Whether you're a seasoned vocalist or just warming up your skills, you may have encountered the questionable existence of a nasal tone in your vocal quality. Many musicians and music lovers find this quality charming, while others are searching for a cleaner sound to use as their tonal foundation. Do we have options here or are stuck with our natural vocal tone? Let's explore nasality and its interaction with the voice.
The most important aspect of getting to know your own voice is that it will give you the power to make changes and be conscious of the reasons why you’re producing the sound that you are. Have you heard of that phrase “the first step is admitting the problem”? Once you understand what exactly you're hearing, you'll be able to get more in control of the sound that you create. This will give you the confidence you need to really explore how many dimensions your voice is able to conquer and master.
Before we get too far, let us discover the difference between nasal resonance and nasality. To cut straight to the chase, nasality is when the soft palate is not lifting properly, which could also be construed as throat constriction, while nasal resonance takes into consideration of some airflow in the nasal cavities in order to ensure a bright sound.
Why is nasality and nasal resonance often such a drag of a musical topic? Many vocalists find themselves in sticky situations being unable to control their tone, especially if it is naturally quite nasally and they are unable to isolate the body functions that allow them to sing. The issue with the production of sound when nasal issues are present is that this can greatly lessen the range in which the singer is able to produce sound. Typically when this is present in some form, the singer will have issues when singing higher notes, as well as coming across clearly lyrically and in pronunciation to the listener.
So, how do we know if we have a nasal voice afterall? “You can check for nasality in your tone rather easily. While sustaining any sung vowel sound, slowly pinch your nostrils closed (this is also known as “occluding the nostrils”). If the sound quality changes when you pinch your nose closed, it is frequently an indicator of nasality in your tone. If there is indeed nasality in the tone, the pinching of the nostrils will reveal a sound not unlike the telephone operators in old movies saying, “Number please.” If you are feeling resonance behind your nose, yet the tone does not alter when you pinch your nose closed, there is a good chance that you are not singing with nasality in your tone, but are still allowing sympathetic resonance in the nasopharynx to occur." says SingWise. Once we have accepted the fact that we could do without a little less nasal tone, or at least we'd like to be able to alter its affectiveness on our voice in some manner, we must find a way to combat it.
Here enters the fun part, putting all of your new knowledge to the test. A vocal coach will be a wonderful asset at this point in your musical journey. Not only can they help determine what you're doing incorrectly (and correctly!) from an audible perspective, but they will also be able to recognize elements such as your posture, jaw-clenching and so much more. If you're still looking to do a little work on your nasal vocal elements, then it's important to explore a few exercise options that are safe methods for your voice. Ultimately, you will need to acquire exercises that will allow you to learn how to move your soft palate on command so that you are in control of the way it effects your vocal quality.
Once you’re able to fully diagnose the vocal quality that you emit, you’ll be able to attempt to alter it, although this may not always be easy or completely do-able. We all have a natural unique personality as the sound of our voices and it’s important that we don’t try to strive too close to what we believe perfection is. Instead, we should embrace what makes us sound special, as so many of the legends that all of us really love, have that sweet something about their voice that we can’t just put our finger on that makes them seem real, sincere and genuine, rather than just reproducing what they believe they should sound like as a respectable musician. In short, it is often what makes you “you” that makes you sparkle. Embrace your individuality as a musician, while also being the very best version of yourself that you can be. If you can find the perfect balance between the two, you’ll have unlocked another key to life!