Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
A few weeks ago I blogged about the benefits of extended tongue phonation for releasing posterior tongue tension. If you dwell on extended tongue phonation for too long, it could cause new tensions in the vocal mechanism. Once I feel the student has gained awareness of what it feels like to phonate with a released tongue, I move them to tongue twisters.
These exercises help keep the tongue mobile by forming a variety of consonants and vowels at the front of the mouth. The nature of the vowels and consonants in the exercises I am sharing this week make it rather difficult to retract the tongue and maintain clarity of the words.
The first four consonants are formed at the front of the mouth, the last two in the back. For the purposes of this exercise, I teach the students to make /k/ and /g/ on the front of their tongue (this comes in handy for rap and rap-like pop/rock songs as well as patter songs in musical theatre). The IPA vowels (in order) are /I/, /ae/, /i/, /ae/, /o/ (if you are not familiar with IPA follow this link).
I begin working on each line individually often for two to three weeks. Once the student has mastered the individual lines, I start combining several in a row, for example:
These exercises are developing your students’ fine motor skills and it will likely take several weeks to see improvement. If a student is struggling in the early stages, that is a good thing. It means that their brain is processing the information and struggling to form the connections necessary to execute the exercise (this is the cognitive stage). Week by week you should see improvement as their brain-body connection improves (the associative stage). Eventually they will reach the autonomous stage where their body goes on autopilot and executes the exercises accurately without thinking about the process of forming the consonants and vowels.
If you have other tongue twisters that you would like to share, please comment below. Thanks for reading!