We Have to Discuss Uvulas
At some point during vocal training, we have to discuss uvulas. It’s sort of an awkward topic, but it must be done. You don’t need to necessarily do anything special with your uvula, but, in order to get a good open tone on the biggest vowel sounds, it helps to get your tongue down in the back of your mouth to the point that you can see your uvula. It’s that little fleshy part that hangs down in the back of the mouth when you say, “AH” for the doctor. It’s the part that they often illustrate in cartoons when someone is screaming.
How I Found My Uvula
I don’t know what possessed me to do this in college. I don’t think any voice teacher ever explained it to me, but I spent a great deal of time in the practice rooms looking in the mirrors trying to see my uvula while I was singing. Some of the practice rooms had entire walls of mirrors, so there was no getting away from yourself. I just knew it was going to help me get that big sound. It took several weeks, but I was finally able to get control over that part of my tongue.
The Voice Needs a Resonating Chamber
In order to produce any sort of acoustic sound, an instrument needs a resonating chamber. Acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments have bodies, wind instruments have different shaped tubes, and pianos have the part that encases the sound board. Voices only have the body, and, to a certain extent, you get what you get. Fortunately, though, there is a lot you can do to manipulate the shape of your mouth and throat to get a warmer and rounder tone.
The number one thing you can do is OPEN YOUR MOUTH BIGGER! I’ve discussed this several times, and I’m going to keep talking about it over and over again. If you haven’t read my post on Opera Open, now is the time.
Imagine the sound that a small toy plastic horn makes in contrast to the big sound coming from a trumpet or an even bigger wind instrument like a trombone or a tuba. The bigger the resonating chamber, the bigger and warmer the sound.
Get Your Tongue Down in the Back
After you get your mouth open big enough to stick two fingers in there, the next thing is to get the tongue down in the back. Remember, we’re trying to create as much space in the mouth and throat as possible. Once you have a good amount of space, then you can start manipulating the shape of it to get different vowels and tones. If the space is small, you’re not going to have many options.
Check out this video of Adele doing Carpool Karaoke with James Cordon. I like it because even though she’s goofing around, she’s making beautiful shapes with her mouth, and, while you can’t see her uvula, you can see that her tongue is down in the back.
This Is Really Awkward, But…
I’m going to show you my uvula and the difference it makes in the tone while I’m singing. It’ll just take a few moments.