Getting stuck seems to be an all too common vocal issue.
One way to get stuck is to get stuck in the mouth. Well, this might seem to be a totally incoherent statement. Doesn’t the singer’s sound come out of the mouth. Yes, it does. However, in functional voice training it could be said that there are two mouths.
That which we would normally think of as the first mouth includes the lip, teeth, tongue, and jaw. This mouth is where the sound technically emanates from as sound waves pass through so that others can hear these waves as vowelled tone. Yet, this mouth is for finishing touches on vowels and articulation of consonants. These mouth parts need to be free to move and do their job. When the sound gets stuck in this mouth, then the pitch and vowel are not matching up properly. There are problems singing higher as well as problems with diction.
Okay, so what about the second mouth? The real “mouth” of the singer is found in the oro-pharynx – the back area above the larynx. When the vocal cords respond to a musical stimuli and adjust to produce pitch, they also define and shape the vowel. This information is carried into the oro-pharynx and the vowel is further shaped so that with rising pitch there is a certain size and shape of vowel related to it. As one sings higher, there are less cords vibrating. There is a specific size of the vowel as shaped by the cords and then by the oro-pharynx that matches exactly what the cords are doing. One gets a sensation of the voice traveling back, up, and over into the head, like walking up a staircase backwards.
If the vowel is too big for the pitch step, we will get a feel and sound that we are “stuck” under the hard palate in the first mouth. When this occurs, to sing higher is to have to force and yell with good diction becoming impossible. However, if the vowel and pitch step are equal, then a vibrating column of air grows taller and smaller and moves back to the soft palate area and finally into the sinus cavities. This is a feeling of back and up, or the “backwards staircase.” Then, the first mouth is free to articulate with good diction and add some finishing touches to the vowel shape.
We will not be stuck nor hit the roof, but are able to let go and sense what it feels like to sing with the real mouth of the singer within the oro-pharynx . Of course, not something we do but something that happens as a wonderful effect of proper registration!