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The Soft Palate - The Return of The Ring

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Its funny when singers/teachers don't quite understand the "mask" and make you jump through a bunch of hoops to find it or do a bunch of exercises to "buzz" in the nasal cavities.

When you are not forcing the voice forward into the nose(mentally if it helps ok), and you allow the sound to rise and don't interrupt it(blocking off the throat squeezing, forcing forward, etc.) The sound will bounce of these surfaces naturally and give you the sensation of a buzzing and resonation.

Think of someone you heard speak with a beautiful voice or a "natural singer" no training (voice overs for movies, public speaker,a friend etc.) All the resonation comes from not putting it somewhere but allowing it to bounce of the hard surfaces in there head..

For each pitch each vowel must be adjusted to resonate properly. Thats why we modify slightly, if not it throws of the pressure back to the folds as well, and now you have distorted unnatural bland sound. This is what keeps the "throat open" so to speak. Little adjustments in the vowels.

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I have to disagree with this guy. I've developed my ear enough to hear the difference between twang and nasality, through nose pinch tests and whatnot. And just based on my experience with these sounds, I think this "epic myth" he's dispelling is actually the truth and most of his argument against it is misinformed. Nasality IS what makes you sound nasal, not a high larynx and squeezed folds. A high larynx and squeezed folds (in excess) will make you sound shrill, but that's a totally different tonal quality. The nasal cavity is a separate resonance chamber that really does nothing except color the sound in a funky way. Adds some frequencies, cuts others. Whereas twang (higher larynx and better adducted folds but not choking like hell with it) is what boosts the 2-4k frequencies without interrupting other frequencies, and creates the singer's formant. Research has proved that. Lowering the soft palate does a similar thing but it just sounds wrong because it's like if you had a trumpet with a main horn and then this tiny horn on the side that spits out some extra air. That's not an efficient instrument. When you lift the soft palate the vocal tract becomes one long tube that can resonate without interruption. That's why it sounds more beautiful and not nasal. Of course there are other ways to screw it up like the configuration he demonstrated to try to prove his point. But if you do everything else right, a phonation with a raise soft palate will generally sound better. Now in pop styles and especially folk, you may want some nasality merely for the sake of sounding more natural and speech-like. And some folks might like that sound, but others really can't stand it. What I've gathered is that when someone thinks someone's vocal tone is REEEALLY bad (i.e. the loads of Bob Dylan haters), you bet that singer is using too much nasality. There's just no laryngeal configuration that can produce that distinctly funky weird sound.

Also from my experience as a recording engineer I've discovered that nasality can become a nightmare when it's right in front of a condenser mic. The singer moves and you get weird phasey sounds and you have to get the mic in a particular spot for it to sound okay. Also the amount of nasality the singer uses will tend to fluctuate like hell so it's like it sounds good on some words and terrible on others.

This all being said, a teeny bit of nasality ain't gonna hurt anybody. I personally try to keep it out but I don't FORCE it out...if the palate wants to lower a tad to prevent me from choking on the passaggio or something, I let it make these kinds of natural movements.

And then one last thing, this is just me but I find I really actually do need the soft palate raised to sing the highest notes, e.g. high head voice. G5's and whatnot. If I did those nasal I'd imagine it would just hurt. Because the lowering of the soft palate would probably encourage the larynx to shoot even higher than it already is making me choke and besides it ruins the ability to tune the resonance, which is so critical with notes that high, and least if you're going for a medium to dark tone.

Sorry for the big rant but it just really annoys me when teachers encourage nasality. Because I used to have quite a bit of nasality in my tone and it bugged the hell out of me cause I'd record myself and be surprised at how awful it sounded. Then I learned to diminish it greatly and it really helped me, especially in getting my tone more consistent and being able to accurately hear what I sound like to others (nasality REAAALLLY screws with that). But meanwhile I'm still using a pretty high larynx and good fold adduction or "twang" yet I don't sound nasal because of that, instead people tell me I have great vocal tone. Cause I'm using the good brightness, and I'm not intentionally lowering the soft palate. I'm keeping it lifted as a general goal, but not forcing myself to block off the nasal cavity if it doesn't want to be either. Works fine. I think once you try to consciously add nasality (assuming there isn't a de-nasal problem that needs to be balanced out) you lose the clarity of the vowels and you may get a funky sounding buzz to your voice but the beautiful ring ain't gonna come.

Then again, some singers have managed to use nasality in a way that sounds good - Steven Fraser mentioned this about Alfredo Kraus I think. But that takes skill to balance it all out right. For beginners, encouraging more nasality than they're already inevitably using naturally is really just a recipe for horrible voice tone IMO.

