By Beth Lawrence, co-authored with Phillip Brandvold
One of the most difficult things for many beginning singers to overcome is the tendency to produce a nasal sounding tone. In fact, many singers battle against nasal sounds long into their vocal career. Although, sometimes the nasal voice is exactly what you’re looking for (think Country-Western music). However, good vocalists are able to determine when and how a nasal sound is produced. So how do you avoid creating an unintentional nasal voice?
Understanding the Nasal Voice
The first step in eliminating nasality in your sound is to understand what causes this particular tone. When singing, you may have a tendency to let your tongue move backward in your mouth, and toward the roof of your mouth. This causes the “space” to constrict in the back of your throat, forcing the sound back into your nasal cavity. Not only does this action make it difficult to project sound, but it also makes your sound come off as closed off and pinched. In order to get maximum power and volume you want maximum space in the back of the throat. The easiest way to achieve this is to feel like you’re “yawning” while singing. When your tongue is relaxed and flat, and the soft palate is raised, your tone can be released without constriction. But when your tongue is raised, your sound will have nowhere to go but into the nose.
How to Avoid that Nasal Voice
So how can you avoid a nasal tone? We admit- it’s very difficult to think about all these things while focusing on hitting the right notes and singing the correct lyrics. However, there are a few simple techniques that you can learn to help make a nasal voice a thing of the past.
First, practice raising your soft palate to get enough space in the back of your throat. Again, this will feel like you’re about to yawn — in fact, you might find yourself actually letting out a few big yawns.
Second, and probably the more effective technique, is to put the tip of your tongue to the back of your bottom teeth. This will keep your tongue down and forward, keeping the space in the back of your throat from becoming too narrow and creating that nasal sound. Of course, your tongue will need to move occasionally for certain consonants, but not as often as you would think. It’s important to keep in mind that whenever your tongue is “at rest”, particularly on vowel sounds, it should find its home to the back of your teeth.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is to practice! Nobody is able to perfect a technique on the first try. You will need to be diligent in practicing these techniques over and over so that they will soon become a subconscious habit. As soon as it becomes second nature to open your mouth as if you were about to yawn and place your tongue at the back of your teeth, you will find that your sound has improved immensely and the nasal voice has disappeared.
I’ve helped singers take control of their voice for over 30 years. If you have any questions about these techniques, send me a message!
I have worked for 30 years as a professional singer in International Concert Halls, on TV, in Las Vegas and Atlantic City Showrooms, and Symphony Halls. I know how to own a stage and rescue your voice!
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