First of all, we’ll start with anatomy and physiology. The soft palate is the soft part of the upper “ceiling” or upper surface of the mouth. It is behind the hard palate. The hard palate has a bone that gives it its structure, the soft palate however lacks this, and it’s not a bad thing. With the absence of a bony structure allows it to be movable and controlled at will. It is the door that is which connects the mouth cavity to the nasal cavity. As you can see in the picture below, the soft palate is rested. In its rested/uncontracted state, it allows air into the nasal cavity, and this makes the sound produced to be “nasal”. In its contracted state, the soft palate is lifted up and thus the passage to the nasal cavity is obstructed, allowing only exit of air through the mouth. That is why the soft palate is known as the nasal port.
Now there are three nasal consonants, which when used in a singing tone, allows the air to pass into the nose. With “M”, both your lips are closed; With “N”, the frontal part of your tongue obstructs the air from escaping through the mouth; and with “Ng”, it’s like the back part of your tongue rises to allow the airflow to be properly aligned with the relaxed nasal port, so that even if you sing with “Ng” in a tone, the air flows and resonates straight into the nasal cavity.
Now for the exercises, we are to control passage of air from a nasal sound to a mouth sound, and for that, we raise or lower our soft palate. With a relaxed soft palate, sing “Ng” (I just prefer “Ng” among the three) in a tone, sustain it for a few seconds (3-5 seconds), and release it through a vowel. You first notice the air circulate and resonate in your nasal cavity. As you incorporate the vowel into the tone, the air and sound that goes with it, exits through the mouth. A, E, I, O, U, it doesn’t matter. This will allow the transition of your vocal projection to be nasal to mouth. With this exercise, we practice to control a slow transition of nasal to mouth. To be able to check if you are doing the exercise right, try doing the exercise again but during the latter part of the transition, try closing your nose. If the sound you produce is interrupted by the closing of your nose, then it means you’re not doing it right because the latter transition should be an “all-mouth” sound.
Now, for the 2nd exercise, pronounce the sound of “K” seven to 8 times in five seconds. The second exercise involves a faster and more intense contraction of the muscles connected to the soft palate. Try pronouncing the sound of “K”, and you’ll notice that there is tension in the area of your soft-palate. There are instances in speaking or singing where the soft palate is somewhere between relaxed and contracted. The exercise of pronouncing the sound of “K” would help in raising the soft palate more. It would be good to pair this exercise with the first to back it up.
Well that’s it for the exercises. And since we are dealing with also dealing with muscles. Constant use of these will help train them to withstand tension and skill of controlling will be integrated until we can just play around with the notes effortlessly in excellence.