The lip trill is hard for many singers to do at first. If you're anything like I was, you've been awkwardly trying to follow along with your singing teacher as you spit and blow disjointed raspberries at them. But don't worry, with some mild tweaking, practice and the tips below, you can master this exercise too.
The lip trill is a vocal exercise that involves vibrating the lips together while producing sound, taking tension out of your lips and improving breath control and range. To perform a lip trill, wet your lips, close and purse your lips, breathe in and blow the air out while producing sound.
You can find out more about the lip trill below, including steps to performing a long-lasting trill. I have also included some extra tips to try if you can't get it at first.
The Lip Trill Exercise
A lip trill is similar to blowing a raspberry with your lips. The lips vibrate together as air passes through them. One point of difference is that, while blowing your raspberry, you should also be producing sound.
In other words, you should be able to change the pitch of your raspberry. You can make it sound like a low sound or a high sound. You can hear examples of this further down.
There are three key benefits to this exercise, which I have outlined below. This is why it is a very common exercise among vocalists for warming up and exercising their voice.
Improves Breath Control
In order to hold your lip trill for an extended period of time, the airflow from your lungs needs to be constant and balanced. Therefore, by performing successful lip trills, you are training your diaphragm to release air in a very controlled way.
Too much airflow will seperate your lips so that they don't vibrate. Not enough airflow means your lips will remain closed until enough pressure has build up for the air to escape. This results in small sporadic pops from the lips instead of a steady vibration.
Takes Pressure Off the Vocal Cords
Normally when you sing, air passes through the vocal cords uninhibited. Your mouth and nose are always open for the air to pass through. When you close your lips, this provides resistance against the airflow.
When there is resistance, or 'back-pressure', there is less pressure on the vocal cords. In other words, it is like someone pushing on a window. Pushing too hard on the window may cause it to shatter. If someone else is pushing on the window from the other side, it is less likely to break.
Therefore, having back-pressure on your vocal cords reduces the chances of strain or other damage when singing. This allows singers to sing higher and lower notes to widen their range, without the risk of damaging their voice.
Removes Tension From Your Lips
Lip trills are also a great way to warm up and relieve tension in your lips. This makes diction easier and therefore makes your voice clearer for the audience. If you weren't aware that there are many mouth shapes used when singing, you can find them all here.
Mastering the Lip Trill
Follow the step-by-step guide below to start your lip trill. You will then find tips further down if the trill isn't coming naturally to you.
The Lip Trill: Step-by-Step
- Wet/lick your lips.
- Close your lips together.
- Relax your lips and cheeks (but keep them closed).
- Purse your lips (almost like fish lips).
- Start making a sound. Think of a 'brrrr' sound.
- Keep the sound/trill going for as long as you can.
- Play around with the pitch of your sound (up and down).
Further down you will find different ways you can use the lip trill to exercise your vocal cords.
If you're not getting it from the above steps, don't worry. Everybody has different anatomy, so you may need to adjust slightly to get the trill going. Try some of the tips below and you should be able to keep the trill going until you run out of breath.
Focus on making sound, not pushing air through your lips. Not too much air should be coming out - this keeps your lips separated and prevents the lips from trilling.
Pinch your nose to see if are was escaping through your nose. If your trill changes, you will need to focus on channelling the air out your mouth instead.
Try pushing your fingers into your cheeks (roughly where dimples form). This usually forces your lips into the correct position for a lip trill.
Sticking your bottom lip out further than your top lip can help start the vibration of your lips.
Spitting is okay! Place your hand about 1/2 a foot from your mouth to catch any fly-aways if you're in public and worried about spitting on someone.
Lip trills often tickle your nose because of the vibrations. If you can't stand the constant tickle, simply press your finger onto the tip of your nose to help stop the vibrations.
Keep practicing. Like anything, the lip trill uses certain muscle control to start and maintain. Once your muscles are used to the correct movements, your lip trills will come easier.
Alternative to the Lip Trill
Another alternative to the lip trill is making a 'vvv' sound. This still puts some back-pressure on your vocal cords. To an extent, it also helps control your breathing, given that too much airflow will create more of a 'fff' sound.
How to Use the Lip Trill
The lip trill can be applied to any scale or vocal slide. When using scales, you can choose to use a continuous trill or a disjointed trill. You can find examples of all of these below, including using the trill with a vocal slide.
If you would like to read about different scales that can be used to warm up or exercise your voice, have a look at this article.