Nasality, whether it is excessive as in the Brooklyn or Bronx sound, a little more gutteral like Philly talk, twangy as we hear in Texas or only slightly exaggerated as in the speech of Detroit or the Midwest, occurs when voiced sounds travel through the nose. While not all nasality is bad, too much of it can be.
In the English language, we have 3 sounds – called nasals – which should vibrate in our nose when we speak. They include m,n, and, ng. Words like Maine, Naomi, and bring will vibrate in the nose.
From my experience, I have found that:
1. Excessive nasality occurs when the majority of your sound is hitting the upper regions of your nasal cavities which is certainly typical of some native New Yorkers and those in North Jersey; or
2. It can occur on certain sounds, the long e or long a sounds, as in the words, he and hay but not be heard on other vocals. This is common among those in the areas of Detroit, Michigan and Mississauga, Ontario; or
3. If you are from the Midwest, it is probably happening on your short a sounds, as in the words gas, man, and hand.
What is happening in all of the instances above is that the soft palate is being maneuvered in speaking to allow for those sounds to move into the nasal passages instead of traveling through the mouth. Without a doubt, a nasal sound should vibrate in your nose to some degree. The question is, how much? Again, with the New York sound, too much vibration is occurring in the nose for much of their speech.
What is fascinating about good techniques of voice training, is that once you find your ‘real’ voice, it is quite possible that your slight nasality as in Examples 2 and 3 will be gone.
We have 5 resonators (throat, voice box, mouth, nose and chest cavities) that should be used in the production of voiced sound. Most people, however, are using only 4 of those 5 vibrating cavities, not aware of and most definitely not making use of the largest of those resonators, the chest cavity.
Once you begin using your chest cavity as your primary sounding board, the chances are excellent that you will bring most of your sound out through your mouth because you will be speaking in a somewhat lower pitch. (Your ‘real’ voice is probably deeper than your habitual one.)
If you are plagued by too much nasality in your speech, consider voice training. While you may not be affected by your own nasality when you speak, everyone else is!
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and watch Nancy as she describes how to get rid of the nasal in your voice.