The Tongue: Big, strong, sensitive and very keen!
My recent tongue training workshop was a great morning of discoveries and shared experiences. The first question I asked was “Have you ever had a problem with tongue tension?”
Everyone put their hand up. Including me!
So why does the tongue like getting involved?
Because it’s easy to feel. Plus it’s big and strong and connected directly to many structures of the voice like the jaw, the soft palate, the head and the larynx via the tongue bone. So when there is a vocal job to be done, the first one to volunteer is often the tongue.
Why is the tongue so sensitive?
As it plays a big part in chewing and swallowing the tongue needs great precision
moving food around in your mouth.
Also, we all know what it feels like to bite our own tongue, so it needs lots of sensory nerve endings to make sure you don’t literally chew your own tongue when you eat.
How do I know if there is tension in my tongue?
The tongue can stop your larynx from moving freely, so there may be loss of range. Also, it may feel generally like you have to work harder in singing or speaking.
You can feel with your thumb under the chin to check in on tongue-root tension. Does it feel loose and “spongy” or is it tensing and engaging when you sing or speak?
If you look in a mirror you can also typically see the tongue retracting away from the bottom teeth or there may be a dip in the middle, usually a sign of tension in the base or in the root of the tongue. Compare that with the gentle forward wave of a relaxed tongue.