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Jaw Relaxation

I myself deal with my jaws tightening as I lower them to sing higher notes or to sing louder. What can I do to prevent this from happenning to me or any of my students?
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on June 4, 2015 10:28am
Braylon,
 
You might consider focusing on the vowel & breath rather than on the jaw. As you do so, allow the jaw to maintain relaxation, but don't consciously push it lower. If the pure vowel (or occasionally modified vowel) wants the jaw to be more open, the vowel will massage it... :-). 
 
While it is true that some notes on some vowels might require the jaw to lower (high C on AH, for example), there's an idea floating out there that one must consciously lower the jaw for ALL higher notes. I'm pretty sure that's a misnomer, just as fallacious as "belly/tummy breathing" and "not smiling." 
 
Honestly, I'm not familiar with the notion that one should lower the jaw to sing louder. As I experiment with that, I notice that my jaw does lower a little as I increase the dynamic breath support, but it happens automatically; I don't "tell it" to lower. 
 
So, allow the jaw to relax, letting the breath and the vowel guide the jaw's lowering. Try to keep your conscious mind out of it.
 
If that doesn't work for you, I hope you'll get some feedback that will.
 
All my best,
 
Tom
Applauded by an audience of 4
on June 5, 2015 9:46am
Tom's suggestions are spot on. I find that one of the chief problems that amateur choral singers have is trying to do too much: exaggerated mouth and jaw positions, raising shoulders while inhaling, etc., resultimg in unnecessary and harmful muscle tensions that interfere with singing. My friend and mentor, the late James Walsh, used to simply say, "Drop your jaw," which I still find is very effective. One of Jim's favorite exercises involved going through the vowels out of alphabetical order (continental vowels): no ne nu ni na. The pattern was: eighth-notes no ne nu ni, quarter-note na sustained through an octave up leap (no portamento) and held for a quarter-note, eight-note no ne nu ni, quarter-note na sustained through octave leap down to starting pitch. All on one breath, no breaks, no portamento. (It would be nice if we could put notation into these comments!) This exercise works on a number of things: relaxed jaw, vowel formation without exaggerated lip movement, clean legato octaves, breath control, and is very easy to learn.  
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 5, 2015 2:19pm
Are these exercises done using long or short vowel sounds?
on June 6, 2015 7:37am
Hi Braylon --
 
I wrote a reply but it got stuck in cyberspace somehow. If you want to email me at braptormusic(a) gmail.com, I'll send it to you. Short answer: "short" vowels, but there's more to it because how you form them is very important. It's all in what I wrote.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 6, 2015 5:53am
Another image that might help is to tell your singers to "release" the jaw, not lower it.  Tell them to imagine themselves as someone asleep with his/her mouth open. 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 6, 2015 6:25am
Think "release" rather than "relax.
 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on June 7, 2015 11:07am
Here's how the McClosky Technique deals with this question.  Is your jaw free from tension when you're just singing "ah" easily in your middle range?  If not, then you will have troubles when you try to do more difficult things.  The skill to learn is to be able to release your jaw muscles at will.  Here's the approach.
 
- Can you open and shut your jaw easily with your hand, with your jaw muscles slack?  (Moving it ONLY up and down, not side to side or circularly--the jaw joint is delicate.  BE GENTLE; never force anything.)  If you can do this, move on.  If not, then practice this step.
- Can you do so while you breathe and sigh audibly?  If yes, move on.  If not, then practice this.
- Can you do so while you sing a single tone on your favorite vowel in your middle range?  If yes...
- Can you do so while you sing more difficult things?...
 
If this approach appeals to you, you can learn more from David Blair McClosky's book, "Your Voice At Its Best," available here: http://www.amazon.com/Your-Voice-Its-Best-Enhancement/dp/1577667050 
 
on June 9, 2015 2:25pm
Others have suggested " release your jaw." I prefer to say "relax your jaw" because I find most singers understand that term better.
 
Stephen
STEPHEN RAFE
Chorus Director
The Valley Voices 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 9, 2015 3:18pm
Stephen,
I agree. Thank you for making this point.
Larry Thompson
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