To get your lip-trill started, try playing with a toy tractorI spend a goodly amount of time encouraging vocal ensembles to use the exercise of ‘bubbling’ in their rehearsals. By ‘bubbling’ I mean singing on a smooth, continuous ‘brrrr’ sound such that the lips are vibrating together. It’s also sometimes called a ‘lip trill’. It is a wonderful tool, and I thought it might be worth saying a few words both about why it’s useful, and how to get better at it if you are one of the people who find it tricky at first to do.
Vocally, it achieves two things. First, it develops the continuity of airflow that you need for legato line. Quite often people use the word sounds as a way of sneakily conserving air. Consonants such as t or p are made by momentarily obstructing the airstream, and if you hang onto them you can make the air in your lungs last a bit longer than it would otherwise. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of breaking up the music. Bubbling removes all obstructions to the sound and thus teaches us how to sustain the flow of air throughout the phrase. When people are first learning to bubble, their instinct is often to give a fresh burst of sound for the start of each syllable, and they find when they learn to smooth it out that they are having to breathe in a much deep and physically-engaged way.