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Singing Tongue and Phonation

I love the folks over at The Modern Voice forum and today I had a question from there.

I liked my answer so much that I thought I would also post it here.

Here is what Martin at the forum asked:

I’m curious as to how the tongue is related to other “tongue partners” and how it can hinder your phonation? :)

Here’s my answer.

Note:  I took out anything that mentioned this website because you are already on this website:

Great question, Martin!

I hope I won’t offend you in any way, but I tend not to use much formal terminology (I let other people do that), although I am super familiar with it since I have a degree and graduate studies in voice production and have done a lot of private training and teaching, plus professional performances.

My approach is to take formal vocal methods/techniques/terms and make them more user friendly.  People tend to think I’m pretty wacky at times, but I find that humor and not taking ourselves too seriously is the best way to help people, at least in my world.

Wow, I just put out a bunch of words!

Okay, so all of that is to say that you may not see the word “phonation” in my answer or in the article. :)

If you look at the first picture on that page (after the “I Can Has Cheeseburger” type cat!) you will see how narrow is the area through which the sound has to travel in order to get up and out of your body through your mouth and into your sinus cavities (crucial for good resonance).

When your singing tongue is pulled back in a tense manner, this will cause the tongue partners (epiglottis, etc.) or muscles and other things around it (see the picture) to adjust for the tension.  The energy that it takes to do that will interfere with the sound itself (can muffle it).  This, in turn, can put stress on the vocal cords because you will have to try and push the sound out if you don’t know how to guide the muscles into doing your bidding, especially the tongue.

Eliminating stress from the vocal cords is another reason why posture is so important too, but that is an entirely different subject.

Your singing tongue is kind of like a boss, in a way.  Everyone on the job wants to do their job in the best possible way because it makes them feel good (or maybe they will get a bonus) , but if the boss doesn’t have his or her act together, everyone else suffers, you know what I mean?  But when the boss “partners” with his or her workers, the end result is better quality and happier people.

I hope that begins to answer your question.

P.S.  Check out Wikipedia’s explanation of phonation:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonation Makes me want to run and hide!  I wonder why voice teachers just don’t use a simple term based on the origin of the word from the Greek:  from Greek phōnē ‘sound, voice’ + -ation; or even mores simply: sound+voice = sounds made by the voice.  We can make it more complicated, but why?  Getting a great tone quality (whatever your style) is hard enough, right?


I didn’t put this in Martin’s answer, but you can always take your singing tongue to the next level by reading my other singing tongue articles and getting started with my digital singing lesson Your Tremendous Singing Tongue


I gave a Skype lesson last night and realized that it would be good for you if I do a short article on the 4 things you truly need to coordinate when you start your tone or approach the singing notes from your song.

Without doing them, you will waste your singing breath, something that will not help you sing the way they want to.

Very quickly then, here are the 4 things:

  1. Start the tone as soon as you start the exhale.  In other words, don’t “lock” your singing breath before you begin the tone
  2. Don’t let out much breath at the beginning
  3. When going from the low to high notes, don’t push out more of your singing breath as you go up.  Keep the flow of air steady and coming out evenly in a compressed “thin stream.”
  4. When you think you are going to run out of breath at the end of a phrase, keep your chest and belly extended and resist the thought that you don’t have any more air.  The truth is you have a lot more available breath for singing than you realize.

Notice the picture at the right when you think about #4.

I said this would be short singing lesson and it is.  But I will do more with this in the days ahead.

For now, think of these 4 things as part of your singing mindset and and how you use your singing breath.

Work on mentally figuring out how to physically coordinate them so that you will be able to do this as easily as brushing your teeth.

In other words, think 1st and apply 2nd.  Kind of like the zen of golfing.

This is a great way to use your In Between Time wisely!


I listened to Carrie Wilkerson tonight.  She is the “Barefoot Executive” and is basically a brilliant marketing business woman.

I love her energy, transparency and her ideas about how you can experience success.

Of course, she talks about success in business, but as I finished listening to her webinar tonight, I got to thinking about how her ideas apply to singing and how you can succeed with the voice that you have at this moment in time instead of waiting for some distant moment in the future thinking back to a “better” moment in time.

She talks about 4 “W’s”:

  • Want
  • Woo
  • Win
  • Wow

Again, she’s talking about marketing and business, but I want to give you some singing mindset secrets utilizing her 4 “W’s” because I think she’s amazing and I love to utilize amazing principles to help you!

Here we go!

Want Your Voice Not Someone Else’s Voice!

What do I mean by that?

Well, the truth is I work with people all the time who want to sound like someone else instead of themselves.  In fact, you may be one of those people.

Here’s the reality.

