How low should your jaw drop when you sing?

How low should your jaw drop when you sing?


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2016

New research suggests that the best singers open very wide.

This research study set out to establish whether a lowered jaw position was a ‘principal factor in the tonal success of elite singers.’ This recent paper is part of a long term study which aims to examine top ranking singers with more than ten years’ experience.

Read a summary here.

Singer, audition


  • Peter says:

    The lower larynx is the primary and decisive point. The other observable phenomena like particularly low jaw etc are consequential.
    Its simple physics, duh. To do with resonances of the cavities of the oral trakt. It’s known by the initiated for centuries, but its also horryfing to experience the ratio of vocal teachers and professors at the schools, who have no clue about it, what they are doing. Best case a diffuse subconscious approach into the right direction.

  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    Oh, dear. This is horribly misleading and horribly misguided. It’s the sort of pseudo science that is ruining the teaching of singing.

    Italian Technique, which has been effective for more than 400 years, tells us that singing is all about the proper opposition of the vocal cords, a gentle flow of air, the ability of the larynx to tilt and that all of these come from good poster and a proper positioning of the jaw and tongue.

    These together combine to ‘mix’ the voice, so that a nice, even tone is produced throughout the register.

    To prevent impeding the flow of air, the majority of consonants and all vowels are formed in the mouth, by the tongue, so that an embouchure can be maintained. For this to work correctly, for the majority of the time, the lower jaw should drop very slightly down and back. If it drops further, then the attempt to form the vowels with the tongue will cause the root of the tongue to skew the position of the larynx.

    The only exception is right at the top of the register, when the jaw drops, the tongue gets out of the way and the head, which at this point is dominant, rings. This is why when you listen to the great old singers, the vowel is often fudged right at the top of the range.

    There should be NO tension in the neck.

    I’ve written extensively on the Italian Technique on the Facebook page, The Blade:

    • Fran says:

      Excellent response. Have liked your page Dominic

    • Marcell Németh says:

      I agree with you. I don’t think a study like this could be deemed ‘scientific’. Elite and non-elite are highly subjective categories, which are hard to define, and even if we use these categories, artistic success depends on many factors, not just on singing technique and ‘tonal success’. As the authors claim only one example of who they deem ‘elite’ has been examined so far. How they want to draw conclusions after this?

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Watch Jessye Norman at 9’30” and onwards:


  • Peter says:

    This study is incredibly stupid. All they needed to do was to bring themselves up to bachelor degree level in the field.

  • Roo Bookaroo says:

    To: Norman Lebrecht

    As an aside, have you ever come across an article, study, or expert opinion about the question whether female singers are capable of opening their mouths even wider than male singers. This, not as an absolute comparison (men are larger, have larger faces and bone structures), but relative to the size of the female head versus the size of the male head.
    I was under the impression that this is the case, but that is a pure personal observation without any objective measurements. Is there any more objective, scientific knowledge about this comparison of widest jaw opening of female singers against male singers? Of course, this question concerns only top established singers, mostly opera singers.
    ROO BOOKAROO, Jan. 9, 2016