Jun 21 2011

Q&A - Lifting Soft Palate and Closing Off the Nose

After the discussion about my last post I realized that the question that was asked in the initial email had something to do with the way I reacted. Plus it is a question that I’m sure others probably have as well. So that is the Q&A for today, in context with the rest of the email that I already posted. My reply here picks up after what is shown in my previous post.


A recent technical difficulty I have been having lies with issues of raising the soft palate. I have heard that this makes the palate rigid which aids resonance.

Furthermore, I was once instructed by a teacher who showed me a diction book with images which claimed that for English, vowels should be pronounced with the nasal passages closed, unless pronouncing a nasal vowel.

My difficulty lies with the proponents of your assertion that all airways including the naso-pharynx should be open for natural singing resonance.

I cannot seem to “lift” my soft palate without closing my nose.

Do you have any advice to help with this dilemma?

Also, I could not find on your page anywhere examples of or testimonials from students of yours. Would you be kind enough to send the names of some people who have studied with you so that I may evaluate the application of your techniques by listening to recordings?


…Now, if you can accept these points I’ve made, I can give you some things to think about for your soft palate.

The main thing I tell people regarding the soft palate is it is part of the system. It isn’t something that exists in isolation. The reality is we can’t really do anything with the soft palate. So to try to do so just creates interference.

The main thing we can do that includes the soft palate, along with the rest of the throat, is to feel a stretch. This is similar to the stretch we might feel when we are laughing. It is a stretch of the inner skin of the air-way, and includes the soft palate.

The big thing is don’t try to lift your soft palate. That is a common opinion but misguided. It is usually a problem to try to work with parts of the instrument in isolation. We need to develop a productive condition of the whole instrument. Think of how the body feels in vital emotional states such as joy, enthusiasm, celebration, etc. These states put the body into a productive condition.

The place where modern pedagogy drops the ball regarding the soft palate (which I almost never talk about, and never direct people to do anything with. Which doesn’t mean nothing happens with it. We just don’t do anything deliberately) is they don’t recognize the connection between the facial muscles and the soft palate. The lift in the face that happens in a pleasant, happy expression is critical to the so-called lifting of the palate.

But the real purpose of all this is to open the post-nasal resonator of the naso-pharynx. When that space behind the nose is opened we feel a stretch that includes a stretch of the soft palate. The change in the resonance is significant. As is the ease of the functioning of the voice.

Regarding your question about nasality in English. The confusion stems from a lack of understanding. Not only for you but for most of the diction specialists and many voice teachers, for that matter.

The open nasal passages that I talk about is for the purpose of avoiding nasality. I wrote a whole article on this, so I won’t repeat that here. The main point being, if the voice is functioning completely you can’t not have resonance in the naso-pharynx and nasal passages. When that resonance is missing the tone sounds lacking in some way, depending on the circumstances.

At the same time, you can’t try to have this resonance if you haven’t created the conditions in which it results naturally. When people do try to make it, because they have been told that it should be there, they end up sounding nasal. Proper resonance should NEVER SOUND NASAL.

I want to be clear about that. That is where diction teachers don’t have a deep enough understanding to give accurate information. And why that direction you read is confusing. Just because there is resonance in the post-nasal area, it doesn’t mean it sounds nasal. Again, it should never sound nasal. And it is the post-nasal area, not the nose. Resonance in the nose sounds nasal.

So it is correct that in English the vowels should not sound nasal. But that has nothing to do with having open nasal passages and openness above the soft-palate. The largest resonating space we have at our disposal is the space behind the nose at the top of the pharynx. If we cut that off we severely limit the freedom and expansion of our tone.

You don’t have to close off the nasal passages to avoid sounding nasal. That is the bottom-line answer. In fact nasality is more an issue of a constricted throat than an open nasal passage. That is why it is important to have the whole pharynx/air-way open and unconstricted. So the resonance doesn’t get trapped in any one part. That is what nasality is. The resonance getting trapped in the nose instead of freely reverberating throughout the whole vocal tract.

I hope this helps you move forward with your singing. Good luck.

