Last year, we talked about what the term twang means in singing. In short, twang is brightness, forward resonance, or that little laser-focused crying point you hear in a wide variety of vocal genres. It’s not the same as country twang, but it’s related because both use that little cry and a high degree of narrow, forward resonance.
So How Do You Sing With Twang?
Find That Buzz
Let’s start with a buzzy hum. You can do some scales on a hum, or change the words of a song to the hum. If you’re having a hard time getting a nice forward buzz, try these quick tips.
1. Put a puppy-dog cry into your hum.
You know the sound I’m talking about. The little cry will do a number of wonderful vocal things for you, including tilting your thyroid, but in this instance, it will also help you control your exhalation on the onset of the note.
2. Hold Back Air
If the puppy-dog cry isn’t an image that you can get on board with, simply think about controlling your air. Hold back air on your exhalation to get a little more of that buzz instead of letting the air drain out.
3. Scrunch Your Nose
Nose scrunching is a physical maneuver that can help narrow your aryepiglottic sphincter (AES) and get that buzzy sound.
Once you’re controlling your air and feeling that buzz, you can get a very tangible twangy sensation by simply singing like a brat. Try singing “nya nya nya” like you’re a 6-year-old teasing a slower rival. Be really bratty with it. Do you feel how small and laser-focused the sound is? That’s your AES narrowing, giving you frontal resonance. If you’re worried that this isn’t a sound you want, fear not! Once you add some other elements in, like lifting your soft palate and tilting your thyroid (technique tips for another day) the sound will fill out and become way less obnoxious, while keeping the bright forward tone.
Scrunch Your Nose
We talked about this one earlier, but it’s worth reiterating that you can apply it to other things outside of the hum. Scrunching your nose will help give you that narrow, focused sound. Be careful how you use it though! While pop and country singers use this trick all the time, it’s not usually stylistically appropriate for more open, operatic sounds.
Keep the Sides of Your Tongue High
First say, “i” (as in feet.) Notice where the sides of your tongue are. Now say, “ah,” as if you’re at the doctor. Feel how much narrower and more focused the “i” feels? Next, say “ah,” but keep your tongue a little closer to the “i” position. Don’t go crazy with it; it still needs to sound like an “ah.” I bet you’ll get a slightly narrower, more focused sound.
Keep the Tongue Fairly Forward
Say “i” again, and then try saying “ooh” with your tongue pretty far back in your mouth. I bet that “i” sound felt like it was buzzier and more forward. Next say “ooh,” but keep your tongue in more of an “i” position. More forward, right? Be careful that when you’re keeping your tongue in the “i” position that your vowel still sounds like an “ooh.”
Forward resonance, or twang, is only one aspect of good singing. If you’re only focused on frontal resonance, you probably won’t love your sound. It might sound a little shrill and bratty. Once you have some twang, work on things like controlling your soft palate to add other resonances in.