Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

How can I avoid sounding nasal?

Sometimes you sound nasal because you have a common cold or because your nose is blocked, in which case it is just a temporary condition.

The nasal resonance

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with using your nasal resonance. It’s a part of what actors call using the ‘mask’, and produces brilliance and carrying power in the voice.

But a nasal resonance can dominate everything, and then it’s just not pleasant to listen to, as well as being incredibly monotonous. This nasal sound can happen at any pitch: deep and adenoidal, middling and strident, or high and piercing.

Avoiding the unpleasant sound

The really unpleasant nasal sound occurs when your breath gets lazy, and the opening into the mouth gets blocked by soft palate and the back of the tongue. Then the effort to speak drives the voice up into the nose, when the sound comes out in a hard unsubtle onslaught on the ears.

What can you do about it? To change a chronic nasal voice you probably need a voice therapist. But you can also try the following tips.

1. Become more aware of your inner energy

The impulse to speak comes from your thoughts and emotions. Keep those alive as you feel the desire to form words.

2. Breathe well

So many aspects of voice improve when your breath is lively and strong (see Breathing)

3. Relax

Open your mouth right inside and far back. Move your jaw; move your neck, and relax your shoulders (see Relaxation).

4. Sigh with sound

Feel the glorious relaxation of sound that has no effort in it – the sound that just comes from a deep breath and a feeling of well-being. Sigh and then speak from the same place.

5. Yawn

Yawning is wonderfully good for you and your voice. You increase your intake of air when you yawn. You naturally stretch all your face muscles. You give your speaking apparatus a spontaneous work-out!


Sometimes a nasal voice is due to other causes, such as adenoid problems, a nasal polyp or tumour, a deviated septum, chronic sinusitis and so on. Of course, these need to be checked out with a doctor.