Discussion of Nasality - Part 3
J: Michael, As the others have mentioned, yours is a GREAT description/delineation of certain parts of projecting the human voice. Obviously, Mr. Jussi B was-NOT guilty of the old term, nasality, as we assume it to be, in it’s usual connotations. Do you know-of any singers who ARE guilty-of a nasality, in tone, in past/present?
S: This is really good stuff, and I’ve been mulling it over. My question is, what then causes the sort of sound we think of as “singing through the nose”? Is is actually because one is NOT using the nasal resonance?
R: I did an awful lot of singing but never gave any thought to what was happening where for I prefer to learn how to do something unconsciosly. I would hear someone sing and wonder how he did this or that and then fool around till I could get something like that. It was mainly imitation and never of Jussi. My models were Gedda, Simoneau, and Richard Lewis for that was more the sort of voice I had. I didn’t want to search for notes and so I just sang a lot and eventually my body knew where the notes were and I just sang them. But that only worked for notes I sang often and since I don’t sing much above Es and Fs now I have pretty much lost the higher notes (ie. I would have to search for them if called upon to sing them, but that is unlikely). My ideas were influenced more by Polanyi’s “Personal Knowledge” (particularly the part about riding a bicycle), keeping ever in mind Simoneau’s “Sing with what you have, not with what you wish you had”.
Thanks, “J”. It is hard to come up with examples off the top of my head. One that comes to mind is Josh Groban, although he isn’t a true classical singer. Greg Turay is close, but not enough to actually be nasal. I’ll see if I can come
up with more.
There are actually two types of nasality. The bright, “nasty” nasal sound that we might associate with bratty children. This might show up in certain styles of singing. Then there is the “dopey”, post-nasal sound. I’ve heard some light tenors fall into this in a mistaken belief that they are singing in the head. That is what I hear in the two I mentioned above.
In fact there was a tenor I sang with in New York that was of the bright nasal type. I can’t remember his name. He was doing Don Jose in Carmen and I was doing chorus with a small group, Opera Company of Brooklyn. He sang everything strongly though his nose. It was brilliant, but not very beautiful. In fact my first teacher when I was 18 was a tenor that sang in the very same way. Everything through the nose. And it was intentional.
To answer “S”s question, nasality is not a result of a lack of nasal resonance. It is more like it is a constriction of the nasal resonance. The throat and nasal passages, the whole air-way, should be open like free breathing. This allows there to be air available to resonate.
Then there are no obstructions to the radiation of the sound energy. This energy passes through the air, as well as reflecting off of the inner surfaces and transferring through the bones of the skull.
It is the reflecting of the energy that creates more complexity in the tone. It is the excitement of the air in the hollow spaces that creates amplification. And it is the transfer through the bones that gives us the feeling of placement in the mask.
These all are a result of the complete and intense vibration of the vocal cords combined with an effectively formed resonating system.
If these conditions exist we can’t keep the tone from filling the head spaces, including the nasal passages, and feeling the tone in the skull and face; the “mask”.
If these conditions don’t exist, we can’t do anything to make the tone be in the mask. This is why attempts to “place” the tone tend to be futile. These sensations are the result of the existence of the proper conditions. If we don’t create those conditions we can’t get that result.
That tends to be the reason some singers sing nasal. They are trying to create this “mask placement” by trying to do the placement instead of creating the conditions that result in that sensation naturally.
“R”, I appreciate your story of the way you figured out your voice. That is actually what we all have to do, even with a good teacher. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize that for a long time. Thinking the teacher will do it for us. I often use the analogy of learning to ride a bike. So it is interesting that you mentioned that. Even with someone “teaching” you to ride a bike, they are not really able to teach it. They can describe what you need to do. But ultimately you need to figure it out for yourself.