If you want to learn to sing better, you need to discover the unique voice that no one else in the world has but you!  It’s your authentic sound, not someone else’s sound.

Trying to sound like someone else is not going to help you learn to sing as well as you are capable of singing either.

That is because the person you think you want to sound like has a voice that no one else in the world has either (including you) so trying to sound like them can be counter-productive.

This bugs a lot of people.  They pull against this truth.  They want something else for themselves.  They don’t like their own voice and they think they are going to find what they want by trying to sound like someone else.

Now I hope this isn’t you.  I hope you know how to love your own voice for what it is.

But if not, then think of what your world would look like, feel like and sound like if you actually starting WANTING YOUR OWN VOICE!

Think about that for a moment and then answer this question totally honestly since there is nobody around to hear your thoughts anyhow:

Do you really want YOUR voice or are you wishing you had someone else’s voice?

If you found out that you honestly want someone else’s voice instead of your own, then we have work to do!

If YOU don’t want your voice, why would anyone else want to hear it?

And, even more important, how are you going to learn to sing with it if you don’t even want it?

Wrestle with this thought for awhile.

Woo Yourself Instead of Expecting Others to Woo You!

This, of course, has to do with the first “W.”

This is the work you need to do.

Remember how it feels when you woo someone or someone woos you?

It’s a sweet time, isn’t it?

The world looks more beautiful.

The flowers smell more lovely.

Life feels good and you feel good.

You believe in the other person and they believe in you.

Now think about how you would feel if you take the kind of energy that you use to woo someone else and put it into wooing yourself into loving your own voice more than you do right now.

You see we humans are always expecting someone else to woo us.  When it comes to our voices, we expect them to encourage us or make us feel good about our voices, give us support, believe in us.

And that is all good and extremely important too!

But you have to be the first person to believe in your voice and in yourself otherwise all your efforts to improve your singing voice will end up disappointing you over and over again.  And that’s because you will always be looking in the wrong places for your answers.  The answers are truly inside of you.

So ask yourself this question and also honestly answer it:

When was the last time you wooed yourself with your voice, meaning when was the last time you got goosebumps when you sang all by yourself with no one listening?

Work that one out too.

Quiet your mind before you sing a single note.

Be sure you connect with the energy that makes goosebumps.

I tell all my students that we “aren’t there yet” until the goosebumps happen.  That’s my measuring stick, my way to evaluate the authenticity of your voice, of your particular and unique sound.

Win the Singing Mindset Battle!

When you get to the point where you can honestly say that you WANT your own voice and not someone else’s sound or voice; when you can consistently WOO yourself when you sing and consistently give yourself goosebumps, then you are ready to WIN the biggest battle of all:  your singing mindset!

What am I talking about?

I have actually covered this topic in a couple of other places, so you can read more about that by starting with Inside Voice Outside Voice.

Basically, one of the powerful secrets to learning how to sing is discovering that what you think about your voice deep inside your mind and what others have told you about your voice, good or bad, directly impact the way you sing now.

The old saying, “You are what you think” applies here big time.  So, check out the article I mentioned above and then answer this:

Do you have patterns that are deeply rooted in the past that hinders or slows you down from making the kind of progress with your singing voice that you long for?

Let me give you a pointer on the answer to that question:  we ALL have something leftover that holds us back!

So work on getting down and dirty with your inner thoughts about your voice.  Go all the way back to your childhood and your school experiences.  It’s time to WIN the battle for your voice and it all starts right inside your head!

Now Go and Wow Others!

This is the fun part.

After you do the hard work of facing what you honestly feel about your voice and whether or not you want the one you have or you want to sound like somebody else; after you get the hang of creating goosebumps just about every time you open your mouth to sing; and after you take a hard look at the messages you were given about your singing voice when you were a child and then later in life, then you are ready to go out and truly WOW others with your voice.

The world becomes a better place when you do this.

So get to work on your true inner attitudes about your voice.

And remember, I’m here to help and answer your questions, so be sure to let me know what you got out of this article by writing to me in the Comments section below.





Scream Singing

I am discovering that there is a large group of people who want to know more about vocal techniques that will help them do the kind of sing screaming that is used in heavy rock music.

If you are part of this group of people, the main thing I want to communicate to you is that learning how to simplify all the various terminology that you  might learn from the Singing Success (SS) or the Complete Vocal Academy (CVT) programs, for example, will help you discover how to keep what I call your authentic voice without damaging your vocal cords.

There is a lot of discussion and controversy about these methods and so I am going to be providing as much master voice training help as I possibly can to those of you who are seeking answers to set your voice free to get up to the high notes and down to the low notes with ease and a healthy vocal technique.

