During vocal lessons, I often hear Instructors say, “lift up your soft palate higher.”
Almost every student struggles lifting up the soft palate.
I’ve investigated whether the soft palate lifts up easily, or not.
The soft palate is the soft tissue in the back of the roof of the mouth, and it is moveable. It is responsible for closing off the nasal passages during the act of swallowing, and also for closing off the airway. During sneezing, it protects the nasal passage by diverting a portion of the excreted substance to the mouth. Most vocal sounds are made with the middle part of the tongue touching the soft palate, this is known as a velar consonant. It is possible for the soft palate to retract and elevate during speech, to separate the oral cavity (mouth) from the nasal cavity in order to produce vocal sounds. If this separation is incomplete, air escapes through the nose, and causes the vocalizations produced to sound nasally.
The soft palate and the hard palate are connected and share common tissue. The hard palate which is at the front of the mouth contains bone. The soft palate does not contain bone. It is usually moved by the levator veli palatini muscle, which is a small muscle that lifts up the soft palate and carries the food to the pharynx when swallowing.
I’ve researched this muscle to see if it can be controlled, by lifting up the soft palate on purpose.
My research consisted of touching the soft palate of two professional singers by carefully observing and docoumenting their movements.
A:One singer can lift up the soft palate but not stretch or extend it wide. When I opened the mouth and touched the soft palate, the temporomandibular joint moved. This movement increased the oral space, and then extended the muscles in the cheeks.
B:The second singer, which I performed the same process as the first, did not move the soft palate at all and the oral space did not increase.
Next, I measured the distance between the center of the soft palate and the front teeth. Then I inserted a bar into the mouth of each singer. This bar is more than double the measurment of the distance between the soft palate and the front teeth.
If the soft palate goes up, the bar moves to down. Using this bar I can accurately measure the movement of the soft palate.
I asked them to intentionally lift up their soft palates.
A:The bar moved down half an inch, this means that the soft palate also went up a half an inch.
B:The bar never moved.
From these results I have concluded that, there are indeed some people who can lift up the soft palate easily and intentionally. When the soft palate is lifted, it only went up half an inch. Although the movement was minor, it is effective if your intent is to increase the space in the oral cavity.
If a person is instructed in vocal training to lift up the soft palate on purpose, keep in mind that even if they are sucessful it might be not as high a movement as expected.
(Red is the soft palate and the beige is the oral cavity)