You can be in control of your vocal ring, brightness and nasality – says Lisa Popeil
No longer must the term “resonance” be shrouded in mystery.
Understanding and controlling resonance is one of the most important vocal skills to acquire – so get ready to learn!
I will try to explain what resonance IS (that’s the complicated part) and will follow with how to control your vocal resonances (the easier part!)
Understand Vocal Resonance in 10 Sentences
Think of your vocal folds as two little lips or flaps sitting horizontally in your voice-box.
When your folds vibrate on any pitch, they wave like flags in a breeze, moving all over the place.
Your waving vocal folds emit a loud, buzzy sound completely unlike the voice which comes out of your mouth; this buzzy sound creates multiple harmonics (aka overtones).
How you shape your throat, your mouth and access to your nasal cavities determines which of these overtones is louder or softer.
These spaces act as resonators for the buzzy sound, filtering the overtones to create vowels such as ee, ah, oh, oo, etc. and most importantly – make YOU sound like YOU.
If we put YOUR head on my vocal folds, who would I sound like?
YOU! Your head and the spaces within it create your unique vocal sound.
Our spaces are wonderfully malleable so, unlike a trumpet or a violin (also resonators), we can easily change the shape of our resonators (throat, mouth, nose) to create different timbres.
The three basic timbres or resonances in the human voice are Ring, Brightness, and Nasality.
Increase The Power of Your “Ring”
Ring is the name of the band of overtones which sounds piercing, metallic, and in some lucky voices, bell-like.
This special resonance helps carry your sound and makes you sound more compelling and louder.
Consider how opera singers can fill an auditorium over an orchestra with no microphone.
They must enhance the ring in their voices simply to be heard! But all good singers can sound better knowing how to increase (or sometimes decrease) their “ring”.
One simple way to increase ring is to do “ick face”. Pull up slightly on either side of your nose, but don’t wrinkle the bridge of your nose. Think “pointy” when you sing, as if you had a long beak.
Ick face results in an increase of the ring harmonics which should be audible immediately.
Add ring to the choruses in your songs for extra zest and carrying power!
Enhance Your “Brightness”
Brightness is a large band of very high overtones which sounds like a “smile in your voice”.
Though these overtones are not well heard by human hearing and therefore won’t increase your apparent loudness much, enhancing your brightness will make you sound happy, young, more innocent, and even more Disney-esque!
To increase your brightness, simply smile, exposing your upper teeth.
Showing lower teeth adds even more brightness, but can make you look like an angry monkey so I don’t suggest it.
Pushing the middle of your tongue forward will also increase brightness.
Add Some Nasal OOMPH
Nasality is a sound we’re all familiar with since a little can go along way.
It’s the low, buzzy sound created when your vocal fold buzzy sound gets resonated in your nasal cavities.
Nasality is not a bad thing. You should add it to oomph the perception of vocal loudness; it’s an integral part of the rock, R&B and country sound.
The controller of nasality is your soft palate, the flap of skin in the upper back of your mouth. The tissue that can induce gagging when touched.
The LOWER your soft palate is, the larger the opening is to your nose and the MORE nasal you will sound.
To reduce or eliminate the nasal sound, simply lift your soft palate as though you’re just beginning to yawn.
The more you LIFT your soft palate, the LESS nasality you’ll hear in your voice. So remember, “hangy palate= more nasal…..lifted palate=less nasal.”
Think of your soft palate movement as a dimmer switch for a light bulb. You’ve got degrees of control, not just on or off.
By listening to singers who inspire you, there is much to be gained by analyzing where they use these vocal colors or resonances.
You may notice how pros add nasality and ring to the choruses and reduce nasality and ring in the verses.
Even without knowing it, these facial actions shape your interior vocal tract to alter and control vocal colors for emotional effects or just to boost sonic energy.
If you’re signed up to VoiceCouncil’s Peer-Review, you’ll be receiving unique coaching insights from Lisa Popeil for the next 4 weeks. Co-author with Lisa on Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles, Gina Latimerlo, will be providing feedback on our Peer Review Videos. You can sign up now.
Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches. She is the creator of the Voiceworks® Method, the Total Singer DVD, and the ‘Daily Vocal Workout for Pop Singers’ CDs, conducts cutting-edge voice research, lectures internationally and is a vocal health consultant. Lisa is a voting member of NARAS, the Grammy® organization, ASCAP, SAG-AFTRA and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. www.popeil.com
Gina Latimerlo is a polished performer of over 20 years. Her students have performed on Broadway, in touring companies, and have signed with talent agents, record labels, and national producers. The Latimerlo Studio also oversees singing classes in over a dozen cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book with Lisa Popeil, Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles, has sold internationally and throughout the US. Sign up for Peer Review.