28 Comments

  1. Adel
    July 12, 2014 @ 10:25 am

    Hi,
    Thank you very much. This was very informative. I’ve been researching about this for years! Can you believe it?!
    The area behind my chin (or below my tongue) has been very hard for about 11 years now, which have made speaking for me very hard and also ruined my voice.
    Just lately I met a voice therapist and found out that there’s no problem at all in my voice box and that it’s only a tension. All these years, I thought the problem was in my vocal cords!
    He taught me some tongue and breathing excersices, and after 4 or 5 months of excersicing for about 2-3 hours a day, I feel a little improvement.
    But the question if you don’t mind is: is it normal that I feel that this area is opening apart? There’s a small gap now in the middle. And if my problem is only with this area, would it harm if I do only the tongue excersises (because the breathing ones are tiresome and take so much time)?
    Thank you very much for your time.

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      August 25, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

      Hi Adel,

      Thanks for your comments. KLUK is a great one to do for tongue tension as well. When you say there is a gap opening up, do you mean in your singing range, or under your chin?

      Best Regards

      Dylan

      Reply

  2. Vocal Coach Dylan
    November 25, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for getting in touch, Yes it could well be down to tongue tension. sing your song on GUG all the way through on the melody, if the tension goes then it was tongue tension, if it donesn’t go then make sure that your vowels are correct with a good onset, and support.

    Reply

  3. Karen
    December 29, 2014 @ 8:00 am

    Thanks for this. My teacher has been working on my tongue root tension problem for a few months. I recently did my grade 8 AMEB exam and the examiner told me the songs were “too high” for me. I know they weren’t as I have at least an extra half octave more than the highest note I sang, and I know I struggle with tongue root tension. I suspect that’s what she was getting at, but her misdiagnosis was annoying. Is it reasonable to assume this sort of tension could come across as a range/tessitura issue? I’m planning on ignoring her critique and just continuing to work of loosening my tongue tension.

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      December 31, 2014 @ 3:06 pm

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks for getting in touch. Something that is often overlooked is that even a slight holding onto a register will manifest itself as tension in the tongue and jaw as these muscles try to get involved to help out, in this case although the tongue exercises will help the root problem has not been dealt with.

      Try this and see if it helps you. Firstly can you speak with no tension? If you can then there is no reason for there to be tension in your singing voice unless you are not moving through the registers correctly, are there certain notes that you notice the tension creeping in on? This would be the first clue, secondly, the exam you did, where there was a comment that the range was to much for you, this is also a sign that it’s a register problem, this has nothing to do with the range that you can vocalize over, your teacher should be able to hear this problem. If you like you can send me an audio example of you sliding up and down on a siren on any vowel you like, this will give me a good idea of if you are not moving through the registers correctly.

      Hope that this is of help to you, I have helped many students with this frustration over the years and it is always at the root down to registers, or rarely tension in the voice due to stress, and this we would notice in your speaking voice.

      Best Regards

      Dylan

      Reply

  4. Cecilia
    February 2, 2015 @ 9:00 am

    Very good topic for a singer! Karen’s case is quite typical, but I feel that it is not a case with range. The fact that you tend to feel more relaxed if you sing lower is the main issue, I guess. I am trying to stick out my tongue more as I sing, and on the recorder my voice does sound much better that way. Another ‘trick’ I did was to fold up the tongue by putting the tongue tip in the middle of my lower palette and roll the surface of the tongue forward as I sing. The root of the tongue moves forward instantly.

    Reply

  5. Jill K.
    April 25, 2015 @ 3:41 am

    Thanks for posting this! I am having problems with my chest voice. I can hit the notes shortly but I can’t hold them out correctly. They waver and wobble and even buzz when I try to hold out an “ah”. I think I have the restricted airflow from the tongue tension. I am actually seeing an osteopath to release my tongue – you see, I have muscle tension dysphonia in the tongue, jaw, head. My DO says she has to release the muscles and bones in the back of my head before she can get the tongue to release. I’ve only seen her once so far and she seems very smart and was highly recommended by a top NYC voice therapist. Another thing you can do if your case is not as severe as mine is see a myofascial release massage therapist who specializes in working with singers. There is a very good one in NYC.
    I hope that once my severely depressed and pulling to the left tongue root is released I will be able to sing cleanly in chest voice again. It makes sense that I would be able to.

