Nasal Resonance: How much is enough?


The Italian maxim goes something like this: “Put some nose in the sound without the sound being in the nose.” Virtually everyone agrees that, in the bel canto style, nasal singing is avoided. The converse is also true: “cut-off nasality” is to be avoided. Nasal sound has a twang that is generally out of place in classical singing. On the other hand, the sound of “cut-off nasality” is dull and monochromatic, flat (not in pitch but in resonance). In a balanced voice there is some nose in the sound, but the sound is not nasal. A good test is to sing and pinch the nostrils. If the sound doesn’t change at all, there is no nasality in the sound: it has “cut-off” nasality. If the sound changes a lot, there is a nasal twang: it has too much nasality. If the sound changes slightly, then the balance is probably right. This is a tricky concept to teach. Studio voice teachers use a variety of techniques to get the right mix of nasality in the voice.

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