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So, one of the most frequent things people say about my singing voice is that I sound "nasal." Listening to some of my past recordings, I'm starting to see that I do tend to sound sort of nasally; sometimes it sounds like I'm pinching my nose closed when I sing. Has anyone ever encountered this sort of vocalist in the studio before, and what techniques did you use to make the vocal sound less nasally? This only seems to be an issue when I try to sing: when I talk, yell, or scream I don't sound overly congested, but this happens when I really try to open up and sing. That sounds sort of backwards if you ask me, but I really have no clue about this. I sound congested whether I sing loud or quiet, so volume doesn't really seem to make a difference. And I tend to sound unbearably nasal through condenser mics. Any suggestions are welcome. :D

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anonymous Thu, 03/26/2009 - 11:20

Yeah, I know that years of practice will probably take care of this. BUT, there are plenty of crappy singers out there who sing incorrectly and don't sound nasal, right? I guess I just have a nasal-sounding voice in general, but it tends to sound more congested when singing. I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just interested in some methods (mic placement, EQ, etc...) that some of you engineers have successfully used on nasally singers.

Davedog Thu, 03/26/2009 - 11:44

The only REAL fix for this is to learn to sing from your diaphram.

You can lower the mic so its more inline with your throat and chest, but you better have a preamp that allows more gain without noise.

This is not ideal.

Another trick is to use two condensers aligned opposite each other, one above and one below. Keep the housings a inch or so apart and the tilt will ahve to be perfect. Check phase. If you have a Little Labs phase checker or an IPB that will allow you to invert the phase in increments should you need to, this will help.

Sing between the mics. The lower one will emphasize the chest tones while the upper one will catch the nasal tone. Mix to the desired effct you want.

This works with two condensers better than anything else. And it helps if the condensers have an already stamped tonal quality for what youre trying to capture. ie: the lower mic can be a little dark while the upper mic can be a little bright.

If you do this right you will be amazed at the sound you get from this setup.

DO NOT COMPRESS THIS! just a warning.

pmolsonmus Thu, 03/26/2009 - 12:08

I usually don't disagree with Da Dogg, but on this one, I have to chime in, because, while he's somewhat accurate, technically he's not.

The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle that helps to control the amount of air that is passing through the vocal bands. Once it has done its job (and its an important one) its job is done.

A nasally tone is different than an unsupported tone. An unsupported tone properly placed tone can benefit from proper breathing technique, a nasally tone will only be a louder, supported nasally tone with proper breath (diaphram) support.

What you're describing is improper tone placement (not mic placement). If the breath is working (and I'm not saying it is or isn't in your case) then where the singer is envisioning that tone going and then getting the shoulder, neck and facial muscles relaxed and out of the way will help to produce a warmer, richer tone. What you describe is a tone with little or no chest resonance and nasal resonance without sinus resonance (pinched nose sound). Experiment with a mic on while you sing and envision the sound focused 2 inches off your nose, then behind your eyes, then out the top of your head, then to the back of your head. Then try to create a tone while yawning to get sinus resonance. Finding the spot where your voice feels and works best is the object in lining up the vowel formants that we create when we sing on vowels sounds.
As Da Dogg described, a vocal coach is very helpful in diagnosing and fixing your individual issues


RemyRAD Thu, 03/26/2009 - 12:34

Your nasal tonality is most likely from attempting to sing more in head tone, rather than chest tone. Another problem is not opening your throat enough. This can also be dealt with by trying to emulate a yawn. If you can learn to yawn at will, this will teach you how to open your throat, not enough so as to cause you to yawn but enough to open up & change your tone. You must also use proper support which has nothing to do with your diaphragm. Support comes from the lower half of your body. It's tightening your tushy like the need for having to go to the bathroom, just not yet. Actual vocal support is a full body coordinated effort, along with proper & deep breathing.

When I've had vocalists that appear to be too nasal, I'll generally placed the microphone lower. I'll place it between stomach & chest level to accentuate more of the chest tone. Placing the microphone above one's mouth accentuates head tone and obviously not what you want.

Subjected to 50 years + of singing lessons
Ms. Remy Ann David

Cucco Thu, 03/26/2009 - 16:32

NCdan wrote: Yeah, I know that years of practice will probably take care of this.

Nope, instead this will make you nasally and severely set in your ways. Learning the correct method and practicing it will make it better. I've learned over many, many years that very few people "practice" correctly. Most people merely repeat the same things over and over in some vain attempt to make it better. Also, many people simply don't put *effort* into practice - it's again, some vain attempt to accomplish magical feats simply by repetition. For what it's worth, when I'm done practicing for a full hour, I'm physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

Phil wrote:
The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle that helps to control the amount of air that is passing through the vocal bands. Once it has done its job (and its an important one) its job is done.

