The performance of a sound barrier is usually degraded if a large reflecting surface is placed on the source side. A wave-trapping barrier (WTB), with its inner surface covered by wedge-shaped structures, has been proposed to confine waves within the area between the barrier and the reflecting surface, and thus improve the performance. In this paper, the deterioration in performance of a conventional sound barrier due to the reflecting surface is first explained in terms of the resonance effect of the trapped modes. At each resonance frequency, a strong and mode-controlled sound field is generated by the noise source both within and in the vicinity outside the region bounded by the sound barrier and the reflecting surface. It is found that the peak sound pressures in the barrier's shadow zone, which correspond to the minimum values in the barrier's insertion loss, are largely determined by the resonance frequencies and by the shapes and losses of the trapped modes. These peak pressures usually result in high sound intensity component impinging normal to the barrier surface near the top. The WTB can alter the sound wave diffraction at the top of the barrier if the wavelengths of the sound wave are comparable or smaller than the dimensions of the wedge. In this case, the modified barrier profile is capable of re-organizing the pressure distribution within the bounded domain and altering the acoustic properties near the top of the sound barrier. © 2013 Acoustical Society of America.