Resolving the Front/Back Vocal Paradox

On the one hand, you may hear about front placement:

“Sing through your mask. Sing as if your voice is right in front of your face.  Feel your voice hit the back of your front teeth.”

On the other, you may hear about creating space in the back of the mouth:

“Open the back of your mouth.  Lift the soft palate.  Pretend there is an egg in your mouth, with the big end toward the back.  Let your tongue relax and flatten in the back of your mouth.”

Do these two concepts seem to be in conflict?  When you try to send your voice forward, does it also get thin or nasal?  And when you try to create space in the back of your mouth, does your voice sound hooty or hollow, or stuck in your throat?

Here’s a way to think of combining the best of these two concepts:  imagine your voice bouncing off the back wall of your throat and *then* traveling forward, hitting the back of your front teeth and/or the front of the roof of your mouth on the way out.


If you have trouble doing both at the same time, I recommend working on getting good forward placement, or what is often called mask resonance, FIRST.  Then, round out your sound with openness.  It seems to be easier to round out a well-connected, forward-resonant sound, even if a bit nasal, than to take a throaty, hooty sound and add mask resonance.

But you do need both.  Front-of-face resonance and back-of-mouth openness may feel like a paradox, but really they are two halves of a full picture.

(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn

Adrienne Osborn is a vocalist and performance coach based in Colorado.   For more free articles and tips, visit