One of things I know to be true is that you have to get control of certain muscles and to me one of THE MOST IMPORTANT muscles to learn how to use to your advantage is your Tremendous Singing Tongue muscle.

Because I get so many requests for help from people who seriously want answers, I created a half hour digital lesson that easily allows you to discover how to empower your singing tongue with simple exercises and descriptions.

I will be creating other digital products that will help you too, but I encourage to start with the lesson Your Tremendous Singing Tongue.

Looking forward to serving you in your quest to sing from the bottom of your gut to the soles of your feet and out of top of your head without straining!


Nasal Singing Solution

Nasal Singing Can Be A Drag

I get asked all the time about nasal singing and I did a video about it a long time ago, so watch that first.

Also, I mention a page in the video that will help you more. Click here to go to that page.

If you have question about your particular nasal singing problem, please ask in the comments box below this post.


Breath and Breathing

“There’s another word for ‘breathing.’ It’s inspiration, from the Italian ‘inspirare.’ To inspire means to inhale the air around you. I think Picasso’s idea that inspiration comes from everywhere and everything tells it all, so pay attention to the way you breath. Make sure it’s inspired!”
– Joy Sikorski

Breathing Basics

Controlled Breathing – everything depends on how you breathe, how you control your breathing and how you use your diaphragm, intercostal and abdominal muscles. The most important thing has to do with slowly letting out a steady but small stream of air.

The most important muscle used in breathing is the diaphragm. If you learn where your diaphragm is, how it works and how to control it, you will be able to control your breathing.

Certain breathing exercises will help you to get the most power out of your breath by building the strength of your diaphragm. Try this one:

Joy’s Slow Leaky Tire

  • Pick out a point in front of that is level with your eyes and use it as a focus point
  • Inhale deeply and fill your lungs with air, being careful to keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Don’t breathe in and then hold your breathe. Just breathe in deeply and as you slowly exhale, purse your lips (like you’re making ‘fish lips’) and release the breath slowly through your upper two front teeth
  • You should hear a ‘hissing’ sound, like the air slowly leaking out of a tire
  • Let your breath ‘leak’ out slowly like this, still making the hiss sound, for as long as possible
  • Keep your cheeks lifted high, as though you are smiling because you have a wonderful secret that you cannot tell to anyone
  • Your posture is important while doing this breathing exercise, so make sure your chest and shoulders don’t heave up and down and that you don’t collapse forward or bend over
  • You might get a little light-headed when you first start doing this, so take it easy at first
  • Remember to listen to your breath as you release it and pay attention to how your lungs collapse as your diaphragm collapses too
  • Time yourself with a second-hand watch or clock and try to increase how long it takes you to exhale each time

This is a short post to give a shout out to Ursula at UC Web Creations for the new site design!

What she has done is make it easier for you to navigate the site so that you can learn more about singing lessons and how to improve your voice.

And that makes it easier for me to help you faster!

Yay for Ursula!  Thanks!


adam apple 2adam apple 1adam apple 3
Whether you want to sing hard rock, opera or R&B, when you sing high notes, you will need to know how to use your Adam’s Apple correctly.

So what is this apple thing?
Do only males have it?
Is it supposed to be up or down when you sing?

I’m going to answer these questions one at a time.

What is an Adam’s Apple?

Simply put, it is the your thyroid cartilage.  Well, that may not sound simple, but it really is.

Take a look at this picture of a larynx or voice box and you’ll see what I mean.voice box

Notice the “saddle” shape thing in the middle of the picture.

That’s your thyroid cartilage.  It is the largest cartilage of your larynx or voice box.  Behind it is are your vocal cords.  Your vocal cords are delicate and your thyroid cartilage protects them.

As you grow up, this cartilage tends to enlarge during adolescence and it’s size varies with each individual.

It’s official name is “prominentia laryngea,”  which means the prominence of the larynx.  Prominence means that it is something that stands out or is physically noticeable.

How large or noticeable it is depends on the angle at which the cartilage grows forward

Are males the only ones who have Adam’s Apples?


Females have them too, but they are usually much smaller and less noticeable or not visible at all.

Everyone has a thyroid cartilage because its function, as I mentioned above, is to protect the vocal cords.

However, the growth of the cartilage is often associated with a change in voice.  While this saddle-like thingy is growing in the male voice, it can be accompanied by all kinds of seemingly uncontrollable sounds, from squeaks to rough outbursts that can often be puzzling or embarrassing.

Is it supposed to be up or down when you sing?

The quick answer is down.


If it goes up when you are singing it means that muscles are pulling it up and tightening up the area around your vocal cords, therefore creating tension where you want relaxation.  This will definitely interfere with your ability to sing high note.