  1. The raising of the soft palate occurs naturally as the result of dropping the jaw for every succeeding tone up the scale. Space is the key word, the higher the pitch the more space is required. Dropping the jaw to accomodate the needed space will raise the palate, creating in a word a yawning sensation. Try not to manipulate positions, the body is there to respond naturally, otherwise you will create unnecessary tightness.

  2. Hi…I know pretty well both questions mentioned here.
    I had a couple of teachers who told me not only to voluntarily lift the soft palate but also voluntarily keep the tongue flat and one of the exercises they made me do was to vocalize with a soon over my tongue…that was devastating as you can imagine… It took me almost 3 years to get rid of the bad vocal habits and bad postures those exercises gave me.

    I studied English phonetics. in Phonetics, when we speak of “nasal” sounds we refer to those sounds which are produced with a complete closure of the vocal cavity in some point (closure produced by the lips as in “m” on the tongue against the hard palate as in “n”. The air can’t pass through the vocal cavity and thus it must go out through the nose…that is nasality in Phonetics.
    I think most voice teachers confuse nasalization with air resonating in the nasal cavities by thinking that the sound must go out “trough the nose” like in some French vowels… Allowing resonance in the nasal cavities while singing doesn’t mean that at all, since the air is not “pushed” through the nose. The air which already is in the nasal cavities in a passive state start to vibrate, that’s all.

  3. Dr Yoshimasa Tsuji

    Question about lifting the soft palate is adequately answered. But, the testimonials by the pupils aren’t. I think it far better that Mr Mayer post his own recordings on this web site. I have had his lesson once, but my assessment to date is inconclusive. It usually takes at least six months for the teacher and the pupil to understand each other. I haven’t quite understood his language yet. He asked me to change my facial expression last time, I now understand he wanted me to do something about resonance by reading his post here.
    I have had an impression that Mr Mayer is pleasant to talk with.

  4. Josef – Yes, lowering the jaw is part of the process. I like to encourage a sense of stretch instead of just lowering the jaw. I find that dropping the jaw can cause people to pull down on the face and the inner skin of the mouth and throat. This tends to cause heaviness and interference to the voice. Instead of dropping the jaw I encourage people to stretch in both direction so it feels like they are opening the mouth in an upward direction. The jaw still goes down but it is balanced by an upward stretch at the same time. If you watch Bjorling you can see this in action.

    Santiago – Thanks for your comment. Your experience is very common, unfortunately. The points about nasals is well stated.

  5. Tsuji – I don’t know if it is because English is not your principle language, but your comment comes across as negative. You have every right to wait to assess things. But so do these people who have expressed their feelings about working with me. I don’t understand how you feel entitled to tell people what they should do. Especially since you admit to not understanding what I’m talking about yet. How can you criticize something you don’t understand.

    Regarding what I was trying to teach you – resonance was only a part of it. It really was about pronunciation. We don’t “do” resonance. We do pronunciation and resonance is a product of that. You need to learn how to more effectively pronounce. You can change your pronunciation, you can’t change your resonance except through pronunciation. So we need to think about our pronouncing and not about our resonance.

  6. I left a note, but I did not criticize anybody. I just said I had understood very little. This is not that I say you speak unintelligibly, or that my English is so poor as you imagine. For example. The word you use “pronunciation” is too vague a word for me. Pronunciation means adequate opposition between phonemes. If I say “sit” and you think I said “shit”, my pronunciation lacked the opposition between “s” and “sh”, but what I presume from your message is not that. It concerns something else. And it has no relation to resonance. Well, I seldom hear a sound that lacks resonance (perhaps a tuning fork). Most likely I am asked not to ‘think’ of the resonance.
    We have just started lessons, so I am not embarrassed at all. Time will help me to figure out the intricacies.

