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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tis The Season To Be Singing!

My family's gingerbread creation

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Singing is always in season, but December provides very special opportunities. I want to take this time to wish you readers and listeners in our All Things Vocal village a very happy, joyful holiday season. I hope that music-making... particularly singing... is part of this time for you and your loved ones. Never has there been a more perfect time for 'making a joyful noise' ... whether that sound is professional or a family jam session where no voice is judged less important than another.

Here are some gentle reminders if you're going to be singing:
  • Getting ready for a road trip? Don't forget to take and pack your immune system herbs and supplements that work for you. If you're going somewhere dry, you might even pack a portable warm air humidifier.
  • Getting ready for a holiday parties and family reunions? Getting ready for outside games or events? Don't forget to wear something which will protect your ears and your neck. Also... don't forget to bring water and stay well-hydrated. Also... when you laugh, squeal or scream for joy, be sure and pull that vocal sound.. don't push it! I know... it's the last thing you'd be thinking about, so you better practice pulling now!
  • Getting ready for holiday feasts? Don't forget to limit mucous-enhancing foods like rich cream-based sauces, heavy casseroles, fatty meat portions, excessive deserts, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. You CAN have some of these things, after all, even YOU can celebrate, but if you limit these heavy and toxic substances, you will be able to be in better voice. (Also better health). I say this as I wolf down a slice of my mother's traditional homemade pecan pie:)
  • Getting ready for a holiday performance? Don't forget to warm up your voice with your vocal exercises! Even if it's just 5 or 10 minutes... warmup and remember to pull, not to push, your voice.
My New Year's wish is that your gratitude list, like mine, keeps expanding. So raise a glass of something or other with me to toast the coming year. No matter what direction the economy and music business goes, no matter what life thing blindsides us, there will also be diamonds... blessings and sweet surprises ... embedded in every day. I find it so important, for so many reasons, to look for, notice and focus our spirits on those diamonds.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I can almost hear you singing! God bless you and your precious voices... love, Judy

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why Singing Without Playing Your Instrument Feels So Weird

Singing sans your instrument can be excruciating!
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People who usually sing while playing guitar, bass, keyboards, drums or other instrument often find it weird and frustratingly difficult to sing as well without playing. The reasons can be psychological and physical.

You can find yourself lost without your instrument on the live stage and in the recording studio:
  • Live, maybe you want to get out from behind your instrument for at least a song or two for a more direct and intimate connection to your audience, or just to change the optics and the energy of the show. 
  • In the studio, it's usually wise to do vocals as a controllable overdub instead of simultaneously singing and playing. 
Let me give you an interesting example. When I first moved to Nashville many years ago, I was sang a lot of background vocals in what they called "simul-sessions". These sessions were where the musicians, background vocalists and lead singers recorded together at the same time. It was a lot like live TV... if you messed up, it was painfully and publicly obvious and made others have to do-over as well, so there was great incentive (some might say stress) to get your part right the first time!

Anyway, this session was for none other than Johnny Cash. As we prepared to record, I remember that I watched a studio tech take the strings off his guitar and give it to him to hold while he was singing. His wise and legendary producer (Snake Reynolds) had noticed he sang better when attached to his guitar! At the time I wondered why that mattered; now I understand.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this post is only for those who are most comfortable singing and playing, and feel that's where they sing the best. It's not for those...

  • who are NOT confident playing at the same time as singing.
  • who play with bad, crunched posture.
  • who actually DON'T have good enough vocal technique to sing well while playing.

Psychological issues of singing without playing

When your brain learns to do something, it programs as much of the action into automatic as it can in order to accomplish the goal much more efficiently, easier and faster. The brain literally lays down myelin sheath fiber highways around the neural synapse pathways it wants to memorize. If you change a factor, especially as significant as what the side limbs of your body are doing, it can throw the auto button back to manual! Then you start thinking about the "how" instead of the "what" that you are communicating.

The result can be frozen or guarded stance, missing body & facial language, numbness and other performance fails. Vocal issues and limitations creep in, sabotaging your confidence even more. There's no way your voice can do it's best when your brain is occupied with so much conscious thinking.

Physical issues of singing without playing

When your hands aren't playing, they don't know what to do and tend to fall like dead weight. This makes your arms into 'ribcage anchors'. Then the dropped, tight ribcage allows too much slack and uncontrolled movement in the dome of the diaphragm. Think of this as the kiss of death to breath control!

Without the familiar instrument at your hands to brace against, your head tends to drift forward. This again adds to the collapse of the ribcage, and also the tightening of the throat. Then the chin starts coming up and forward to hit notes which had been easy when you were playing simultaneously. Think of this as the kiss of death to tone, range, pitch ... and say hello to vocal strain!

What you can do

There are some ninja tricks that can help you sing as well - if not better - without your instrument! Please understand that every singer is unique. You may not be aware of what you're really doing and it's best to work with a coach who can diagnose your particular issues and fine tune these tactics for you. That said, here are 3 suggestions:

1. Check your posture

Stand flexibly tall instead of crouched forward. Balance your head over your heels intstead of your toes. Make sure the upper curve of your back is flexibly straight instead of pronounced. On stage, use body language of the magnet instead of the blowhard (interesting term isn't it?). In the studio, know how to position yourself at the mic so you are flexibly tall.

