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The Soft Palate Controls Your Voice

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Tight soft palate, tight voice. I'm sure that if you've taken singing lessons for awhile that you've been given some instruction on the soft palate position. Did you know that the soft palate has a bigger role than almost any other muscle in your body to control your voice? Of course you immediately think about the vocal folds or the diaphragm as the most important. But the vocal folds cannot be controlled directly muscularly. We can only control them by the sound we are telling it to do. The diaphragm is very mysterious because of its direct correlation to the vocal folds. Any direct control of the diaphragm can throw off its role in the "ecosystem" of phonation. But the soft palate can be muscularly controlled and heavily influences the vocal folds and resulting sound.

The soft palate can be seen or felt as it it connected to the hard palate directly towards the upper front of the mouth.

There are four basic positions of the soft palate:

(Images courtesy of Sivu from his video, "Better Man Than He"

  1. Open as when you're breathing through the nose. (see center of picture)

2. Closed tight as when we're talking. (see center of picture)

3. Relaxed closure for pleasant speaking or singing. (see center of picture)

4. Lifted as in yawning. (no photo because a lifter yawning position is not used in pop music as it "colors" the voice.


ll four results in different sounds for speaking and singing. The fully open position is undesirable as it is impossible to enunciate clearly. The closed tight is the natural position that occurs when speaking. As most people know, this results in an unpleasant tone as heard in voice recordings of our voices. The lifted or yawning position, while helping to balance the resonances of the voice is an even tighter position of the vocal folds that colors the voice and makes singing more taxing. The relaxed closure is the one that's the best for generating pleasant resonant voices.

If you can make all four sounds, you'll be able to feel the difference it makes in your singing. Everything becomes better when the soft palate is lightly closed especially tone and ease of phonation.


Breathe through your nose and feel the relaxed open feeling at the top back of the mouth where the soft palate is. Then make a very unpleasant nasal sound like "nyah". You should feel the soft palate opening (relaxed) when inhaling and closed (tight) when nyahing. The tightly closed position should be avoided when singing. A lightly closed (relaxed) position is the desired position especially when singing higher and/or louder.

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