  7. Michael, I may be wrong, but I think I understand what the issue is, especially regarding pronunciation.

    Obviously, the questioner, Dr. Tsuji is speakinig of HOW one learns to pronounce English by using the International phonetic alphabet (which doesn’t hardly approximate ANY English sounds at all; the TH for example is nothing more than a combination of strange consonant groupings that neither produce anything like a TH or anything one would imagine close to a blown T which is all the TH sound is). He is using the stupid and very ridiculous system of learning graphemes/phonemes and a billion impossible rules on everything from the silent E (there are five different classifications of that sound, yet, in reality, not one person who speaks English and has done so all their lives will see any validity to any of the stuff mentioned, the silent Es all sound the same) to all sorts of strange ideas about what the voice is doing when pronouncing. It all sounds really impressive and academic, but it’s really all rubbish. I have yet to hear anyone who has used that system to learn English speak in a way that is even remotely clear, with words one can actually understand, or with any sense of regularity.

    The system was developed to help foreigners learn English, but I doubt it was actually reviewed by anyone who spoke English as their native language. Believe me, no Henry Higgens are teaching it, and no Liza Doolittles are resulting from it.

    My nieces and nephews attend private schools where many foreign students also attend. They all learn from Kindergarten to grade 8 all these markings and theories of pronunciation. The claim is it helps foreigners speak English without accent. I have yet to see any evidence that has ever happened. In theory, the students learn to read faster and more efficiently using that system. I have yet to see evidence of that, for my brother’s kids all attend regular public school, and they read at the same level and higher than all those who attend private schools who are teaching this system of phonemes.

    Aside from all the busy work, learning to spell every word with all sorts of lines, numbers, and etc over each letter of the word, I have seen no evidence that it teaches correct pronunciation at all. The foreign students eventually learn to speak without accent by listening to the native English speakers, not by the overly impossible system of phonemes and rules.

    But I deal with this with my nieces and nephews all the time. They learn all sorts of rules, but the actual way things are pronounced is lost within all the rules. I end up simply pronouncing the words for them until they get them correctly pronounced. And spelling, well, that is learned mostly by memorizing how it is spelled. The rules don’t really help.

    But as I see it, the definition of PRONUNCIATION seems to be lost in a definition of strange approximations of what supposedly one is doing with the sound in relationship to other sounds.

    Now, to help Dr. Tsuji I will define what is meant by PRONUNCIATION to the average person who simply is learning how to speak/sing so the words they sing are clear. It means nothing more than to speak things clearly enough to be fully understood so that words are not confused with other words, and so that all vowels, consonants, combinations etc. are clear and cannot be mistaken for any other sounds. All this discussion about this or that lacking the correct opposition is far too complex and really not helpful. Believe me, it isn’t.

    The easiest way to check pronunciation is simply to read something, then listen to someone who speaks the language as a native read it. DO YOU SOUND THE SAME? Do you have accents in the wrong place? DO you mix letters up? Are you substituting an L for an R, as an example, which many Asian students do? If your sound is not exactly like a native’s sound, if you are not pronouncing the letters exactly as they should sound, then they are not pronounced correctly. It doesn’t matter if they fit some strange explanation of rules for the International Alphabet rules of pronunciation. If it doesn’t sound correct, it isn’t correct. It is simply that simple.

    Forget analizing it all, forget trying to figure out which rule is being followed. Those are only indicators, and believe me, they won’t teach you how to speak like a native. Listening and copying will teach you to speak like a native. You must train your ear to hear the sound differences, and not rely on some imagined created rule to tell you what to do to create the correct sound.

    As for singing in English, well, sadly, I will share a truth with you — very few opera singers of today can sing English with even the slightest clarity. They sing like they have a mouth filled with mashed potatoes. That is the result of bad diction (the clarity we speak with having all sounds said and none missed or left out, especially at the end of words) and pronunciation (the clarity of sounds, that each vowel is stated as it should be, and each consonant as it should be). The bad diction in many singers today is because of an artificial darkening of the voice, a covering, a desire to make it sound more important and dramatic by rounding the vowels too much. And AH sound is almost the same in sound as an O sound or an OO sound (which it must never sound like).

    In my very long career (40 years) I have sang in English only twice. A dreadful opera by Nono called Intollerenza, and another impossible opera by an English composer with impossibly unclear words (the sentences were a muddled mess) and written on notes which were impossible for anyone to pronounce the words.

    Most of my career I have sung in French, Italian, German, Russian, and Chech. I have also sung a great deal of religious music, but in Latin.

