Tongue tension is no fun to have as a singer. Our tongue is so connected to our larynx that any stiffness or unwanted movements in your tongue can really mess up your notes and performance. It can dull your sound, negatively affect your pitch, and limit your vocal range.
We as singers can get this tension from being nervous, not having proper singing training, or simply not being warmed up enough before attempting to perform or practice. Here are some exercises you can incorporate into your singing warmups if you suffer from tongue tension often.
One simple way to remove tension from your tongue is to simply grab it and stick it out as much as you can straight forward with your hands. If you're worried about germs, a glove for your hands or a clean towel should do. Stretch your tongue far several times over and over to help the stiffness of the muscles in your throat that can negatively affect your pitch.
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Similar to stretching your tongue out straight forward, you can perform tongue curls to help ease the tension if you are able to do so. Most people can curl the tip of their tongue at least a little, while some can roll their tongue up to a very impressive amount. This is a very effective exercise when done over and over at least 10 times or so. If you have trouble with tongue curls, try manually guiding your tongue into a curl in the mirror.
Try saying the word mum while holding the last m for a long time to make your mouth vibrate. Now try the same thing with your tongue rested between your vibrating lips. This is a great exercise to help singers who need to get rid of tongue tension. It's important to keep saying mum repeatedly so that you are opening and closing the vowels and consonants.
Another great way to stretch your tongue out is to act like you are brushing your teeth with your tongue. Get the front teeth, sides of your teeth, the bottom, and the back parts of both rows of your teeth. Brush your tongue against the roof of your mouth and under your tongue as well. This can help you relieve tension in your tongue with stretches from a variety of different angles.
You can also speak this, but singing la la la over and over with emphasis on the tongue clicks is another good way to release some tension you may be having. The force of the clicks against the base and roof of your mouth will help your tongue loosen up some stiffness that could be reaching muscles in your larynx as well. Do this over and over for a minute or so during your warmup.
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Not everyone can do a tongue trill, also known as a tongue roll, but if you are able to do so, it may help with some tension in your tongue. The rolled r is the most commonly used in Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and many other languages. Holding the rolled r over and over can help release the stress in your tongue with the vibrations.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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