Top 3 ways to learn to open up!
Are you tired of flubbing high notes? Or do you feel closed off and tight when trying to reach them? We've all had this common problem on our singing journey. No need to fret—I've got you! Here are some tricks to help you to learn how to begin creating space on command.
But first, what do I mean by creating space?
You may or may not have heard of this phrase before but the goal is to raise your soft palate. What's that? Well, at the roof of your mouth you have two palates. The hard palate is located at the front part of your mouth. Whereas, the soft palate is at the back of your mouth. It's where your uvula (dangling thing) hangs.
In the first picture, you can see that the uvula is low hanging and that you can't even see the back of the throat. In the second picture, the uvula is raised high in the back of the mouth. This is what the objective is!
Let's speak practically. Do you know the difference in sound waves if you were to sing in a small room versus a cavern? Of course you do. The difference is massive. The sound has more room to resonate in a bigger space rather than a small space. Don't allow your mind to make this complicated. Now, how DO we accomplish creating the type of space we see in the second picture?
1.) The "Surprise Breath"
The first thing I attempt with my students is something I've termed the "Surprise Breath." Have you ever discovered something new or seen something shocking and took a little gasp of air? "*Gasp* I didn't know that!" That's the surprise breath! More specifically, it feels like a rush of cool air hitting the back of your throat.
For instance, if you were attempting to sing a high note or higher passage you would prepare by taking a surprise breath to stick the landing!
Ex: The Star Spangled Banner
Were so gallantly streaming...
And the rockets *Surprise Breath* red glaaaaaare!"
One you've manage to do it correctly, try your BEST to keep the soft palate raised throughout the entire phrase. You can accomplish this by remembering and holding on to the sensation or feeling of the air hitting the back of your throat.
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID
Don't use your vocal folds. Keep your voice out of it. You should only hear/ feel air rushing in.
There shouldn't be any tense squeezing going on. To test if you are doing this drop your jaw and just relax. Inhale through your mouth slowly. Notice that there is no extra muscular activity going on. Your throat and neck muscles should feel exactly like this when you're quickly inhaling. You should be relaxed whether you are slowly inhaling or when quickly inhaling, namely while doing the "surprise breath".
2.) Panting Exercise
Have you ever seen a dog pant? Of course. Dogs don't sweat, so instead they were designed to cool off by sticking their tongue out and panting. Except, we're not dogs so, keep those tongues in!
To memorize the sensation of a raised soft palate, try doing quick and concise panting. You are essentially switching back and forth between exhaling and inhaling on a set tempo. (1234, 1234, 1234, 1234,)
Like the surprise breath, you should feel a rush(s) of cool air hitting the back of your throat. If you practice this daily, you truly will began to create the healthy habit of creating space.
If you are a beginner or if do this exercise to the max extreme, you'll run the risk of becoming dizzy or lightheaded. Your body is not used to inhaling and exhaling at such a rapid speed. Slow down young grasshopper! If this is your case, simply bend over, as if you're about to touch your toes, and let you arms, hands, and head dangle. Let the blood rush to your head for a few seconds and you should be back up and running quickly for...
Round two, FIGHT!
Ah, the tried and true method of learning to raise one's soft palate. This is an oldie but goodie. If all else fails, the simplest way to at least feel the sensation of having space in the back of your throat is to yawn. So go ahead and let it rip. Try your best to yawn and you should feel the glory.
The only draw back to this tip is that students tend to suppress their larynx with the back of their tongue along with creating space. We want the first and not the latter or else you'll inevitably sound like Patrick from SpongeBob.
Alright folks, those are my top three ways to learn to create space. Don't neglect the importance of them. Add these things to your personal arsenal and you, my friend, will have taken a major step on the journey to vocal freedom.
Remember to practice, practice, PRACTICE!