    The first step to clearly singing anything is to learn the language as best you can. Translate everything so as to understand what you are singing about, and make sure you understand the important words in the phrase. Then, I recommend, that if possible, go to the country and live with the people a few months and learn what they sound like. Believe me, it will be nothing like the rules of phonemes you are using or being taught. You will hear words said in a way you cannot imagine from those rules it would ever be said. But that is how the people pronounce the words. You must pronounce the words the way they pronounce them to get it right. And that takes really listening, it is like ear training in music, for language is musical, and it is by listening to the sound, to the pitch of the sounds, you will learn to say them clearly and like a native. You will also find that different parts of every country pronounce their words slightly differently. So, for singing, you must use the pronunciation that is considered “correct” or more universal for that language. Even the most seasoned singers rely on the language coaches a great deal, even if you are fluent in the language, for singing it requires a little different approach sometimes. For example, one never sings French as nasal as one speaks it, for if you did, it wouldn’t carry throughout the theatre.

    Perhaps, and I could be completely wrong here, the problem is that your accent, that coloration of your own language has tainted the clear pronunciation of your English words when you speak/sing them. When pronunciation is not clear or accurate for the language you are speaking, the natural resonators for those sounds are blocked off, and the voice doesn’t resonate well, or carry well, nor it is clear, and the diction is lost.

    The goal every singer should seek is to sing and speak the language they are using at the time (whatever the language of the opera is) in such a way that it is not evident they speak any language other than the one they are using.

    Ideally, when you sing in Italian, you should sound like that is the only language you have ever spoken. The same if you are speaking German, French, or what have you. That should always be your goal. If you sound like a Japanese person singing English, then you have too much of your own native sound left in the English words which will make them unclear, impossible to understand, and it will affect the sound quality you are striving to achieve.

    Another way of putting it: you know how well your voice resonates when you sing in Japanese, for example. You know that the sounds are free, beautiful, and that they convey your emotions well, and your voice functions well in that language. The goal is to produce the same freedom of resonance, beauty, clarity, and etc. while singing in another language. You don’t want to muddy up that language, you want it to stay perfectly clear so no one can tell you didn’t speak it all your life.

    That is the goal.

    Do all opera singers achieve it? NO! Some never sing outside their native languages, or if they do, only a language that is a related cousin (like Italians singing French, though they often do a terrible job of it). Italian, French, and German singers seem to be able to get away with learning nothing but music for their own language, but the rest of us, well, we have to learn everything. We don’t have the luxury of singing only in our native tongues.

    And you don’t have that luxury either.

    That is why it takes such a real effort to learn to sing correctly and with all the proper pronunciation. We have to learn to sing outside our native language. Most singers do pretty good at getting close to perfect, but not completely. Some singers will stick with the languages they do best and avoid anything else. There is nothing wrong with that either. But it is not likely you will sing much opera in English, I hate to tell you. Though one should learn how to just the same. If you were singing in the US or Canada, having some songs from those countries in your concerts really does add to the appeal. There are some mighty fine American composers out there.

    This entry is really long, but I hope it helps to clarify what is meant by pronunciation, and that it isn’t the complex theories of sound/vowel relations you are speaking of, or that is not what most singing teachers are talking about when they speak of pronunciation. They simlpy mean saying the correct sound for the word, and doing it clearly enough so as it cannot be mistaken for any other. Diction is speaking the word with complete clarity so as to miss out on none of the sounds required to make the words sound correct.

    But again, lack of clarity came about because people were defining the word differently. You had a different understanding of the word “pronunciation” than the rest of us have and understand. It is like being in different chapters of the same book and wondering why we can’t understand each other.

    I encourage you, Dr. Tsuji to continue studying and learning. I think as you come to see what we are talking about in the western view of voice, you may find it not as complex an issue as it all appears. Evidently, based on comments made, what is one of your biggest problems is the fact that when you sing English, Italian, German or what have you, it doesn’t sound like English, Italian, German or what have you. IF it doesn’t sound right, it is wrong. It is that simple. And until you can actually sound like an Englishman, a Frenchman, an Italian, or a German native when you sing (or as close as you can get), you will always have some distortion which will hinder the voice a bit in doing its job. If this is your problem, then this must be your goal.

