Vocal Twang: Definition and “How to” Exercises

I clearly remember when I learned how to sing with twang. I had been listening to those singers who seems to sing so effortlessly with power, but I just could not get that same tone in my voice. When I tried to sing powerful I was yelling and my voice would not move freely. It would also get horse afterwards.

Then, my teacher showed my how to use twang and finally, finally, FINALLY, I was able to get that sound I wanted without all that strenuous effort.

Today, I’m going to pass on the knowledge and help you get there too! First, with a vocal twang definition. Then, with some fun exercises to help you sing with twang.

(Watch the video, to learn how to sing with twang or keep reading through the blog post).

 

Vocal Twang Definition

In the image below, you see the larynx – or the voice box as it is also known as. Inside the larynx are your best friends, your vocal folds. The vocal folds vibrate when you sing, to make the beautiful sound that is your voice.

Vocal twang definition voicebox without twang
Image 1

At the top of the larynx we find the epiglottis and the epiglottis is the guy that is responsible for adding twang to your voice. It does this, by lowering its position and compressing the sound waves coming from your vocal folds (see image 2).

Vocal twang definition voice box with twang
Image 2

Fun fact: The main function of the epiglottis, is actually to close down all the way when you swallow you food, so that you do not get it into your windpipe. But, we as singers are much less interested in how the epiglottis prevents us from choking, and much more interested in how we can use the epiglottis to add twang to our voices.

When we lower the epiglottis, the passage that the sound waves to travel through gets more narrow. It is this “narrowing” that compresses the sound waves and makes your voice louder. You can compare it to when you pinch the end of a garden hose and the water spurts out more quickly.

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This compression is so great, because here, the sound manipulation happens above the vocal folds in a healthy way. Not in an unhealthy way, which is what happens when we yell.

Whew! That was some great geeking out on your voice!

Ok now that you know what twang is, let’s practice adding twang to your voice.

 

Vocal Twang Exercises

Twang is best practiced by imitating sounds with a lot of twang, so make sure you are somewhere where you can be loud. Twang is one of those things where you cannot do it if you are holding back.

I recommend that you first overdo the twang so you can become comfortable with doing it. Afterwards, you can practice taking some of the twang off your voice to get the harshness out of your sound.

 

Vocal Twang Exercises with sound imitation

#1 Crying Child: The first sound to imitate is that of a crying child: “ngah”. It is very insisting, harsh, and… LOUD!

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Were you able to make the sound? Even though it’s harsh and not so pretty, that is what we are going for right now.

 

#2 Bleating Sheep: Ok, the next sound is also a well know sound to practice twang. We’re going to imitate the sound of a sheep. I am not playing a prank on you, I know it’s silly but do it. You’re gonna be so happy when you get it. So here we go: Behhhh

 

# The voice of Janice: The last sound to imitate is that of a famous person: Janice from the tv-show Friends (Chandler’s ex-girlfriend). Here is a short video of her laugh.

I hope that was both fun and educational 🙂

Now that you are able to say sounds with twang, you can experiment with adding twang and taking twang away from a note. This way you can decide how much you want.

 

Vocal Twang Exercises: Adding and Taking Away Twang From a Note

You can also follow along with me as I do this exercise. It is in the video at the beginning of this post.

  1. Start by making a sound with a lot of twang. Then, as you hold out the note, you can decrease some of it until you get the sound that you want.
  2. Now try starting without twang and then slowly adding it into your voice. At first this might be hard, and you can experience that the only way of adding it is to introduce a lot at once. Just keep practicing and having fun with it. I’ve noticed for some of my students that it can take them a little while to get it, so keep at it.

Tip for tone adjustment: Relaxing your jaw back and down also takes some of the harshness away because it affects the resonant space by lowering the larynx a bit.

Lowering the larynx is something that a lot of singers use to counter the harshness of the twang. We can spent some time working on the larynx position in another post if you like. Just let me know in the comment section, if it’s a topic you find interesting.

 

Vocal Twang Exercises: Sing with Twang on Different Pitches

In this video were going to practice singing with twang. The first video, is for the female singers, where I start by singing along. The second video, is the piano track for the male singers.

 

My Personal Experience with Vocal Twang and Resonance

Learning to sing with twang and resonance,  is when I realized that I could sing with power in an effortless way that does not hurt the voice. It made me able to manipulate my voice differently and added color to my voice in a way that I had not been able to before.

I also started adding twang to my head voice which is when I started to realize that twang helps you to sing higher with power. This is a distinct sound that you should definitely experiment with.

Once you are comfortable with twanging in your head voice, you can start twanging in your mixed voice and this is what you hear people do when they sing HIGH with POWER. This is something that many singers seek to do. So, practice your twang, I know you will be happy that you did!

If you want to learn more about power in your voice, I recommend that you check out this blog post: How to Add Resonance to Your Voice

 

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How to Sing with Twang
Epiglottis not twanging and twanging

4 Responses

  1. Penelope Laird

    Thanks for the twang tips. They work. I used them to try to sound like Michael Stipe from R.E.M. for all my favorite R.E.M. songs, I don’t have natural twang, rasp, or a southern accent, but your techniques helped me to come up with good artificial ones.

    • RonjaDP2

      Hi Penelope Laird, I love R.E.M too! It’s one of those bands that really reminds me of my childhood 🙂 I’m so happy to hear that you found the tips helpful.

  2. Penelope Laird

    You’re welcome. R.E.M. reminds me of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, the places where I first heard them and listened to 90% of their music. Now I’m listening to them intensely to try to settle in and put down roots in Eastern North Carolina, to try and connect the old home states with a new one.

    What’s your favorite R.E.M. song (or your top 10 or 20 if you can’t narrow it down 😀 ) ?

  3. Penelope Laird

    You actually helped me finally master the one R.E.M. song I just couldn’t get right, and that song was “Final Straw” from the “Around the Sun” album. But with your twang tips, now I can. Thank you.

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