One of the most important and easiest things you can do to improve your singing is to make sure you have enough room in your mouth. Most singers don’t open their mouths wide enough to get a good sound, so one of the first things I do with a new student is to show them how to open their mouths wide enough. The rule of thumb is this:
• One finger’s width of space for Ee and Oo
• Two fingers width of space for Ah.
The other vowels can fall somewhere in between. I recommend practicing along with audio workouts, and watching your mouth in a mirror. You will probably notice an improvement in your tone as soon as you open your mouth wider.
Keep in mind that there are other variables involved with having a good sound, such as having your vocal cords engaged, having a stable larynx, good breathing, ring in your pharynx, and good posture. So while opening your mouth may be the low hanging fruit that really makes things better without much effort, there are probably other factors that may be at play as well.
Once you have gotten comfortable with singing with enough room in your mouth, it’s important to realize that your jaw and tongue should stay relaxed. It’s possible to thrust your jaw open in a tense way that may muffle your vocal cords. So as you work on your opening your mouth, continue to look for release of the jaw and tongue:
• Keep your tongue soft and pillowlike (relaxed), not wrinkled and pulled back.
• Keep your jaw still while you breathe and sing. (A good sign of release)
• Use small fluid motions in your neck and shoulders to show they are relaxed
A good trick to assist you in both jaw and tongue release is to use a prop to keep your mouth open while singing. Cut a piece of carrot or apple 1-2 centimeters long (a little over half an inch), and hold it between your teeth. Be sure not to swallow it! You may then experience a new ease in tone production because your jaw can now relax open, and you might notice the major sign of reaching the Balance Point: a sound that is almost effortless to produce, but which is louder, easier to control, and has an expanded range. Try to learn how to change vowel sounds without having to move your jaw.
I have free audio workouts that will help you practice these techniques available on my web site, as well as video demonstrating the jaw and tongue release:
The key to progress is setting up a regular practice routine with your singing. Even just ten minutes a day can really be enough to see some great progress with your range, tone, and health of your voice. Many singers practice with these exercises in the car to and from work and see real progress. I hope you’ll give them a try and begin to feel the benefits that a little regular practice can give you.