Hello my friends! It’s been wonderful hearing from so many of you. Thank you for your emails and keep ‘em coming! I’m pleased to be of help. This month’s article will address a question sent me, regarding causes and solutions to unwanted nasality in the voice.
“How can I work on the tone of my voice? I end up sounding a little too nasal.”
First, let’s understand what is happening that causes nasality. The nasal cavity itself is not what causes a nasal sound. The sound of the voice becomes “nasal” when the vibrations of your voice are aimed into the soft palate and are not allowed to otherwise release into the natural spaces of the back of the mouth, head and nasal cavity. By the voice aiming primarily into the soft palate, the sound is being muffled and the tone effected.
To have a fuller toned voice, these vibrations must be able to expand into and resonate in the back of the mouth, throat, back of your head, chest and back as appropriate to the pitch, volume, and tonality you imagine.
Your voice needs to be exercised in ways that will help limber the muscles in the mouth and throat. As you practice in ways designed for this result, you will also become accustomed to different possibilities.
Thought Senior to Sound
The voice is a miraculous instrument. It is thought and emotion-sensitive which can be positive or negative.
Though designed to operate automatically, it can be manipulated by your thoughts. I have discussed various ramifications of this in earlier places in my book and vocal exercise CDs: “The Contemporary Vocalist.”
If your thoughts and emotions do not align with the natural workings of your instrument, if you are self-conscious or have fears of reaching certain notes, your voice will reflect this. The tones will sound uncertain, strained, unpleasant or even go off pitch. If, while you sing, you imagine or are concerned about your voice sounding nasal, your body will create a nasal sound. If you listen to singers that all have a certain type of sound and you permit yourself to become very influenced by them, you may subconsciously assimilate their attributes.
You will need to imagine your voice differently in order for it to sound differently.
To develop your voice you need to properly exercise the mechanical muscle movements of it as well as develop your way of thinking so that you begin to predict new sounds. If you think it‘s going to sound the same way you’ve been used to hearing it, it will. Part of developing the voice is purely physical while a large part of it is completely mental. That’s the nature of our instrument.
The selection of vocal warm-ups that I offer on my “Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs” CD
also helps. By practicing with them you will become accustomed to different sounds and your voice should end up with a richer tone and sound less nasal (or not nasal at all).
The exercises help by limbering all of the muscles that together produce the sounds of your voice. From there, the vibrations of your voice expand and develop naturally and your resonance and tone increases. If you don’t yet own a copy of, I urge you to get and use it. The exercises found on that CD will specifically help you achieve what we’re talking about. Here is one of the exercises found on that CD.
To help you find how to do this exercise, say the word "sing." Notice how the back of your tongue lightly closes against your soft palate for the "NG." As you do so, the tip of your tongue should remain touching the back of your bottom teeth.
(Note: if you have my Warm-Up CD, you can hear how it is done on the recording and notice the difference in sound when I demonstrate the correct and incorrect movement and use of the tongue.)
1) Open your mouth with lips relaxed and take a deep breath. On a comfortable speech-level pitch, using a basic conversational volume only, sing and sustain an "NG." Feel the resonance shimmer along the roof of your mouth and under your nose.
2) Still sustaining the same pitch, let the back of your tongue relax downwards as you change to the vowel. Try to maintain the same resonance shimmer you had while you sustained the "NG."
3) Alternate between the "NG" and the vowel a number of times before taking a breath, but take your time with this. You should not do it in a rush. Go on to the next vowel once you experience greater relaxation and resonance with the one you are working on.
Try to maintain the same resonance from consonant to vowel, as you sing them alternately.
1. NG — Ah, as in "Wand." After several repetitions, sing in the same manner:
2. NG — Ee (Seem)
3. NG — A (Same)
4. NG — Aa(Apple)
5. NG — I(Him)
6. NG — Eh(When)
7. NG — Uh(Some)
During the last two, be sure you do not shape your lips for the sound. Think the vowel sound and letting it naturally resonate against the back wall of your mouth.
8. NG — Oh(Home)
9. NG — Ooo(Soon)
Through the entire exercise, use a basic non-shouting volume only. This particular warm-up exercise is also excellent for examining and developing your use of each of the basic vowel sounds. ENJOY!
All the best, Jeannie Deva
© 2009. Jeannie Deva Enterprises, Inc. Jeannie Deva and The Deva Method are Registered Trademarks.
Jeannie Deva is an International Celebrity Vocal Coach and Recording Session Vocal Specialist. Author of the “Contemporary Vocalist” book and vocal exercise CDs, and “The Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs, she is the Originator of The Deva Method® A Non-Classical Approach for Singers™ and Founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios since 1978. Testimonials include producers and engineers of the Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith, among others. Clients include Grammy Award Winner Aimee Mann, recording artists Patty Griffin, Dar Williams, members of the J. Geils band, singers for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, the Broadway cast of Grease, international touring cast of Fame, Wicked and many more. Jeannie has private studios in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and also teaches singers across the US, South America and Europe by Internet Web Cam. For Information on coaching, locations, workshops and products: www.JeannieDeva.com