    I wrong in a post about a competition I sang in before my career began. I was angry over the things the judges said. I complained to my teacher, and all she told me was “Admit your faults, and change them.” The big issue I had in the competition was my diction and pronunciation was not good enough. My double LLs and GGs in Italian were not accurately done. Some of my German consonants were garbled. My English was great, though. My words sounded too “American” and not enough like a person who spoke those languages. American sounded great for American English, but it make the Italian lacking in vibrancy. It make German completely non-German, almost like some comic book character. I was mad because I did speak all those languages, and well, but I was not being careful when I sang them. I was allowing laziness to sneak in. I understood what I was saying without an problem, but I was not making sure I was being careful with how I was saying the words. My teacher soon whipped me into shape. Artificial rules are a waste of time, but really paying attention to sounding like a native pays off big time. It is a point for all singing students to consider, and professionals as well.

  8. Sorry for the silly mistake in typing. The last paragraph should begin: I wrote in a post about a competition …

  9. This is probably overkill, but to illustrate the point of how important it is to actually train the ear to sing a language, I will write in “Russian.” Sadly, my keyboard doesn’t write Russian, but often for foreigners to follow Russian recordings of operas the Russian language, rather than being written in the Russian alphabet is written in a kind of a transliteral phonetic alphabet. Although the approximations of the sounds are good, they are not accurate enough to reflect exactly what a Russian speaker or singer would be doing.

    Here are the opening lines of Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans, Joan’s first act aria, sometimes translated Adieu Forests (which is a wrong translation, it is really Farewell hills, dear fields, Farewell, oh peaceful lands, farewell.)

    Da, chas nastal!
    Da, chas nastal!
    Dozhna povinovatsa
    nyebesnomoo velenyu Ioanna.
    No otchevo zakralsya v dooshoo strvakh?
    Moochitelno i bolno noyet serdse…
    (aria proper)
    Prostitye vi, kholmi, poly rodinye,
    priutno mirni yasni dol, prosti!


    Yes, it is time,
    Yes, it is time.
    Joan must obey the desire of heaven’s wishes.
    What is it I fear? My heart is weighed down heavy with sadness and grief…
    Farewell hills, dear fields, farewell, oh peaceful land, farewell!

    That is my five second attempt at translating Russian. It isn’t completely perfect, but the ideas are there.

    When this is sung by non-Russian singers, though we do hear these sounds, we don’t hear the idiosyncratic sounds one would hear by a Russian singer. Firstly, the cluster of consonants, which look shockingly difficult, don’t sound all muddled and difficult. They are not tongue-twisters, at least not when a Russian sings them.

    One will also often notice in these transcriptions a lone S or a lone V that seems not part of any word. Those sounds are hardly even heard when Russians sing.

    The L at the end of the first line in the word Nastal often is sung like the L in any other language, but when a Russian sings it, it is a very gutteral L. It almost sounds like it is held and falls back into the throat.

    It is the tiny differences like that that reveal a person who is singing quite well, and really does understand the language, but not the little details a native speaker would do. It is striving to achieve those little differences that really sets an excellent singer apart from the merely very good. And those things can only be learned by LISTENING to others who speak that language as their own. That is correct pronunciation. Saying/singing the sounds of each letter with the exact clarity needed to sound like a native speaker of that language. Each vowel and consonant has the correct sound attached to it. Diction is something slightly different. It is speaking/singing each word with such clarity that not one syllable, letter, or sound is lost, so that the entire word is heard absolutely perfectly and cannot be mistaken for any other word. Pronunciation deals with the correct SOUNDS of the letters in the words; diction deals with the correct and clear statement of the word itself.

    The purpose behind balanced singing, or natural function of balanced singing, is to make it so that nothing interferes with producing a free resonant energetic note. One learns to sing with correct pronunciation but also learns to MAINTAIN that freedom of production. Distorting vowels, even if not intentionally, will distort the sound, and hinder the freedom of production. And no singer wants that to be part of their vocal equipment.

