THE MOUTH and QUALITY OF TONE
Lots of people are taught to smile whilst they are singing – so that they look “happy”. Indeed, it is the standard contemporary “way” of training to encourage students to smile whilst they’re singing. Why is this when it actually makes no sense at all?!
Think about it – do you smile whilst talking? Of course not, and if you’ve ever been to a party or function where there have been lots of people you don’t know, you will remember how your jaw literally aches from all the smiling. If we smiled whilst we were speaking, then we would a/ look like a Thunderbirds puppet and b/ it would be difficult to understand what we were saying. The same goes for singing - with the added problem that the quality of tone is affected adversely too.
If we smile whilst singing, our diction becomes unclear because the space inside our mouth is flattened (Sia comes to mind of course, with her sloppy diction – it’s truly appalling and no, of course she’s not doing it on purpose - she clearly knows no different!)
As I’ve explained in previous posts, the voice resonates from the chest, from the throat and from inside your head – no, not up the top of your head (that’s taken up with your brain), but rather within your mouth and the back of the mouth. However, regardless of where the sound is resonating from, it still has to come out of your mouth. It stands to reason, therefore, that the shape of your mouth on the outside, directly affects the shape of the space that you create inside your mouth.
As such, you need to move your mouth up and down rather than making a smile shape. Then we come to high notes. For high notes, you need to drop the jaw as far as it will comfortably go, so that you increase resonance to its maximum (and high notes need more space, just like speed in a car where you need to put your foot right down on the accelerator). In practice, as well as dropping the jaw for high notes, it’s actually helpful to drop the jaw for any lyrics that are easy to drop the jaw on eg. Night, heart, why, I, sky etc. as this will increase the quality of tone for these notes too.
So many people sing with their mouths practically shut – you may as well put your hand over your mouth for all the sound you’ll produce. Record yourself on a tablet or phone to see what you’re really doing. If you look in a mirror, you’ll probably open your mouth a bit more because you can see yourself, but if you don’t look, the habit of not opening your mouth will be more evident as most people are completely unaware of what they are or are not doing. Breaking these habits of course takes time as they’re obviously deeply entrenched, but with practice you can produce much better quality of tone and have more control.
The reality is that in many instances, not dropping the jaw means that you won’t actually get higher notes at all – another reason why people think they’ve got lower voices than they most likely have.
The link to a video is of Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" at the Italian Olympics in 2006. You can use the same mouth shapes when singing any style of music - but here's the Master!