Archive | October 2014

More tongue-twisters

Here are a couple of additional tongue-twisters from the final few days of the Bonnie & Clyde run.  I really enjoyed coming up with these!

October tongue twisters cont1 October tongue twisters cont2

For the tongue-twisters here, simply take them up by half-steps, and get slightly faster each time.  Notice that the ALW tongue-twister features the consonants D, L, and W.

And this one, while not a tongue-twister, uses a line from the show:

October tongue twisters cont3


Learning the song

Thanks to my colleague Alice Nelson for putting me onto this post!


At New Line Theatre, where this week we will close the fourth weekend of performances of Bonnie & Clyde, I’ve been trying to devise a new tongue-twister most nights for our ritual warm-up.

Two of them from this past weekend were topical.

October tongue twisters

Some of these have been fairly creative.  Others have been repeats of something from my previous lives, including the ‘zinga-zinga-zoo’ exercise and the BDFLMTPTV series.

For the tongue-twisters here, simply take them up by half-steps, and get slightly faster each time.  Do one or the other, of course.  And in the Fall Break exercise, think in terms of a secondary dominant on ‘fabulous.’

Being still

Last week I was working with P., one of my new students.  P. has a pretty fair amount of tension and ‘manufacturing’ going on.  Breaths are noisy and somewhat constricted.  The jaw extends quite a ways more than optimal.  Shoulders pull in on high and loud notes.

So we did yoga.

I asked P. to sit on the floor, cross-legged, and to rest her hands, palms up, on her knees.  I asked P. to close her eyes and breath through a relaxed mouth, without any noise or urgency.

And then we sang:


We wanted every note to be free — no pressing, no bumping, no tension.  Vibrancy, smoothness, connectedness — these were the words of the day.  “Let everything else go,” I kept telling her.  We were certain to really slide between pitches, connecting and feeling the muscles just move in loveliness along the way.  we kept rising by half steps.

And when she stood after a few repetitions on successively higher half steps, and we continued up and up and up with freedom and with unity in the voice — with no break and no fear and no overt exertion — and those tears came to her eyes when she said “I’ve never felt that free, or sung that high,” I knew we had a winner.

I’ve tried this exercise with every student for the past week.  It works.

Be still.  Breathe.  And sing.

Vowels in the mask

One of my high school students has had drilled into him that ‘placement’ is the most important thing about singing.

He’s a barbershop kid, and so his reference point is understandable.

In order to humor his fixation on placement, and help him understand his possibilities for control of where a vowel’s focal point actually is, I put together this series of words that he is to sing on one single pitch:

  • fleet
  • flip
  • fled
  • flat
  • flop
  • float
  • flute

Notice that every one of these opens with a labio-dental fricative, followed by a nasal consonant; both sounds live at the front of the vocal tract.  Then we have a series of vowels that move from one end of the vowel chart to the other, and close with a forward-placed plosive consonant.  The idea is to isolate the consonants in one location, and help the vowel maintain a frontal focal point in the mask.

With a few students over the last few days, we have had real success in keeping the ‘o’ and ‘u’ vowels from traveling too far back.  And the resultant increase in the singers formant have been noticeable and notable!

Vocal health

An interesting read.  I would suggest doing these exercises under the guidance of a professional, though — the lack of explanation leaves a lot to the imagination.