VoiceCouncil will no longer be updated. Articles will still be available for some time.

How To End Jaw Tension For Singing

In this video, Matthew Edwards teaches us an exercise to relieve jaw tension.

Matthew Edwards is a vocal coach and voice researcher whose work has been published in academic journals. His students have gone on to perform on TV, and on Broadway.

There is a muscle that connects our cheek to our lower jaw which is called the masseter muscle.

When we open our mouths wide the masseter wants to engage to help us bite down on a big piece of food.

The problem is, when we open our mouths wide to sing, this muscle wants to get involved. We end up fighting with this muscle by trying to keep our mouth open while the muscle is trying to contract.

We need to train our bodies to let go of that muscle while we sing. To do this we are going to push in on the ‘origination’ of the muscle (where the muscle starts).

We need to train our bodies to let go of that muscle while we sing

We find this by running our fingers along our cheek bone to underneath our eye. Then we travel down to where we feel a soft pocket.

On both sides, use your fingers to push in where you feel those soft pockets, and as you press in, drop your jaw.

This may feel a little tender which is completely normal. It often feels like this because of tension, and you are trying to relax and release – much like a sports massage.

While you are pressing in on the masseter muscle with your jaw dropped, try vocalizing a sustained pitch on a ‘Ah’ vowel. Slowly work up and down your range on sustained pitches then simple arpeggio patterns.

Or, try singing simple phrases or a simple song in this position. You could even try singing something from your repertoire to see if you feel a difference.

As with all vocal exercises, if you feel pain, stop and consult a knowledgeable vocal coach.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Angelica Kennedy Angelica Kennedy - I'd Rather Be Blind

Hi Angelica. You delivered a very committed performance. I really like that you are just living in the moment and clearly delivering the feeling of the song. I think it would be even better if you could get the camera up to your eye level so we could see your full face. When you are singing intervals that go from low to high, be careful that the high note does not go flat. If you allow your vowel quality to get a little brighter on those top notes, I think it may help. You may feel more of a ringing sensation in your nose as you work on finding a brighter vowel quality but that is not necessarily a bad thing. To test whether it is a new vibration or if you are actually singing through your nose, just pinch your nose closed on any given pitch. If some of the sound stops, there may be some nasality in the vowel. If nothing changes, you are just feeling the vibrations of your voice in the nasal cavity. Great hearing you! ~ Matt


Matthew Edwards, author of ‘So You Wanna Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll?’, has a B.M. in Vocal Performance and an M.M. in Vocal Performance. His work has been published in the Journal of Voice and the Journal of Singing, and he has presented at the NATS National Conference, the Voice Foundation Annual Symposium and the National Centre for Voice and Speech. His students have performed on Broadway, national TV, major motion picture soundtracks, and have appeared on the Billboard music charts. See more about Matthew on his website.

  • Great article Matthew! Mine are DEFINITELY tender