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What Do Lips Have To Do With It?

Don’t say “cheese” when you’re singing –says Jennie Deva

For many, the application of just one vocal tip makes the difference between singing with ease and expression versus singing with strain and restriction.

Today’s tip has to do with reducing muscle tension around your mouth so that you can sing with passion and freedom.

A Range Challenge or a Tightness Challenge?

I’ve often heard singers tell me certain notes are out of their range.

But on examination, I find their experienced restriction to be the result of tension they’re creating, originating from a lack of understanding as to the natural requirements of their body when singing.

Specifically, some have been educated to believe that tightening the lips can assist the creation of vowels, especially the vowel “ee.”

This idea is encouraged when you’re told “say cheese” (big smile) as your photograph is taken.

When you tighten your lips side to side as you sing, certain fundamental muscles in your throat and jaw react and tighten.

This makes singing more effortful; it will feel harder to get the pitch and sound like you’re struggling to sing the note.

Try This:

Practice any song without accompaniment with your hands on either side of your face. This placement of your hands is your reminder to relax your lips and disengage the idea of lip tension as you sing. It may take some repetition. Let your mouth and lips move naturally as you sing the song; just keep a check on and eliminate any tendency to tighten your lips or face. The usual result: reduction of strain, richer vocal tone and greater freedom of expression.

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vid

Alec Drow – Dreams to Remember (Otis Redding cover)

Hi Alec! I love that you’re using the VoiceLive 2 and in such a tasteful way – great choice and use of harmonies. I felt your connection to the meaning and message of the song – which is a big part of what it’s all about to sing. As video performance is a visual, not just an audio experience, the next time you perform a song on video, zoom out so that we can see your whole face, not just your nose and mouth. What you do visually (or have your camera focused on) can aid or distract from your audience being able to fully connect with the song. At times you tensed your lips to get a note or sing a certain word. This tension traditionally tightens throat muscles and creates strain. For more on this, see my article above: “What Do Lips Have to Do With It?”

-Jeannie Deva

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. This article is adapted for VoiceCouncil Magazine from Jeannie Deva’s soon to be released eBook: “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances” which includes hundreds of linked video examples, over 200 pages, 23 information-packed chapters, 55 exercises and numerous practice and application tips. For a few of the exercises available, go to: www.YouTube.com/PowerfulPerformances and subscribe for updates. Follow @JeannieDeva For info on Jeannie Deva and her other vocal products, visit: www.JeannieDeva.com

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach and recording studio vocal specialist with a list of impressive clients and endorsements. Jeannie teaches privately in Los Angeles and in the very near future to students worldwide via her Online Vocal Academy. Visit her new singer’s performance development channel: www.YouTube.com/PowerfulPerformances and her voice enhancement for vocalists: The Contemporary Vocalist Book and CD series and The Deva Method® Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD. www.JeannieDeva.com www.Facebook.com/JeannieDevawww.Twitter.com/JeannieDeva

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  • David Wayne Fletcher

    Jeannie, thank you for this reminder to keep our
    musculature at ease during a performance. I know that other languages aside from
    English tense the lips in normal conversation. How is a singer to stay true to
    the accent and dialect and relax the muscles of the lips and jaw? I don’t always
    sing in English and find that especially in Spanish I tend to make the “CHEESE”

  • AlecDrow

    Hey Jeannie_
    wish you a happy new year =)