5 Things To Know About the Soft Palate for Singing

“Raise the soft palate.”
~almost a bazillion voice teachers, across time

There is much to know about the anatomy of vocal tract for singing and voice teaching.  The soft palate is one of those structures that both mystifies and intrigues us, and (at first) isn’t easy to control.

Just this week I went tête-à-tête with a client about whether her soft palate was lifting or lowering during a particular sound.  Turns out the soft palate was lifting, but she was 100% convinced it was lowering. Once she saw what was happening by looking in the mirror, the conversation was settled.

How can that be?  How can we be so convinced that the soft palate is moving in one certain direction, to only find out that it is doing the exact opposite?

(Don’t get bent out of shape one way or the other, y’all – we have ALL experienced soft palate confusion.  Either that, or we haven’t sung a note in our lives.)

Here are 5 things to know about the soft palate that may help you on your vocal journey.

1. Learn where the soft palate is and what it looks like

The following video is a graphic and bizarre look at the soft palate.  But, before we head off into *strange,* find the soft palate in your own vocal tract.  Take the tip of your tongue and run it along the roof of your mouth, starting at your teeth and moving backwards.  You will reach the edge of the “hard palate,” and run right into the soft palate.

The soft palate dips down and can be seen at the back of the throat when you open your mouth.  The uvula is that little dongle that hangs down from the soft palate, just in case you needed to know that.

Another name for the soft palate is the velum.  In case you needed to know that, too.

Honestly, the following video originally inspired this post.  Be warned: it is not a pretty video.  It’s quite bizarre, but it’s also an unforgettable demo.

I shall put it after the “read more” tab below so you have time to prepare yourself for this little bit of weirdness.

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Time and Healing the Voice

When I was cleaning my office the other day, I found a fortune.

You know, one of those little white slips of paper that we all look forward to inside a Chinese fortune cookie?  It was under a chair, and looked as if it had never been touched let alone folded inside a cookie.  Strange.  How did THAT get THERE?

It read: “Time heals all wounds.  Keep your chin up.”

Because this little piece of paper was a random fortune found under a random chair, it got my attention.  I have been thinking about time and healing for weeks now.

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With Open Hands, A Mantra For Living

by Guest Author
Michelle Markwart Deveaux

“There can be life and movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and look ahead toward that which is not yet.”
-Henry Nouwen


I have this habit of trying to control stuff. And of course, it’s always the stuff that I have no business controlling, like what other folks think of me.

I call this feeling the “Grasp Ghost”, for reasons that will come apparent in a bit.

This Grasp Ghost rears its ugly head most when I am trying to launch a new service or product for my voice students or voice teacher clients. It comes often when I am simultaneously working on a proposal for a workshop while telling my three year old to stop jumping on the coach.  The Grasp Ghost also likes to creep into client emails and try to make me defensive.

The good news is that I am familiar enough with this pattern that it does not shock or scare me anymore. It used to wreak havoc on my soul. It would throw me into a state of perfectionism and defensiveness. It would make me care more about my feelings than my actions, and make me forget that my primary joy is to solve the problems presented to me.

I now have a practice that I use to combat The Grasp Ghost. It’s a thought process and physical action that was deeply inspired by the late Henry Nouwen.

I shared it with Liz when we first met, and she asked that I tell you, her readers, about it too.

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Finding Freedom in Music, in Life

There are two fundamental aspects regarding the experience of freedom in musical performance that deserve more attention: practicing in a state of ease, and mastering skills.  These same ideas apply to all of life, and musicians give us a window into how we can experience freedom in our every day lives and practice as well.

State of Mind Matters

The feeling of freedom is closer than we all think.  It can be felt – right here and now – because it is a state, or a mindset.  A sense of more freedom can be achieved by sitting down and taking a deep breath, or thinking of something lovely, or hearing a joke.  Even a mild sense of relief in the moment can bring a feeling of more “freedom.”

That being said, in what state of mind do you practice your instrument or voice?  Is it filled with anxiety, tension, and fear?  Is it fun?  Does it make you feel better? Does it make you feel sick to your stomach?

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Making Room for Healing

~Kirk Schafer

Making Room in Small Ways

One way I’ve seen people heal from voice trouble is by letting their healing creep in one little bit at a time. They make little pockets of space for better thoughts, better habits, or better intentions.  They make room for healing in small ways that eventually add up to the end goal.

We are creatures of habit, would you agree?  So, sometimes trying to make all the changes all at once fails us.  (Not just sometimes, actually.  Most of the time.)  We benefit from making small adjustments toward healing in our attitudes or perceptions coupled with small actions because [small attitude adjustments + small actions + repetition + time] wins the race.

The people who succeed at “getting better” start by seeing a few things that are already going well, in spite of their current problems.  And to me, that is also a way to make a little room for healing.  We can all start where we are, and calm down enough to see all is NOT lost.  It never, ever is!

Lifting Weights

Maybe this is a good place to mention that I’ve passed the 10 month mark on my weight lifting journey.  May 11th marked 10 months of being in the gym 4-5 times per week.  And guess what? I’ve only lost around 5 pounds, depending on the day.

My old self, the one who loved punishing me for . . . well, anything and everything . . . would be having a field day with this tiny number.  “Only 5 pounds???  Seriously???”  I can hear that voice, that tone, and I can feel the guilt and shame a comin’ on me. Laaaawwwwd.  (My heart hurts just remembering when I used to speak to myself so harshly.  Not a fun experience that was, Jedi!)

But, now that I’m better at being kind to myself, I’m making more room for my healing.  Tiny, little places where I feel good about what’s happening which then allows to keep going with the plan.  In other words, I’m choosing to admit a few things.

  • I look a little different.
  • I’m eating better because of my new routine.
  • My skin is glowier.  (not a word, I know, but hang with me.)
  • I am physically stronger.
  • After 10 months, there are some fundamental changes in my musculature.

And, did I mention – I feel better.  Sweet Jesus and Brother Buddah, I feel better in my body.

Which, if I were only looking at the scale, would not be important.  I would have stopped going to the gym months ago. Fortunately, I’m learning how to make room for healing with these tiny thoughts and simple daily actions.  Which will get me to complete(r) physical healing in the long run.  (completer is also not a word, man, but i thought it was funny so again – hang with me)

What does feeling better have to do with it?

Feeling better is kind of everything.  Especially when it comes to the voice.  We owe it to ourselves to find little places where things are working and feel good, and build from there.  Otherwise it’s easy to just give up or go away.  Rebuilding vocal function is not always easy, and the road not always smooth or straight.  From what I’ve experienced with clients it is usually pretty bumpy and curvy, which is also why I decided to start lifting weights – to see what it feels like to work on a physical goal that feels “impossible” at the outset.

Some of my most successful clients are the ones who cling to their small victories, and avoid going down the rabbit hole when (on the surface) things are not so hot.  We all have times where we feel discouraged or hopeless, but if we can find ways to make room for healing – even with little, tiny, better feeling thoughts – we are on track.  And that might make all the difference.




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