Tongue Stretch Basics

After working to release the jaw, the next step in any Linklater-based voice warm-up or workout is to focus on the tongue. Our goal in this step is to relax the tongue by visualizing it, and then to stretch it out. These should lead to increased tongue awareness, so that when combined with sound, the tongue will “get out of the way” so that the sound, and ultimately the thought and emotion, will have an open channel to spill out of.


The first thing to do is to get a small hand mirror or pocket mirror. Of course, any mirror will do for this, but it’s always handy to have a small mirror nearby when you’re practising. Take a look at your tongue in the mirror. The goal is for your tongue to lie still in your mouth and not wiggle around. Things to notice:

  • the front edge of your tongue should rest behind your lower front teeth, gently touching the back of the teeth, not pressing into them
  • the body of your tongue, is really quite large, and goes all the way into the back of your mouth
  • there is probably a central groove down the middle of your tongue, where the muscles in your tongue that narrow it attach to a fibrous wall that runs down the length of the inside of your tongue
  • the root of your tongue cannot be seen—it connects to your larynx at the hyoid bone, just above the adam’s apple
  • the blade of your tongue is the portion that extends from the tip of your tongue and that, if you stick your tongue out gently, is the part that isn’tattached to the bottom of your mouth. For speech purposes, it’s the part that’s immediately below the gum ridge, behind your upper front teeth

If you feel your tongue wanting to wriggle around, just breathe and relax it as best you can. Relax your jaw, and let it drop with gravity. Let your tongue rest inside the basin formed by your lower teeth, and try to let it rest just at the level of the tops of your teeth.


To stretch your tongue, you need to press your tongue tip down, behind your lower front teeth, and let the top surface of the blade of your tongue touch the back of your lower front teeth as you roll the middle and back of your tongue forward. Let your jaw drop and think a gentle smile to make room for the movement of your tongue. Try to make space in the back of your mouth and in your throat, so that your tongue can move easily, rolling slowly out and relaxing slowly back in. How fast should it be? If you think of a waltz tempo (1–2–3, 1–2–3, ) that’s probably about the right speed. The root of the tongue is very strong and because we swallow so many times per day, our tongues are conditioned to pull down and back very rapidly. Try to counter this action by letting the inward action of the tongue be slow.

This video will allow you to watch me doing the action of the tongue roll.

Next Step: Soft Palate Basics

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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