    (you know, I must really enjoy this site, for I spend more time writing on it while on tour singing in all sorts of places. I think only about 3 entries I have done have been done from home. But after the excitement of a performance, it is much better to read the entries on this site than get fat eating late)

  10. Bea, this is all good information. But my point, and this is to Tsuji now, was that we control our voice by HOW we pronounce. The singers who learned in the old tradition often stated they learned to sing through learning vowels. That always sounded vague to me when I was a student. But now I know exactly what they were saying.

    When we sing, or speak for that matter, what we are doing is saying a word that breaks down to a vowel and a pitch. The pronouncing of that vowel resonates dependent on HOW we form the vowel with our resonators. So our resonance is determined by how we pronounce, as is our vibration. We don’t try to make our resonance or our vibration arbitrarily. They are created as a realization of our pronunciation.

    That is how our brain and body are wired. There is a certain amount of automatic behavior, but not in the sense that it happens “all by itself”. The automatic part is the body’s way of reacting to our intention. We need to actually say what we are singing. This is where many have a problem because when they sing the lax speaking habits from their normal speech is insufficient to stimulate a complete vocal response.

    So much of what we need to learn is how to pronounce completely and in good form so we can produce a complete vibration of the vocal cords combined with an optimal resonance alignment. That is what I was talking about. Simply how to pronounce “Ah” in a balanced and productive way. We weren’t even addressing any language yet. First we need to learn how to pronounce a basic vowel so we get a complete functional activity in response.

  11. Michael, this is so true. I was certain that what I was talking about was most likely beyond the point you were trying to make. I just was hoping it would open people’s minds a bit to think in a slightly different way than they were thinking. We do have lazy speech for the most part. Most people do. I remember I was told to really get the feel and meaning for a recitative, for example, to learn to speak it clearly, pronouncing everything accurately. I spent hours on one line simply because certain vowels were not pure enough or exact enough for good vocal production. They were fine for speaking and for certain types of singing, but for real singing, they just weren’t exact enough. My teacher really believed we had to SAY what we are singing, and believe what we were singing (even if the words sounded stupid). So for her, we worked on proper pronunciation in speaking and brought it to the music. She stressed the importance of vowels as well (though she didn’t leave out the consonants at all). Perhaps this is still a bit beyond what you are intending, but really I will never forget the drills we went through to perfect the vowels and optimize the sound. It took WORK! And yes, even to say/sing a proper AH sound was really far more involved and took real concentration. And that is what we did after that competition. From there we went to languages themselves. But it took such careful listening, not as some think regarding the sound of the voice, but the purity of the vowel. I was amazed at how many variations of AH there are, or there can end up being. That is why I say she “whipped me into shape” when I finally was willing to admit my faults. Like I said, it was LAZY pronunciation. It was fine for most things I had sung up till then, but not if a real career were wanted. And laziness in anything was something my teacher did not allow, not ever.

  12. Yes, Bea. This is what I’m talking about. I am always telling people they need to actually SAY what they are singing. It refers to an actual physical connection to what is in the mind. We must be sincere, like your teacher said about believing what we are saying. I always say “say it like you mean it”. What I mean by that is we need to say our words with a definite purpose to elicit a complete response from the body. (the larynx and breathing system)

  13. This talk of nasality and pronouncing foreign languages brings a thought to my mind. What is one to do about languages that demand nasality on certain vowels and/or consonant? Example of this would be Portuguese and French (although the type of nasality varies). Is there a way to pull off the nasality required by various foreign languages without constricting the throat or otherwise compromising the mechanism?

  14. This is a common issue when singing French. The ideal is we still don’t sing “nasal” but we tint the vowel slightly towards it. It is a feel that we get through practice to tint it enough to communicate the nasal vowel without denigrating into a nasal tone. It isn’t that hard once you get a feel for it. We don’t try to sound nasal so we don’t constrict. We just adjust the “ratio” slightly so there is a little more nasal resonance, but with everything still open at the same time.

  15. That’s an interesting though. In that case, would you say that it is possible to sing for extended periods of time in this “enhanced nasal resonance” mode without off-setting the voice? For instance, if I wanted to give the impression of singing with slight nasality in a rock, pop, or country song, would this be the way to do it? Or is this just to be used sparingly, such as on specific vowels and consonants?