    Reply

  6. JoshM
    July 15, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’m not an advanced singer by any means, and I seem to struggle with tension in my throat and toungue more so when I talk or just working at my office. It is extremely frustrating and gets to the point sometimes where I have a hard time swallowing. Singing often times helps me relax some of this tension (at least when I’m not pushing my range).
    Are there posture considerations as well that may be helpful beyond just the excercises?

    Reply

  7. SD
    August 14, 2015 @ 5:49 am

    Hi Dylan,

    I’m a 26 year old voice student, and I’ve recently made the transition from singing as a light baritone to a tenor. Aside from the difficulties associated with changing tessitura, I am struggling with what feels to be tongue root tension, which occurs most commonly when I sing softly in the passaggio. I’m finding that it is quickly causing fatigue, especially in repertoire with rapid or relentless text passages.

    I am thinking of going to see a speech specialist, but in the meantime, could you recommend any additional exercises to those listed above to help alleviate this issue?

    Your input is much appreciated.

    Regards,
    Spencer

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      August 17, 2015 @ 5:02 am

      Hi Spencer,
      Thanks for getting in touch, this sounds to me more like a problem with registration, in other words you must be sure that you are moving into the falsetto register, before you increase the volume, so slide up from G3 to G4 very slowly on a hooty oo. Expect to feel the flip ( Break) around ideally D#4 to E4 top end, no higher otherwise you will struggle to change register correctly.

      Once you are in the falsetto register (some schools will call this the Head voice, falsetto voice or mixed voice). Then work on slowly going from the hooty oo ( a yawny , jaw down, lips rounded like a little trumpet and soft palate raised sound) to a bright metallic sounding ee this will help your vocals to come together correctly for a strengthened falsetto register, this is what you need to strengthen if you are going to sing higher with ease.

      If you have no root tongue tension until you move into your higher notes then as I say it’s often a sign of register problems. So other things that affect this are correct support, consistent vocal focus, vowel shape and resonance.
      Hope this helped, remember that the falsetto could be very weak, and if it is will need s lot of work before it can be used correctly, never drag up the Chest register, simple move into the falsetto register then darken the tone to create a powerful chest tone.

      Is hard to really pin down the problem without hearing you sing for me, but in the above is your answer, will take a bit of time to strengthen the falsetto register, if you are doing it right anyway from 1 month to 3months.

      Have a great day

      Vocal Coach Dylan

      Reply

  8. sarah
    December 9, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

    Hi so I’m just wondering if this can also if bad enough make it hard to swallow. I don’t sing as much as I use to bcuz every time I do it feels as though the muscles in my throat lock up causing it difficult to swallow….my singing is hard to do now and can even hurt, like a tenseness….

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      January 27, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      Yes it can, best to check in with a voice doctor and get it all checked out, would be my advice as it may be something else.

      Dyl 🙂

      Reply

  9. sarah
    December 9, 2015 @ 9:13 pm

    Even just talking to much. I feel a strain. So I have to stop talking.

    Reply

  10. Michael
    January 1, 2016 @ 4:08 am

    I just have one question, the number 5, which is going through all of the vowels, Do I have to stick my tongue out or not? Just go through the vowels with my thumb behind my chin? Tongue and Throat tension has always been my problem when singing, and I really think that this is a way of getting rid of it.

    Reply

    • Michael
      January 1, 2016 @ 4:32 am

      Another one, I managed to it at some repetition, but sometimes when I do it again, I feel it pushing just a little bit, is that good or not?

      Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      March 3, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

      Hi Michael,

      You can leave your tongue in for number 5. Hope that it helps you.

      have a great day!

      Reply

  11. Steve
    June 5, 2016 @ 2:59 am

    Hey, thanks for this!
    Recently had a great masterclass where this tongue tension was revealed in my voice, particularly when I stick my tongue out for my “th”s. This is partially due to a shorter frenulum under my tongue, but when we worked through it, my tone became beautifully darker, and my loudest dynamic at least doubled. Because my larynx was suddenly able to lift higher, my pitching was a bit interesting, but that should sort itself out before long.

    Anyway, rant over. It’s a great thing to fix!

