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Vowels, Projection and the Jaw

It's been a rough start; I'm not going to sugarcoat it. In the past, my small children's choir has had a few strong leaders. In previous years we were singing in parts at the first rehearsal. This year, we are back to learning how to match pitch.

After regrouping my thoughts and replanning my schedule, we are on track. Not the track I anticipated, but the track that is just right for us. After eight weeks our sound is beginning to gel and the children are getting a little more confident. It's time to do some mapping!

This jaw-opening exploration was a real eye-opener!

My objective was to encourage them to open more and sing out, but there are additional outcomes. Here is a suggested plan, total time 5 to 10 minutes:

  • Name the skull model, just for fun. Meet Bob Schoolhead!

  • Don't have a model? Use an image from google or just show them on you.

  • Define joints, where two bones come together.

  • Using the skull model, or an image, have students point to the joint where the jaw opens. Can they find it?

  • After the skull's joint is located, find it on ourselves. Help individuals find the precise location as needed.

  • Name the joint (tempero-mandibular joint). No explanation or expectation of retention. Enjoy knowing it has a fancy name.

  • While palpating our TMJs, speak through a vowel warm-up noticing the position and the way the jaw moves for each sound - hmm, oo, oh, eh, ah, ee.

  • Give a few students the opportunity to move the skeleton's jaw into various positions while the rest of the class guesses the corresponding vowel. (video excerpt)

  • Sing the warm up while palpating the TMJs, noticing how the jaw moves to a different place for each vowel.

  • Speak a line or two of something in your repertoire. Explore the vowels and all the different places the jaw should be for just that one line. How many places?

We often demonstrate what we want and ask students to listen and match our sound, but we don't explain it in terms of movement. The movement piece can make all the difference.

Understanding the movement of the jaw can help with projection, but also with diction and unifying vowels. Cueing jaw movement and reminding students of the TMJ can be an efficient and effective way to get results.

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