Again I'm just kinda ranting and rambling here. Just want to have my say, I have a pretty firm opinion on this issue of nasality. I know what works for me...and...intentionally lowering the soft palate? Hell no. Relaxing it a teeny bit to release some tension? Sure, in moderation, a tad of nasality is fine. That's kind of the idea of "mask" IMO, you allow a little bit through as a kind of release valve, not so much you sound like crap, just enough so singing feels easier. But I just believe it's bullshit when people say the nasal cavity one of the most important resonators. To my ears it usually does more harm than good to your tonal quality.

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^^^^^^

What works for one is not the same for everyone. Speaking for myself, it took me a long time (lots of books, videos, etc) to finally put it together that I shouldn't be forcing 100% of the sound out my mouth. My tone was very flat, 2-dimensional. I followed KTVA which stresses a high palette, and which, for me, pushed all the sound out my mouth.

Eventually, after triangulating videos like the one above, exercises in Jeffrey Allen's book, exercises which use NG, etc, I surmised that I needed a bit of that resonance, which can only come by letting a tiny bit of sound / air up in to the nasal cavity. A little goes a long way, and it's easy to throttle it when needed. (In fact, it feels much more important to throttle it when moving through the passaggio. At least to me.) My vocal instructor, after doing a few exercises had me adjust the palette and instantly said, "There's the ping you were missing."

In summary, coming from where I started, which is NO nasal resonance, this video helped to confirm what I suspected. I suppose others starting from elsewhere may disagree.

BTW - He has another video where he discusses "the mix" and alludes to tossing more resonance up high as you move through the bridge. Again, confirming what I always suspected my voice wanted me to do.

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Its funny when singers/teachers don't quite understand the "mask" and make you jump through a bunch of hoops to find it or do a bunch of exercises to "buzz" in the nasal cavities.

When you are not forcing the voice forward into the nose(mentally if it helps ok), and you allow the sound to rise and don't interrupt it(blocking off the throat squeezing, forcing forward, etc.) The sound will bounce of these surfaces naturally and give you the sensation of a buzzing and resonation.

Think of someone you heard speak with a beautiful voice or a "natural singer" no training (voice overs for movies, public speaker,a friend etc.) All the resonation comes from not putting it somewhere but allowing it to bounce of the hard surfaces in there head..

For each pitch each vowel must be adjusted to resonate properly. Thats why we modify slightly, if not it throws of the pressure back to the folds as well, and now you have distorted unnatural bland sound. This is what keeps the "throat open" so to speak. Little adjustments in the vowels.

that last paragraph was awesome daniel.

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^^^^^^

What works for one is not the same for everyone. Speaking for myself, it took me a long time (lots of books, videos, etc) to finally put it together that I shouldn't be forcing 100% of the sound out my mouth. My tone was very flat, 2-dimensional. I followed KTVA which stresses a high palette, and which, for me, pushed all the sound out my mouth.

Eventually, after triangulating videos like the one above, exercises in Jeffrey Allen's book, exercises which use NG, etc, I surmised that I needed a bit of that resonance, which can only come by letting a tiny bit of sound / air up in to the nasal cavity. A little goes a long way, and it's easy to throttle it when needed. (In fact, it feels much more important to throttle it when moving through the passaggio. At least to me.) My vocal instructor, after doing a few exercises had me adjust the palette and instantly said, "There's the ping you were missing."

In summary, coming from where I started, which is NO nasal resonance, this video helped to confirm what I suspected. I suppose others starting from elsewhere may disagree.

BTW - He has another video where he discusses "the mix" and alludes to tossing more resonance up high as you move through the bridge. Again, confirming what I always suspected my voice wanted me to do.

sws1 that's cool. We just came from opposite ends of the spectrum I guess. I think we can all agree a teeny little bit of nasality can be good - you don't want to necessarily block off the nasal cavity all the time.

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excellent posts here guys :P

well, and just to add, the soft palate is just to change sound colour, nothing magic :)

There is more, nasalance itself has a significant impact on resonance and there is quite a number to habitual coordinations, in special tongue and larynx height that causes antagonic movements.

After you have good control, somewhat yes, before, its one of the main problems on the passage area.

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One point that was not mentioned in the video is that raising the soft palate and lowering the larynx are somewhat linked together. So, yes it is true that if your larynx is too high it can be assumed that your soft palate is too low. Some teachers give lessons to decouple these two actions for better or worse.

Also, There is a Nasal sound (Willy Nelson comes to mind) and a denasal sound (Rocky, Blocked nasal passage) either one of these taken to extremes is bad.

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That depends on the quality of the execution.

Training everything bright, dark, sharp, cold, red or velvet, does not really matter much. Its more important to know what is being DONE then you figure what to do.

The other way around is kinda insane in my opinion.

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