    Reply

  12. vardaan
    July 11, 2016 @ 6:05 am

    hey there thanks a lot for sharing it! first of all its the first article i have got on internet which i could truely relate with my problem otherwise i always used to be worried thinking that it might be the case of vocal paralysis or tongue paralysis. and from last 6 years i have been struggling with my singing due to this. but now after reading your article its a great relief for me that its just a kind of tension which can be cured by some exercises as you told.and yaa one thing i would like to tell u is that sometimes i feel like the pain in my tongue is being distributed to my shoulders and my arms too. is that something i need to be worried about??

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      August 9, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

      Hi Vardaan,

      Thank you for getting in touch. I am really glad that the exercises worked for you 🙂 I would go and have a chat with your Doctor about the shoulder and arm pain.

      Dyl 🙂

      Reply

  13. Eva
    July 22, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

    Hi, thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, i’ve tried many of these exercises, including ones not listed here, and haven’t gotten anywhere. I practice daily, but my tongue still pushes against my thumb. I’ve tried shaping, opening my palette, etc., but nothing seems to be working at all. Most of the time, the exercises make my tongue even more tense. Is there anything i can do?

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      August 9, 2016 @ 4:04 pm

      Hi Eva,

      Thanks for getting in touch, it sounds like you are not sure what a relaxed tongue should feel like, which is really common in today’s stressful world. Is your tongue stiff all the time even when you are just breathing in and out? Also remember that no exercise will fix this problem straight away, it will take time and patience. 🙂

      Reply

  14. Evan
    July 31, 2016 @ 12:26 am

    Even though my tongue is relaxed under my chin I cab see the to of my tounge lifting pretty high. How to I keep my tounge from l lifting and taking up room in my mouth.

    Thank you!

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      August 9, 2016 @ 4:10 pm

      Hi Evan,

      Do you mean the tip of your tongue or the back of it?

      Dyl 🙂

      Reply

  15. Kirsty Bertarelli
    January 16, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

    Dear Dylan
    I’ve been having trouble with my voice the past few Years. I will suddenly have pain when I sing and it gradually gets worse until my speaking voice is affected The pain is centre right and eventually lose my voice altogether. It happened in May last year and gave me much stress because I could not perform – I lost my speaking voice and then gradually it came back but with a tremor. I’ve been taking it easy and the voice is stronger. I did two singing lessons and I feel this discomfort come back on the right side. So I try not to sing on the effected area. I have No problems with my cords they are white and function correctly. I tried singing one of my songs with my tongue out and I noticed less to no pain! Is this what I have muscle tension? Please help kirsty

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      January 27, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

      Hi Kirsty,

      It does sound like it could be that. The tongue is often a sypmtom of incorrect breathing awareness, jaw tension or it could just be the tongue. Well done if that has fixed it for you! 🙂 Do you still have this problem now or is it getting less all the time? Remember not to be too stressed – easy for me to say – about the pain in your throat, as focusing on it will often make it worse. I know I have been there! LOL

      Hope that this helps

      Dyl 🙂

      Reply

  16. Cao, li
    February 3, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

    Dylan, your way to get rid of the root tongue works. Thank you!

    Reply

  17. Matt Sundstedt
    May 6, 2017 @ 8:20 am

    Hi,

    I have been studying voice with celebrity coach Ron Anderson for many years now. His method is bel canto. Although I would say I have worked through the tongue issue in warmups and singing, I have developed what I notice is a slight tongue twitch involuntarily and my tongue seems to always be wanting to be at the roof of the mouth throughout the day.. also part of my throat likes to tug open aa well.. are these normal reactions to training daily that you know about or have you heard anything like that?

    Reply

    • Vocal Coach Dylan
      May 6, 2017 @ 8:55 am

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Sorry man but NO these are not normal reactions to daily training but a sign that you are training your voice with incorrect tensions. This often but not always comes from dragging up a register or forcing your face, tongue and jaw to move to positions that you want them to go to rather then letting them move there freely. This can take a while to correct. Make a vowel shape without making any sound and look in a mirror while you are doing it, everything should look calm and still, if your tongue is twitching now then it is a shaping problem – go though all your vowel shapes like this. Then slide up and down through your whole range slowly watching your face and tongue in the mirror to see if as you go higher the tongue starts to twitch, jaw locks up or your face starts to tense these are signs that you are not moving through the registers correctly.

      This is a bad habit that you have now and will take a while to sort out so be patient! 🙂

      Hope that this helps.

      Vocal Coach Dylan

      Reply

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