  16. It’s possible. That is an example of what I’ve talked about with, say, a rock singer. The style of the person might involve something that isn’t exactly healthy. Using some nasality is probably not as extreme as someone who wants to sound like they’re screaming. But for anything that ventures away from pure vocalism it is a risk. So for anything like this I would recommend the singer always vocalize and warm up with a pure voice. They need to be absolutely clear on what they are doing so they can keep the voice on a solid foundation. Then when they alter it they can do it without completely losing the basic foundation.

  17. So as long as someone with a good technical foundation warms up and cools down after “deviating” from the ideal vocal balance, they can help minimize the strenuous effects that various stylistic effects might have?

  18. Yes, that’s right. In a way that is what we do under normal circumstances as well. Even though in that case we are trying to sing in a good way all the time, we are never perfect in that respect. So we need to warm up and cool down with functional exercises to keep the voice healthy. If we deliberately alter the voice in some way it is even more important to rehabilitate the voice before and after.

  19. I agree with Mr Mayer that the idea that the soft palate should be raised, in order to seal off the naso pharynx to avoid nasality of tone ,is a fundamental misconception. I also agree that naso pharyngeal resonance (not nasality)is part of the beauty of the voice.

    My suggestion is to YouTube Leonard Warren., one of the finest baritones ever recorded. Listen to what he does and analyse it. If the doesn’t help listen again. If that doesn’t help, listen again….

    Good luck

  20. Christian Hinze

    Dear Mr Mayer,

    I kind of struggle to allow my real voice to come out. You know, the Voice I clearly hear inside my head and what I think, I am capable of differs a lot from the voice I listen to on a recording. For years my speaking voice sounds somewhat childish, dump, shiftless and pressured. It just doesn’t reflect the real personality I am. Well, I studied a lot so far, worked with dozens of vocal coaches who proclaimed they had the missing key to a great voice, but nothing changed to the better. And yes, I experienced exactly that, what you have described here. Most of them taught me, I have to lower my larynx, I have to lift-up my soft palate, I have to get my tongue out of the way, I should yawn more often (even though some said, that would create tension) I have to do this and that…

    Although I am not an expert on this, I think you are right. It makes but little sense to work on some parts separately instead of trying to understand and work on the whole process.
    And this what I really want to find out: You wrote, that you have written an article on this whole process – “open the post-nasal resonator of the naso-pharynx”. And of course I’d like to read that article. Could you post the link to this article, please?

    Thank you for your mind-opening information. I wonder, If I finally succeed through what you offer. ;)

    With a grateful heart,
    Christian Hinze

  21. Bart De Bie

    Hi Michael,
    At the end of the article you say that nasality is the resonance getting trapped in the nose instead of freely reverberating throughout the whole vocal tract.
    Now some other people are suggesting that certain nasal sounds have nothing to do with the nasal cavity.


    What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks in advance

  22. Thanks for your interest, Bart. I took a quick look at that article, and I agree with the basic premise. I don’t have time to read the whole thing so I might be missing a detail that you are referring to. I advise people that the nasal passages should be open because they are an important part of the resonance system. Without allowing the sound energy to reverberate in the nasal passages along with the rest of the vocal tract the voice will feel heavy and lack the final polish of clarity and ease.

    The way I now describe the cause disagreeable nasality is it is the result of a closed throat that is then squeezing the tone into the nose without the freedom of the rest of the vocal tract. So that is how I would describe how nasality is not actually an issue of the nasal passages. Because they should be a part of good production. Nasality is actually a problem of the throat. And a closed throat includes a raised larynx, as the author of that article stated.

    Many believe that nasality is a problem of tone in the nose. But it is natural to have tone in the nose. It just gets disagreeable when the throat constricts and the rest of the resonance from the vocal tract gets lost.

    This kind of nasality is a distortion of the vowel sound. But if the singer tries to remedy this by removing the tone completely from the nasal passages then the vowel will not be accurate either.

    For a pure vowel sound the tone must be allowed to resonate through the complete vocal tract, which includes the nasal passages.

    Hope that helps. Thanks.

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