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Monthly Archives: December 2019

I’ve been hard at work recording, editing and mixing my song, “Don’t Get the Madness” and unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that I will have to rerecord the lead vocals. The main issue is the congested, blocked nose sound, especially the last third of the song. I didn’t hear it at the time, but I was ill and decided to power through because sometimes you have to and things can’t wait. In hindsight, I should’ve stopped recording and waited until things cleared up. The blocked nose sound is also present in my voice in general, particularly when anxious, nervous or excited. In other words, tension. I’m not fully acquainted on all the research and current solutions to this issue so this article just presents my initial findings.

The first thing is to name the thing. Searching for “nasal” solutions inevitable comes up with the more whiny type of nasality, which I now know is called hypernasality. The congested sound is its opposite, hyponasality, which returns fewer results and solutions.

The muscles that open and close the nostrils appear to be the ones contributing to the sound: the nasalis muscle. That muscle itself is also separated into the closing (compressor nasalis) and opening (dilator naris) functions.

One principle used in Feldenkrais is to exaggerate what you are doing even more. Completely closing the nostrils results in a strong, obvious sound, and more importantly, sensation in the nostrils. As I explored this more, I found there was a continuum from neutral to completely closed, and you can refine your control in this area by using percentages (e.g. 75% closed) or numbers (1-10). I did this silently at first, then with voice (more difficult to do with voice).

Then I did the opposite of moving from neutral to hyper-opening of the nostrils. The sensations moving in this direction is far more subtle and thus difficult to find accurate percentages. Again, voice can be added.

One benefit of doing this closing and opening exploration is that your bodymap in this area will become clearer and more detailed in addition to the extra control and co-ordination you have found. It’s kind of like made being aware of the sensations of clothes on your skin – it was always (partially) there, but you had to focus your attention in the right way to become aware of it.

Breathing through the nose in various ways (fast/slow, loud/quiet) can also highlight the condition of the nostrils, and related is making hypernasal sounds, letting most of the airflow go through the nose. Making a breathy sound through the nose provides the most obvious sensation, but is difficult to maintain due to the high amounts of air required. Steadily reducing the airflow or going from lots of air to little air whilst maintaining awareness of the constriction/opening in the nostrils allows us to apply the exploration closer to actual use. Shifting resonance from nose to mouth can also help when you’re not sure if you’re making a nasal sound.

In a particular section of the song where I sing “I don’t get the madness,” I conjectured that the consonants and the way I was hitting them was making the hyponasal sound. I tested this and sure enough I was correct. I explored various strengths of hitting the consonants with and without voice, doing it both hyper and hyponasally. I also explored doing the consonant hyponasally but as it transitioned into the vowel, releasing the nostrils e.g. “d” closed, “-on’t” open. Again, you can vary the percentage of hypo/hypernasality.

Applying it in context was more difficult and is still something I have to explore more. The issue is that it is in my high chest range, a part of the voice that is more likely to get tension, thus unsurprising that hyponasality occurs.

Feldenkrais also has a focus of working one side at a time but I’m not too sure how it would apply here. One way is to do a hyperfocus on one nostril in any particular variation, take a short break and then compare the sensations between the two nostrils. My conjecture is the one that was focused on will feel slightly different than the other but I will have to test this.

A weird and interesting thing you can do is that you can combine both nasalities. Hyponasality is characterised by the closing of the nostrils and hypernasality is airflow through the nose and its resonance. Closing the nostrils less than 100% while maintaining most of the airflow through the nose as you vocalise will result in a combination of both. My first impressions is that it’s uncomfortable to do but an interesting and unusual co-ordination.

One more thing that needs more exploration. There’s a Howcast video on nasality and the solution she gave in the video but did no elaboration on was to learn how to breathe. This makes sense because tense breathing happens during tense and anxious situations, thus creating a more relaxed and efficient breathing situation would contribute to the solution. I’ve noticed after see-sawing breathing sessions or shoulder freeing sessions my breathing does become deeper, so there is a possibility that it will help solve the hyponasal situation.