Here is a simple way to understand this:

  • Close your eyes
  • Lightly place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the area we are talking about
  • Hum – this will allow you to easily feel the vibrations of your vocal cords, which is what allows you to speak or sing
  • Feel the place where the protuberance is, or, in other words, find the bulge that is your apple (thyroid cartilage)
  • Gently move your fingers around until you can feel the “saddle” part of the apple
  • Swallow and notice whether the apple goes up or down
  • Yawn and notice whether it goes up or down

You will discover that it goes up when you swallow and down when you yawn.

It goes up as part of the swallowing mechanism because there is a flap of flesh attached to the tongue called an epiglottis that has to go over the windpipe when you swallow so that you won’t get anything down into your lungs.

If the epiglottis goes down, it closes off the the air passage, which closes off the power that allows you to sing.

The higher you go in pitch, the tighter this area can become.

The tighter it becomes, the harder it is to sing high notes without cracking.

The secret is to RELAX YOUR APPLE

The way you relax your apple so that it doesn’t go up is to think of yawning while you are singing.

Try this:

  • Close your eyes again
  • Lightly place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the apple again
  • Hum again but on a low note
  • Notice whether or not the apple goes up on a low note
  • If it goes up, yawn and then think of yawning as you hum it again
  • Do this until it doesn’t go up at all
  • Once you master this, try letting the hum go a little higher but without the apple going up
  • If it keeps moving up, start over until  you can hum without it going up
  • Then move the hum up little by little, all the time keeping the apple low by thinking of yawning
  • Relaxing your jaw and tongue will help with this

Eventually, with the kind of concentrated practice that enables you to deeply observe what is going on with your apple, you will begin to sing higher and higher without breaks, tension, cracks or trouble.

Pretty soon you’ll be soaring higher than you ever dreamed!

But it takes work so do what you have to do and love every minute of it!

Reward yourself for your patience instead of getting frustrated with yourself.

All of this has to do with your mindset about your voice, and particularly your singing tongue mindset

Your work and perseverance will pay off!

If you have more questions about this important topic, please put them in the Comments section below.




Singing Rest 3 Steps Ahead

singing exercise to relax
Have you ever felt like you were going to burn out because you just have too much to do and not enough time to do it in?

Do you ever wonder if there is a quick way to feel better that won’t take much time?

Well, there is!

Singing does wonders for helping you to relax and rest.

That’s because of several different reasons.

  1. Singing causes you to breathe more deeply
  2. Singing release endorphins, those feel-good hormones, into your body
  3. Singing causes you to focus more
  4. Focusing helps you to stop worrying or feeling bad about your life
  5. Singing uses your brain more fully than most other activities
  6. It requires an almost perfect balance between relaxation and tension

There’s a lot more but let’s just focus on these few.

Here is what I want you to do.

Watch the little exercise below that I created some time ago and follow along with it a couple of times.

Next, do it lying down flat on the floor with your legs and arms uncrossed.

Close your eyes and do some deep slow breathing before you do the exercise.

Imagine yourself in a world that is filled with soft flower colors and fragrances and other gentle things, like the things that are in the video. (My son took all those pictures, by the way. They were some of his first and now he is doing even greater things with his camera).

Okay, once you have used your imagination and taken the deep breaths, then do the same exercise without the video and pay attention to how you are breathing and how gentle your voice does or does not sound.

Keep focused on letting your voice come out slowly and gently.

Do this several times, then play the video again and sing along with it.

Compare how you feel when you use the video and when you don’t.

Then write in the comment section about how each felt to you. I can help you more if you write comments that I can answer here on my site instead of YouTube.

If you will do this little exercise exactly the way I have suggested doing it above, I can guarantee that you will feel rested afterward.

And remember, write your observations below so I can respond to you.


Anger and Singing

Anger breaks your voiceUnresolved Anger and Singing Can Break Your Voice

But it doesn’t have to.

There have been times in my life when a close trusted friend or family member said or did something that shattered my world and betrayed my trust, hurting  me deeply, and I have allowed anger to make me do really really dumb things with my voice.

They broke my heart so I wanted to break theirs.  It’s a normal human emotion, but it is unbelievably destructive, to everyone, but most importantly, it is destructive to YOU because, to be honest, the people who hurt you often do not care how their unfaithfulness, or stubbornness, cruelty, mocking, meanness, dishonesty and all other manner of bad behavior affects you.

So don’t become like them by letting anger make you do dumb things with your voice, like yell at them, scream at them, etc.

In other words, don’t sink down to the level of their immaturity and cowardliness because .aAnger and singing combined can mess you up big time..

Instead, [continue reading…]

singing book A MUST HAVE singing mindset eBook for singers, voice teachers, students, choir directors, cantors, actors and more!