So true! I push this with all of my students. It's one of my pet peeves. (Sorry DD). Breathing correctly does assist in relaxing though. I've definitely learned that breathing correctly can assist in fixing a myriad of problems because things tend to fall in line better or people don't need to correct for other defincies using bad habits.

Phil's assessment is spot on and visualization of tone production is very effective. Relaxation is key as well. You're likely pinching something and while it may sound loud and full inside your head, it just doesn't project.

The problem you'll encounter is, if you like the sound you're currently hearing during your singing sessions, then you'll have a hard time changing your methods. Opening up and breathing correctly will alter your tone significantly and you may not like it that much at first. It's important to realize that what *you* hear is NOT what the audience hears.

Just some thoughts.

anonymous Thu, 03/26/2009 - 19:44

Thank you all for the suggestions. I never really thought about envisioning the sound in different places, so I'll be sure to try that one. I'm also a classically trumpet player of many years, so I can assure you that at least my breathing is correct. :wink: I usually will tilt my head up to the mic if I'm playing and singing, and if I'm just singing I guess my natural tendency is to tilt the mic up towards my mouth (the natural mic-holding position), so I'll try to change the angle and placement too. And I'll also try to sing with my butt, as RemyRAD suggested. :D

Cucco Fri, 03/27/2009 - 06:39

NCdan wrote: I'm also a classically trumpet player of many years, so I can assure you that at least my breathing is correct. :wink:

Hey NCdan - I apologize in advance if I sound anything other than kind, but my intentions are good.

I would not make that assumption though. I have worked with many of the finest horn players in the world and many if not most would agree that this is never a safe assumption. Personally, I find myself working on breath in nearly every practice session. The moment I get complacent about this is the moment I realize that I'm not quite doing it right.

In addition - most (the VAST majority) people that claim to breath properly really do not. They raise the shoulders, expand the upper portions of the rib cage and work with tense breath instead of a deep and controlled breath.

Phil wrote:
I had a vocal coach that advised me to "use your bathroom muscles".

Not the prettiest of analogies, but... (or is that butt)

This is good advice, but possibly misunderstood by a great many. We're not literally talking about clinching the rear end muscles. If you're doing that, you're probably trying to breath from the wrong orafice. However, the same muscles you use when you're trying to push out a brown baby (you know, the aftermath of too much Taco Bell or a McBrick Cheeseburger) are the same abdomenal muscles you want to use while exhaling to sing or play. They are far easier to control than the lungs and certainly more capable than the diaphram.

I actually recently heard a band director/clinician state that this theory was "Hooey." Even my 6th grade student that was in his band saw through his bad logic. His logic was "Your lungs are in your chest, not in your stomach - use your chest muscles to breath." My student piped in "Yeah, but when you use your stomach muscles to push in, you move your diaphram up and it makes your lungs get rid of the air!" I was so proud!

anonymous Fri, 05/08/2009 - 00:21

Sing an "O" then sing an "E", O comes naturally from your chest, E from your nose. It's alot easier to say O in your chest and E in your nose. Try it, then try to say an E in your chest, then try to sing it that way. Notice where your voice is when you sing the O then try to do that with the E.
When you sing an E try to hold the tone as you first begin to pronounce it, the farther into the pronounciation of the E you go the more it moves up into your nose. Try grapping the leading edge of the E sound to hold will help pull the tone down into your chest, preventing it from getting up into your nose.
I have/had a problem singing nasally, and that's what I've noticed. And don't forget to always take a good gulp of air before starting a phrase.

pmolsonmus Thu, 05/21/2009 - 08:59

And don't forget to always take a good gulp of air before starting a phrase.

Please don't offer advise if you don't know what you're talking about. Air, even though it is light, is affected by gravity and pressure changes. You don't need to gulp air. If you did, how would you breathe when you slept?

The best way to breathe is the way you breath naturally when you sleep. Body is relaxed, mouth is open, stomach moves as you inhale, rib cage is not pressing down or forced up.

The trick when breathing while standing is to use your intercostal muscles (spine and ribs) to keep the rib cage's weight from preventing the stomach from moving out as you inhale. This will happen naturally if your rib cage is elevated and the rest of your waist, neck and face is relaxed.

There is no gulping involved and air will move to the space created when you have exhaled your air through the singing of the previous phrase.

Practicing this without singing (on a hiss or similar) would be a good start

(professional singer and vocal coach)