Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Help for thin, weak, hooty, lifeless, nasal and edgy voices - updated 2021

Let's get some color in there!
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Vocal tone communicates the meaning of words carried on that tone. Having problems with the way the voice sounds is a frequent reason singers and speakers contact me for vocal lessons because the wrong tone is not going to get the right response to what is being sung or said. Let's start with what causes your vocal sound to be limited.

What causes unwanted vocal tone?

Thin, weak, hooty, lifeless, nasal, edgy and other limited vocal tones have one thing in common- the "resonance cave" of the voice is not completely open. These vocal sounds are not nearly as "listenable" as rich, clear, bell-like, multi-textured musical sounds of voice when the throat is open. If you want to have a weird character or cartoonish sound for some reason, you can limit your tone on purpose, but for normal speaking and singing purposes, you want all the rich colors and musicality of tone that your voice can produce.

Sometimes a person is so used to speaking or singing with a compromised voice they don't even know it's possible to change it. But with vocal training to open the throat, you will be amazed at how great you can sound. 

How vocal resonance is created:

The "resonance cave" of the voice involves a forked channel. The channel goes from the larynx in the throat upwards where it forks into the mouth and the nasal and sinus passages. The nose is actually huge inside. The top of the nasal membrane goes all the way up to the eyes. Resonance is created and modified by the state of the channel. This is the way it works:
  • The vocal cords vibrate the larynx.
  • Sound waves coming off the larynx go through the channel to bounce against other tissue surfaces and cavities in the throat, mouth, nose and some sources say even down the trachea.
  • These alternative resonation zones add their own character to the sound waves.
  • If the channel is open, more vibrations can reach more surfaces, and the resulting sound gathers and comes out the mouth much richer than when the channel is constricted anywhere.
Another very important point is that different pitches need to vibrate through different resonation zones. If your throat is tight anywhere, that will keep vibration from freely traveling and you will experience limited range (for both singing and speaking) - and vocal strain if you try to hit notes that you are making inaccessible.

Tips to open your throat and gain resonance you never thought possible:

  • Record yourself 
First of all.. record yourself speaking or singing something so you have a baseline from which to assess your progress.
  • Open your nose
If you have what is commonly known as a "nasal" sound, the nose is actually constricted - like when you have a cold. Paradoxically, to get away from the nasal sound, you need to sing through an open nose - not just your mouth! Try singing or speaking with a flared nose to see the difference.
  • Activate your eyes
Another thing that can help open the nasal portion of the throat channel: Use your eyes!! Try counting to five LOUD with your eyes small and frozen. Then count again with your eyes wide moving like you're communicating to a baby.
  • Articulate in front, not back, of mouth
To open the throat channel where it forks into the mouth... Articulate your words in the front of your mouth... not at the jaw hinge! You may not realize you're speaking from the jaw so try this... put your knuckle in your mouth and try to speak. Then take your knuckle out but try to speak like it's still there.
  • Make chewing circles
It can help tremendously to circle the jaw with a slight chewing motion to keep from locking it on a note or passage. 
  • Morph vowels
Morph, or shape-shift your vowels instead of freezing them!  For instance, try sustaining the vowel 'ee' as in 'me', or  'oo' as in 'you'. First, freeze the shape of the vowel, then morph the shape by doing that slight chew and move your face expressively. 
  • Imagine ping pong ball
Try speaking or singing while imagining a ping pong ball is on the back of your tongue and you don't want to crush it.
  • Keep head over tailbone
Another thing that affects the channel at the top of the throat and back of the mouth: Don't hold your head forward! Try doing wall work: Stand against a wall (head and heel against the wall, flexible spine, chin level and floating) and speak or sing. Notice and/or hear a difference?
  • Pull with mic
When using a mike, pull your mouth back from the mic like you're playing tug of war. Don't go too far, just a little stretch. Your head should go back and to the side a bit, and keep your chin flexibly level.
  • 6 way inside stretch from Power, Path & Performance training
If you have my 6-disc vocal training course, study the section on the "6-way inside stretch" to learn more about expanding your channel. It's important to make the stretch equidistant so as to keep the larynx from lifting or dropping, and instead allow it to float in place so it can rock back and forth slightly as it adjust vocal cord length and width. 
  • Control breath
And one last point... sometimes the throat tightens to try to defend the vocal cords from too much breath pressure. That's why I emphasize the three cornerstones of Power, Path & Performance vocal training - studying breath technique along with open throat and performance communication. Put them all together and you have your best, most expressive, healthy voice! 
  • Let me know how you do with these suggestions by clicking the comment link.



  • At May 22, 2008 at 5:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Judy - this are really SUPER tips! I do a great job of impersonating singers - but I haven't yet 'discovered' my true voice. I'm going to spend some time working on this advice - and choosing a song I'm not that familiar with, so I'm not replicating the original singer ...

  • At May 22, 2008 at 7:26 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you Julie! This is why I write this blog- to be of PRACTICAL and EFFECTIVE use to you. Good luck and let me know how you do with these ideas... in finding you own voice!

  • At January 29, 2021 at 9:53 PM , Blogger Elizabeth H. Cottrell said...

    I had no idea there were so many practical and implementable tricks for helping develop a richer voice for speaking and singing. Excellent.

  • At January 30, 2021 at 9:44 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Elizabeth... I'm so happy you found this helpful!! Thanks for your kind words.


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