Relaxing the jaw?

Weekly Teaching Tip – August 12, 2013
by Dr. Hubert Noe

In medicine and especially in chiropractic we learn and teach causal chains of symptoms. We stroboscope a singer: the left vocal fold moves later to the middle than the right one. Both vocal folds seem to be fine. Voice therapy did not help much. The chiropractic examination reveals a blockade in the left upper cervical spine. After treatment the problem disappears but comes back after a few weeks. Examination and treatment of the thoracic spine and the sacroiliac joint follow. But only after information and consultation regarding posture faults the patient can handle these issues. On tour this singer often stays in hotels and passes much time on the bed watching TV. This is how watching TV in a hotel can be related to a pathologic phase difference in stroboscopy.

As teachers we encounter similar chains of symptoms. A singer shows a very tense jaw. Froeschels chewing therapy does not seem to be a resounding success. Especially in the first bridge the jaw becomes tight again together with a rising larynx and abdominal oversupporting. Low larynx exercises are no big help in this case. Pulling chest the singer tries to track the second harmonic with the first formant. The first formant is associated with the opening of the mouth. Singing higher the singer opens his mouth still more. The head of the tense mandible has left its socket and even moved forward. The larynx is elevated as a last resort to raise the first formant. The TA muscle and the outer neck muscles are highly activated, especially the mouth floor is tense.

In this case the tension of the jaw has to do with the fact that the mouth opening is the slider of the first formant tuning (chest and head registers). The slider for the second formant tuning (mix) is the tongue. Note: the jaw should never take over tasks better served by the tongue. Very often the tensed jaw is caused by a register violation. The singer does not find his way from chest to mix.

With a centered or medialised vowel the jaw can be relaxed, the larynx does not rise unintentionally and the balance of the CT and TA muscles allow a flexible dynamic together with a moderate and adapted activity of the abdominal muscles. We teachers want to understand those chains of symptoms like medical doctors. Our singers need a correct analysis and diagnose of their problem leading to exercises with a predictable effect.

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