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Student with Little Facial/Mouth Awareness

I have a female freshman who, despite being a natural singer with a big voice, cannot imitate mouth shapes demonstrated!  She has to feel her face with her hands or use a mirror.  She is embarrassed by this and tries very hard, but I am at a loss on how to help more than offering the mirror or verbally correcting or visually imitating her.  (Ex: for "ahh" she curls her lips inward very oddly and with a lot of tension).
Is this inability a disorder of some sort?  Anyone seen this before??
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on January 3, 2014 3:25am
Let her put a folded piece of cigarette paper between her lips until it produces a vibrating sound (not sure how to say that in proper english but wood instrumentalist know what I mean.) The vibrations will make that she feels her lips and thus the position. To produce the sounds she needs to let go of tension and pressure.
When she manages this, step nr. 2 is to do the same without the paper and produce a 'W' consonant (No underteeth on upperlip) with almost closed lips on a 'C' tone or another groundtone she is comfortable with. 
Step 3 is to let the 'W' go over in a vocal in this following order: Wwwwwwwwaaaaaaaa, Wwwwwwwwwwwééééééé, Wwwwwiiiiiiiiiiii, Wwwwwooooooo Wwwwwwououououououou (like in 'Soup') 
Step 4 is to do the same in reverse order ('wou', 'wo', 'wi', 'we'  and 'wa' keeping the lips in the first postion during all sounds.
She can exercise this in private with or without a mirror. (preferable without a mirror).
When she masters all these steps after a while, the right position of the mouth according to the vocal will come in place by nature
Good luck,
on January 3, 2014 5:27pm
Like most people she spontaneously developed habits somewhere along the way.  What she is doing is not natural, it is just habitual.  I have found the mirror to be absolutely invaluable.  Unfortunately more often than not students HATE to look at themselves in the mirror, but they must do it often enough so they overcome that reluctance.  I can't tell you how many times I have had a student watch him or herself in the mirror without me saying what it is I want them to observe, and the incorrect habit disappears!  She must learn that the mirror is her friend.  You can't correct something you can't identify.  And by all means have her BE TACTILE!  Use her hands to help form her mouth the correct way.  For how long?  Until she doesn't need to anymore.  No tricks--just doing it the right way until IT becomes the new habitual way of singing.
on January 3, 2014 6:57pm
It is good to try to solve the problem via words. Have you tried the sometimes useful lip trill? That might might relax the lips and cheeks.
I would try the speaking of, 'I walked to the top of the mountain; what a view!"   Also  "what about Bob"   "No warts"  "moo moo moo"
Anything that gets the lips out, puckered. Sing it all after firmly spoken.
Good Luck.
Edward Palmer
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