By Camille Van Niekerk
Lip trills, what are they?
The lip trill is a fun and effective vocal exercise. Sometimes called “lip bubbles”, this exercise is essentially the noise you’d make if you were imitating the sound of a toy car or airplane. The mouth is almost closed, lips buzzing or flapping together as you phonate (make noise) and release air. If you’ve never done or heard a lip trill before, check out the beginner’s warm-up tutorial on the site!
Who uses lip trills?
Everyone! Okay, maybe not everyone. But they are widely used for good reason! They’re great for beginning singers, gentle enough for vocal rehab, and they continue to be helpful for advanced singers growing their skills. Celine Dion, Tori Kelly, and Nicole Scherzinger are just a few of the many professional singers who use lip trills in their practice.
How do you do it?
See the beginner’s warm-up tutorial, if you need an example! Because most of us made lip bubbles as kids during play, it’s sometimes easiest to find your lip trill by getting into that mindset. Pretend like you’re playing with a toy race car, and you’re making the noise of the engine revving up. Or pretend you’re a horse flapping its lips together. Your mouth should be closed, lips relaxed as they buzz or roll together. If you’ve got steady airflow for the lips to move and you’re phonating (making noise with your vocal folds) at the same time, then you’re doing it!
What are they good for?
Lip trills are great for training efficient breath control and balanced tone. Because they provide back pressure on the vocal folds, they’re also very helpful for range extension. I love the lip trill because it’s gentle, effective, and nearly impossible to hurt yourself with! If you’re a singer who tends to strain or over-sing, lip trills can help you relax and use your voice most efficiently.
How do I use lip trills in my vocal practice?
Because they’re so gentle and relaxing, lip trills are a great way to begin and end your warm-up or practice session. You can use a lip trill on any pattern, but I’d recommend starting with sirens and then increasing range, speed, and difficulty with some arpeggios or melisma/run patterns.
In your song work, you can practice by singing the melody on a lip trill to train healthy, balanced tone and breath control.
What if I can't do a lip trill?
Not everyone picks up the lip trill on day one. It’s normal for it to take some time! Here are a few tips if you haven’t gotten the hang of it yet:
-Support the cheeks and/or the corners of your mouth with your fingertips.
-Relax your lips and cheeks.
-Aim to just get the buzz going at first! Sustaining it will come later.
-Try a little bit every day. The more often you return to this coordination, the better.
-If it’s been weeks and you’re not making much progress, try an alternative exercise: sustained “V” sound, rolled “R”, or a raspberry (buzzing with the tongue sticking out).
Some Final Tips:
Especially in the beginning, you may be tempted to push air to keep the sound going. Relax! It really doesn’t take a lot of air. Rather, it takes muscle coordination, which will come.
You also may be tempted to push when singing higher. Instead, think about decreasing pressure and keeping your air flow consistent. Don’t worry about maintaining one volume throughout your range.
Good luck, and happy singing!