It’s all about your mouth

Mixdown Magazine Article

Have you ever been to a performance or heard a song and thought to yourself, “I cannot understand a single word they are singing?” The main reason this happens is because the singer is not using their mouth properly. One of the biggest downfalls we see here at Vox Singing Academy is a vocalist not using their mouth to assist their singing voice and using incorrect placement when moving between vowels. To put things simply, they are not using their mouth properly.  The singers’ mouth placement isn’t forming the right shape for the particular word or vowel they wish to sing.

If you do not use your entire mouth correctly when you sing, and even speak, you are not going to be understood clearly because your mouth is inhibiting your sounds. Your words and sounds will be unclear resulting in not being able to perform to your full potential. You will have less volume and projection, especially in your higher vocal range.

Your jaw, lips and tongue are responsible for your pronunciation, articulation, and diction. It is vitally important to get your mouth moving! You want your mouth to be able to move to the correct placements for the particular words, vowels, and sounds that you are singing. This not only applies to “clean” singers but is just as important for singers who apply screaming, growling and distortion to their vocal technique.

Here are some pointers to free your voice, allowing you to sing and sound great!

I am going to start by telling you the cardinal rule to singing and sounding great! Ninety five percent of what you sing are vowels! That’s right, vowels. Try it for yourself right now. Try Singing the word “I”, “me”, “art” (or any word for that matter) and hold that word for 3 seconds. The sound that you are making and holding is a vowel. For instance, if you are singing the word “art” you are holding the vowel sound of ah, and then right at the end of the word you would be putting the constant of T to finish the word “art”. When you sing, you hold vowels for ninety five percent of the time and the other five percent would be syllables and consonants.

The attached diagram shows what mouth placement you should be using for all long vowel formation. Here at Vox Singing Academy, we use the words “air”, “see”, “heart”, “soul”, and “you” to practice using our mouth to correctly form long vowel sounds. As in all of our singing lessons, we are using words and sounds that we can directly and practically apply to songs.

Vowel Chart

Three points you should keep in mind when singing these different vowel sounds are:

  1. Always be sure to have a more relaxed mouth placement when singing through the lower section of your vocal range.
  2.  Use and “overdo” your mouth placement as you sing up into the higher section of your vocal range
  3. Smile on your long E vowels (such as those found in the word “see”) as you go into the higher range of your voice.  However, you still want to keep the lower section of this “see scale” round, If you smile all the way through the “eeee” sound you risk sounding nasally or pinched.

If you are able, always stand in a relaxed posture when singing and rehearsing scales. With all of the above vowel words, (“air”, “see”, “heart”, “soul” and “you”) it is recommended to sound out each of the vowels separately on a major 5th scale. In other words, sing the same word over and over again as you work your way up and then back down the scale. Focus on making sure that you are keeping the mouth in the right shape throughout the entire scale.

Once you have mastered all five vowels, begin practicing them one after another on a single note.

For example: If you are singing a C minor (any note will do) then sing “air”, “see”, “heart”, “soul” and “you” one word after the other all in a C minor. Hold each vowel in the word for 2-3 seconds a piece. Make sure that your mouth is staying open and relaxed allowing the correct vowel to be sounded out to the very end.

As I have said in past columns, please ensure you are watching you mouth in the mirror as you work through the 5 separate mouth shapes and formations. One of the most important practice techniques is to look at yourself and your mouth in a mirror when singing and rehearsing scales. In a very short time, you will not only see the difference, but you will hear and feel your free flowing sound projecting forward.

After practicing these scales for between five and ten weeks, most of our students begin automatically moving to the correct mouth placements subconsciously in both their songs and scales.

This is why better singers tend to make their song performances look so easy. Most of their skills come naturally and subconsciously, without effort. With the right teaching, technique and practice this is also available to you within a short period of time.

Another fantastic learning technique is to watch what your favourite singer does with their mouth when they are performing. You will quickly notice that better singers will use their mouth well, especially through their middle to higher ranges. They will also be singing with consistent energy, passion, and feeling in all songs. We will be covering song interpretation, as well as singing with energy and feeling, in our future columns.

Summary: The 6 rules for “Mouth Placement when singing”

  1. Ninety five percent of what you sing will be vowels.
  2. Maintain bigger mouth placements when singing higher, and a more relaxed placement when singing lower.
  3. Practice! Practice! Practice!
  4. Look at your mouth in the mirror and listen to yourself when rehearsing.
  5. Observe what better singers do with their mouths when they are singing.
  6. Experiment with different mouth shapes

Always remember to have fun singing and until next time, have a great month!