Tongue Tension

Today I would like to talk about tongue root tension. Tongue root tension can restrict your vocal freedom and hinder you from achieving your vocal goals.

If our tongue is too low when we sing it pushes the larynx down (as the tongue root is attached to the larynx). In order to reach high notes the larynx needs to rise, therefore a very low tongue can lead to singing flat. Further, a low tongue darkens the sound – which is not always desirable. Lastly, for many vocal tasks the larynx needs to be able to move freely which is why generally speaking we do not want to sing with a low tongue (I am talking about the root of the tongue). If someone is constantly singing with a low tongue he/she might suffer from tongue root tension.

There is a great exercise to tackle tongue root tension, tongue rolls which I have explained below.

  1. Place your tongue into your cheek as if you have a toffee stuck between your teeth.
  2. Move your tongue clockwise around the outside of your teeth (both top and bottom). Repeat this 8 times.
  3. Now move your tongue anticlockwise. Repeat this 8 times.
  4. Continue moving your tongue as per above instructions alternating between clockwise and anticlockwise and repeat as follows: 8 times, 6 times, 4 times, twice, once (both clockwise and anticlockwise).
  5. Once you are done, stick your tongue out as far as you can.

If this exercise was very painful you will need to do this at least once a day until it is not painful anymore. If you cannot go through the whole exercise because of too much pain you have strong tongue root tension and need to work on this, in this case do the exercise to the level of discomfort not pain, keep repeating this daily and slowly increase the number of repetitions you are doing on each side until you can do the full exercise without pain.

After you have done this exercise you will feel your tongue better, so start singing and notice how much your tongue moves and wants to get involved.

The next step is to learn to sing all vowels with minimal tongue movement between the vowels – notice your lips still need to shape the vowels, operate your tongue independent of your lips.