How to Correct Nasality in Singing

Learn how to correct nasality from vocal coach Cari Cole in this Howcast singing tutorial.

Hi, I’m Cari Cole. I’m a celebrity vocal coach and artist development expert, and I help artists find their voice, craft their music, and create successful music careers. I’ve worked with Donal Fagen from Steely Dan, Courtney Love from Hole. I’ve worked with the band Journey. I’m going to teach you how to be a better singer and performer.

Okay, so I’m going to give you a tip or two about how to correct nasality in the voice. We’ve all heard those singers who have that nasal sound. There are singers that are known for that: Edith Piaf, from way back in the day, very famous French singer. There are singers that have more nasal voices. Some people want to correct this and some people don’t. In my training I always correct it because I’m not a big fan of honky sounds, but here’s a couple ways you can do that. First is to understand that if you’re nasal, you usually have a very tight nasal passage and you’re squeezing the muscles behind the nose. I’ll get into that more in just a second, but it’s a breath imbalance and it’s a high tongue. So the tongue in back is high on a nasal voice which then compromises the overtones and the sound passage of the mouth which creates a more nasal sound. There’s less space, so it’s tighter and smaller and constricted. So a couple of things you want to do for that is to really study breathing. Most people that are nasal are holding their breath so I’m just going to imitate that sound for a minute. And so if you’re nasal, you’re not using the breath. You really want to train your breath and get better control of your breath.

The other thing I just mentioned was having a high tongue. So having a high tongue means that when you’re singing the back of the tongue is going high. So this is a harder thing to control, but the first thing I have people do is I have them hold their jaw down, tip of the tongue touching the lower lip, and then I want you to say, ‘gah.’ So you’re going to say, ‘gah.’ ‘Gah.’ And notice how on the G the back of the tongue goes really high and on the Ah it drops. Now on those of you who have more nasal voices, the Ah won’t drop very much; it will stay in that high position and you know you have a high tongue, because on the Ah vowel, the tongue is the furthest down of any vowel in the vowel spectrum.

So that’s a first starter, is to hold the jaw down, keep the tip of the tongue touching the lower lip, and say, ‘gah.’ ‘Gah.’ And to see if you can get the back of the tongue to go down. And then you try it with your singing voice, ‘gah.’ ‘Gah.’ And just keep practicing that, keep practicing that tongue dropping. You can also do it without vocalizing; you can just do it with your breath; that’s another way. Same position, take a breath in. Do you see the back of the tongue going down as you take that breath in? And you can add a bit of a yawn to help that tongue drop, but I call it that soft pallet flex and a tongue drop, because when the tongue drops band the pallet lifts and that creates that openness in the back of the mouth that ultimately you will prevent nasality when you have that.

In general, instead of singing Ah, for nasal voices, instead of singing Ah, sing Uh. So every time you sing like, ‘Ahh ahh,’ make it more, ‘Uh’ instead of ‘Ah.’ ‘Ah, uh.’ So it’s an Ah with an Uh, and that will help you contract nasality.

The good news is that nasality is total fixable, so if you practice your breath and practice those exercises that I just showed you, you’re going to see a significant improvement.