Tapping the Tongue

In the Advanced Voice Series, in step called the Articulation of L and N on the Gum Ridge, we explored the movement of the front edge of the tongue. Not only did we explore /l/ and /n/, we also played with /t/ and /d/, the other two consonants where the front edge of the tongue touches the gum ridge. Today, we’re going to warm that area up by tapping the the front of the tongue up and down in the /n/ place, but with no sound. I suppose that, if you listen really carefully, you might be able to hear the sound of your tongue slapping the bottom of your mouth, but it’s really faint…

Start by dropping your jaw. Very lightly bring your tongue up to the place where it would make an /n/ sound, and then slap it down behind your lower front teeth. Then repeat that action, faster and faster, tapping the gum ridge and slapping the tongue down. Be sure to keep your jaw still, and let the tongue action move quickly and directly. Breathe both in and out, as you’re flapping your tongue, and try to have the action of the tongue be light and agile, as if it’s dancing inside your mouth.

A more challenging action is to retract your tongue about half and inch from behind your teeth and try to continue the flapping action. Your tongue root will engage in order to pull the tongue back, so it will be difficult to maintain the speed. Generally this is what we want to avoid, but it’s good to feel that tension and understand how it works. And who knows: you could always use that quality for a character voice in the future.

Finally, put your tongue on your lower lip and then do the tongue flapping process, tapping your upper lip and your lower lip as quickly as you can. To most people, this looks quite graphically sexual, so if you want to do this without feeling foolish, self-conscious, or perverse, merely cup your hands over your mouth like you’re doing a big yawn so that no one gets to watch your tongue technique. (Unless you want them to… Might work as a good pick up technique if you were particularly good at it, I suppose…)

As a bonus step, you an move your tongue back into your mouth and try the tapping action on /n/ or /l/, trying to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible, and the speed of your tongue as quick as you can. Think light and quick, and sigh the sound out on a “huh” sound.


Stretching the Soft Palate

Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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