Ah, the soft palate. That silly little thing that some voice teachers talk about incessantly and others never mention. I bet you’ve heard the instruction, “Lift the soft palate.” Or maybe someone told you to “raise your eyebrows” or to “lift the apples of your cheeks” or to “smile when you sing.” These are all good pieces of advice about how to move the soft palate. Good advice, that is, if you understand.
The soft palate is a muscle, which means that you may develop awareness of it and figure out how to move it in different ways as you sing. Just like all the muscles in your body, it needs to be flexible and strong. How do you know? Well, check in with the muscles in the rest of your body. Your soft palate likely will reflect the state of the rest of your muscles.
The good news is that you can bring all your muscles, including your soft palate, into balance if they are out of balance. The bad news is that you can’t easily see the palate or touch it, so you’ve got to train yourself to become aware of it.
As we’re first developing the ability to feel the soft palate, we can use other muscles we can see to move it. Try these exercises.
Exercise 1. Try singing in all parts of your range while lifting your
3. corners of your mouth
Exercise 2. Now as you lift your cheeks, eyebrows, and/or the corners of your mouth, add these different movements into the mix. Don’t get stuck in any one of these positions. Instead, find the movement, flow, flexibility, and/or motion so that these things become activities instead of postures.
1. pull the tip of your nose down towards the ground
2. pucker your lips (like you’re making a kissy-face)
3. lift your nose away from the ground
4. stretch the inside back of your mouth in both directions towards your ears
5. channel the sound from between your eyes down your nose like it’s a slide
Why are there opposite instructions in the list? Well, because everyone is shaped a little differently, so what works for some people won’t work for others.
How do you know if it’s working? Ah, I thought you might ask. Here are a few descriptions that might point you in the right direction. Your voice rings, creating a thrilling sound in your body. The sound glides like a bird along the roof of your mouth. The voice plays in a dome or a hot air balloon. The sound shoots out of the top of your head like a star traveling towards the heavens. Tone spins within your head, a part of you yet not touching you.
There are as many different images for beautiful singing as there are voices on this earth. What’s your image?