You’ve all heard people speak and sing with a nasal sound. Think Fran Drescher’s speaking voice, or Kristin Chenoweth’s Sally Brown voice in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.
But while nasal singing might be exactly what you’re looking for when you’re playing a character role like Sally Brown, it isn’t always the most desirable vocal sound. Learn how to sing without nasality in this latest Online Singing Lesson post.
What Causes Nasality?
People typically speak and sing with nasality when their soft palate, the fleshy part at the back of the roof of your mouth, is too low. We have an opening called a velopharyngeal port, that acts as a passageway between the mouth and the nasal cavity. When the velum is too low, the passageway opens a lot, and the sound becomes hypernasalized. When the soft palate is higher, the passageway gets partial or full closure, and the nasality diminishes.
How to Sing Without Nasality
Since most of us can’t close our velopharyngeal port on command, we voice teachers tend to work off of images and everyday actions our students can relate to. Here are some things to try.
1. Stifle a Yawn
I don’t usually like having my singers let out a full-fledged yawn, because the sound tends to end up too hooty and lacks forward resonance. But a stifled yawn, or that feeling you get when you have to yawn is a great way to work on lifting your soft palate.
2. Make a Dopey Sound
Say “buh buh buh” in a dopey voice. Do you feel how much space you create in your mouth? While you don’t want to go too far with a dopey sound, it can help pull you in the other direction when you’re too nasal, so try adding a little bit of dopiness and then slowly let the dopiness go while keeping that space in your mouth.
3. Snort Like a Pig
It sounds like an odd way to begin singing, but try snorting before you sing, and you should feel your palate lift.
Vocal Exercises to Combat Nasal Singing
Keeping all the above actions in mind can be very helpful. However, creating muscle memory is the best way to make sure you can maintain non-nasalized singing without having to think too hard about it. Vocal exercises are one of the best ways to accomplish this.
1. BUH BUH Exercise
Use your dopey voice, and appregiate on buh buh buh.
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2. Ng-EE Exercise
To get practice lifting your soft palate on command, move between an ng sound (which uses a low soft palate) and a higher-velum “EE” sound, and notice the space in the back of your mouth increase.
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What if You Want More Nasality?
Interested in playing a character role or doing some other type of singing that requires nasality? Learn to sing with nasality in my Vocal Fringe Techniques section.