Nasality or Twang?

Nasality and twang are not the same thing. They may, indeed, seem or sound similar, but they are definitely not the same.

Nasality is the sound we hear when a singer has his nasal port open. Is this good or bad? Well, I guess that depends on what kind of sound you want to make with your voice. For the most part, nasality is not considered an esthetically-pleasing sound; however, some singers may indeed do this and consider this their signature sound.

Twang on the other hand is an important coordination that every singer should learn and understand. The ability to “twang” creates particular frequencies in the voice. There frequencies add volume, brassiness, brightness, crispness, and/or fullness. This is an important coordination that when used with other vocal coordinations gives the singer freedom to express themselves dynamically and with texture.

Twang may sound unpleasant in its’ purest form, but when added to the voice in varying degrees, allows a voice to be interesting and believable.

More on Belting

So, I used my cricoid muscle extensively on Saturday night. Yes, I was more shoutier than usual. Since my workshop a couple of weeks ago, I have been revisiting some of my repertoire in a beltier way. This is similar to the way I sang about ten years ago, but also much different. Yes, this time was much different. It was interesting to see how the audience reacted. I had one gentleman come and ask me if I had ever sang opera. He said that my voice reminded him of many textures…many subtleties.  The audience definitely seemed engaged in a different way…..or maybe it was just me….knowing that I was singing more on the edge….the edge of right and wrong….the edge of freedom.

What has changed?  Quite a few things. Knowledge is power.  For one thing I made sure the mic stand was a little higher, and the microphone was angled slightly downward so that I could tilt my head back for the belt. (I don’t hold the mic because I am playing keyboard).  I would usually do this angle with my head anyway, but now I know why I’m doing it and why the placement of the microphone is so important. I notice that it indeed is necessary to free the voice from constriction. My soft palate was raised as high as it could go. My tongue was well placed and my mouth was big. My body was engaged like at no other time in the song…..yes, that feeling of certainty and strength is a familiar posture that keeps me aligned with the phrases and momentum of the music.

I experienced no hoarseness, no raspiness, no uncertainty. I experienced the maximum energy my body and voice had to give that evening. I experienced an audience who reciprocated with applause and awe. I experienced a sensation of total release and freedom. I experienced the ability to be able to do it again tomorrow.


My Prediction

I predict we will continue to be amazed! As young musical people listen to an array of unique and interesting singing voices on the internet, they learn that anything is possible. The human mind and body is so remarkable, and the internet can be a great teacher! Young singers who explore their voice and the sounds they can make from an early age are raising the bar for others.

True natural talent is the young singer who has figured out the freedom of their own voice at a young age, and sings with that freedom daily.

Young singers are no longer simply influenced by teachers at their local church or school, or singers they hear on TV or the radio. Now they are influenced by what other young singers are doing all over the world.

Young singers who find the freedom and release, that encompasses the art of performing with emotion and spirit, are popping up everywhere.

I am not saying that any young singer can learn to do this! Oh no, by far! It is a rare young person who will figure this out. I am simply stating that we will continually be amazed by young naturally talented singers who do!

Learning how to do improvisation

I’m a huge supporter of mimicing what you hear. It’s a fabulous way to learn to play music and grow. With traditional music lessons, sometimes I think the act of sight-reading is over-emphasized. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important. However, teachers are going to teach what they know, and they know sight-reading. They know Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, etc.

The path to becoming a well-rounded musician is multi-faceted. There is theory, sight-reading, and ear training. There is history, and learning how to playing with other musicians.

Another very important element is improvisation. The freedom to express oneself is such an important element of becoming a full rounded musician. Here are a few ways I encourage my students to do this. Some will do this freely and others will struggle to play without music.

First, I get them to play a simple rhythm left hand pattern in C major, and have the student do C major triads in the right hand.  Giving the student the rhythmic pattern to copy gives them a headstart.  As the student gets more advanced I give them common chord pattern progressions like ii, V7 and I with a left hand rhythmic pattern. I show them how to embellish these chords with 2nds, 6ths and 7 major and dominants. We do these patterns in various inversions and make little songs of these chord progressions.

Second, we listen to a simple song of choice, not a classical song….a song of repetitive chord structures. Students are amazed once they realize they can play harmony with a song of their choice. This usually inspires them for more challenges.

Thirdly, I use Pattern Play by Akiko & Forrest Kinney. This is geared to teachers to help them show their students how to improv. In turn it shows the teacher how to improv as well.  I also recommend for the moderate to advanced piano player wanting to challenge themselves with rhythmic patterns and improvization.

I hope this helps you reach beyond and try something new. Your comments are welcome!