top of page

3 Differences Between Twang and Nasality — and How You Can Twang Without Sounding Nasal

"Twang" is a major component of healthy and efficient vocal production in contemporary voice models like Estill Voice Training and Complete Vocal Technique. But for some people, it sounds "nasal".

So how can you twang without nasality? Luckily, they are both very different mechanisms that can be trained separately.

A rodent touching its nose to a child's nose

Twang has been used to describe a bright, loud, brassy, piercing quality since 1930s (1). But how we can produce it has been somewhat of a mystery. The confusion arose because some people used "nasality" interchangeably with twang, especially when referring to the bright and brassy voice quality often found in musical theatre, country and bluegrass genres. You can also hear it in some character voices.

It is often used in speech therapy and singing lessons as a tool for increasing volume, reducing excessive air flow and getting a brighter sound. In some sub-styles of belting, it is a defining component for the piercing and brassy quality. Even in classical singing, twang is often referred to as the source of ring, or singer's formant.

Given how useful it is, one would think there must be a clear definition and mechanism behind twang. But it hasn't really been researched until a few decades ago.

Anatomy of a Twang

According to research by Complete Vocal Technique's Catherine Sadolin (2) and Estill Vocal Training's Jo Estill and her colleagues (3), twang is a narrowing of the aryepiglottic sphincter.

The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped flap located at the base of the tongue, closing off the trachea (that's your windpipe) when swallowing so food does not go into it. When relaxed, it stays open, allowing us to breathe. Aryepiglottic sphincter is the name given to the entire structure, with epiglottis in the front and arytenoid cartilages at the back of the trachea (and if you were wondering, arytenoid cartilages are a pair of small, triangular structures that move your vocal folds in and out so you can vocalise).

In an oversimplified way, this mechanism works like a water hose: If you put your finger over the tip, the pressure of water increases and it reaches further. Similarly, when the aryepiglottic sphincter narrows, the sound gets clearer and louder — around 10-15 dB for the acoustics geeks among us.

A little bit of twang helps project the voice, cut through other instruments and add a clear and bright quality. But lo and behold, when taken to an extreme, you can get the finest witch's cackle in a land far, far away.

Case in point: Someone on YouTube decided to upload their best wicked witch laugh and got 331k views. That is some serious twang, folks.

You can also c