, so order it by the same phone or email.

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