Twang vs. Nasalized - which works better?


The question about singing nasally versus singing with twang is something that comes up quite a lot during voice lessons. So let's have a look at the two sounds. What are they, how are they different, what do they do? And are they good for singing?

What is a nasal sound?

What causes a nasal sound? 

Nasalization happens when a portion of the airflow goes out through the nasal cavity. When the soft palate is half open, half of the airflow goes out through the nose, the rest out through the mouth. 

When the soft palate is all the way down, like on n or ng, all the air goes out through the nose. 

When the soft palate is closed, i.e. all the way up, all the air goes out through the mouth.

A nasalized sound tends to be a bit muffled, or "lazy", and it can be used to soften your tone, or as a specific effect in your singing. 


Twang CAN be nasal but doesn’t have to be.

Meaning the soft palate or velum can be open when you add twang, but it doesn’t need to be.

Twang actually happens in the throat, where the epiglottis is (look at the diagram above, all the way down into your laryngopharynx) – the lid on top of your larynx or voice box. Twang is created by narrowing the AES, the aryepiglottic sphincter, which is right above the vocal folds, your sound source. By narrowing this area, we can create a brighter, more piercing sound that cuts through well. You will feel it in the nose, but that is just a consequence of the narrowing above your vocal folds. The sound is not created in your nose. The primary function of the AES is to close your airways when you swallow, putting a lid on the larynx (epiglottis).

Experience twang with

·       a teasing sound, ne ne ne ne,

·       or cat’s meow or

·       or cackling

·       or wailing baby sound 

Both of these sounds can be used in singing, depending on genre and taste. Be careful with twang though. Because it is part of your swallowing function it can cause constriction if you do it with too much force. Ease into it by just going a hair brighter than you would normally go.


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