2. Use your hands

As I mentioned, the position and action of your hands affects your breath control, and breath control creates vocal control. If on stage you have a mic or mic stand in your hand, learn to use your grip to widen your ribcage. Mostly keep the butt end of the mic 45 degrees down, and the head of the mic right at your mouth. Squeeze it - not continually, just as you articulate your lyrics. Done correctly, this should create a pulling sensation that makes you tall and wide, opening your throat and ribcage. Just don't pull it away from your mouth much.  If singing in the studio, hold a backscratcher or the equivalent stick-shaped object between your palms, which should replicate the ribcage widening that happens when you play your instrument. Gently squeeze the stick between your palms to open your ribcage and brace your head back over your spine.

3. Focus on the point of the spear... the message

Here's where not having an instrument can help you. If you don't have to worry about playing the right chords, and you use these other ninja tricks so your voice feels controlled and strong, you can focus your mind even better onto the message and the person to whom you're singing.

Why I keep giving away the farm

I'd like to take a moment today and tell you why I create All Things Vocal blog and podcast. I put so much into it I've been told by many people that I 'give away the farm'. Actually, they are right... if you can't afford professional vocal training at all (keeping in mind I have a course that's just $19.95) then it is my purposeful intention that you can improve your vocal ability for free from the information you read and hear on All Things Vocal. You can help by sharing it with others. You can sign up for my newsletter at judyrodman.com to get monthly blog updates so you don't miss one!

However, there's so much more I can help you with. If your voice is important to you, and you want to go farther with more proven techniques, look into my training courses and/or take one-on-one singing or speaking lessons with me in person or online. The improvement you'll experience is fast... even one lesson can jump-start you to your next level of ability.

Your questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome! Do you play and sing? What's your experience with/without your instrument?

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

27 Ways To Absolutely Murder Your Voice

Be scared... be very scared...
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Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

The slight chill in the Tennessee air tells me it's Halloween season, so I thought I'd share some practices that should send a chill up every singer or speaker's spine. If you want to lose your voice temporarily or even permanently, there are some sure-fire ways to commit vocal murder. Some ways are subtle, some overt, most are totally avoidable. I've either done the following things or worked with someone who has, so this list is not just theory... it's all a thing. Your voice might survive a tangle with one of them or get by with something abusive for a while, but your vocal apparatus will suffer and will definitely need recovery time! So be scared, be very scared of these...

27 Voice Murderers

1. Cough loud, hard and/or often. This is one of the best ways to cause laryngitis that I know.

2. Scream forwards. For any reason. Even metal screamers can do it safely ... if they learn to scream backwards!

3. Have someone elbow you in the larynx during a pick up game of basketball. Yep, created quite a fright for a major star I've worked with.

4. Rev your stress level up before a very important gig . Great way to tighten you up and weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to those microscopic viral voice murderers!

5. Sing songs out of your range. Go ahead... shred your cords like Freddy Krueger!

6. Start your show with your highest, hardest, loudest song. To put the last nail in your voice's coffin, don't warm up before the show.

7. Push breath while talking in long phrases with no breath support. A cruel vocal cord punisher in it's own right, this is an especially effective sneak attack on your unsuspecting singing voice.

8. Sing or talk with breathy tone over an extended period. This should dehydrate and thicken the mucous covering your vocal cords; torturing them while insisting they create sound.

9. Speak on the phone hunched over. The double saboteurs of tight ribs and forward leaning head should create nightmare configurations for your breath and throat channel.

10. Eat or drink things that create phlegm in your throat and or exacerbates acid reflux. Then punish your heavy laden, acid washed vocal cords by forcing sounds when they're too gunked up to freely vibrate.

11. Do vocal exercises wrong. If you turn your vocal warmup into a tighten up enough times with bad form, you will see the results in reduced vocal range, control, tone and when you finally go to the doctor, you'll see evidence of vocal abuse on your laryngoscopy photo.

12. Have a fight or take a stressful phone call right before you sing. You'll be sure to tighten up for performance and power your voice from too high in your body.

13. Give a pre-show interview with a ton of vocal fry. Think of it as committing vocal murder by friction.

14. Talk and laugh loudly with friends between multiple sets you're performing. Silence is something to avoid if you want to trash your voice.

15. Cry. When you start singing soon after, you'll want to cry more.

16. Smoke. Vocal murder can be accomplished by desiccation of tissue from toxins and acid reflux. Not to mention the lung damage.

17. Sing like a zombie. A lack of facial and body language will kill your efficient use of breath and make your voice feel and sound, well, dead.

18. Catch a bug! To make sure you do, never wash your hands, and frequently wipe your hand across your nose or mouth when in the presence of someone with a cold, especially after shaking their hand. Don't support your immune system, either, with food or supplements that work for you.

19. Get drunk. The dehydration plus the ability to injure your cords without feeling it should do the trick.

20. Sleep with your window open to the cool, damp night air. When you awake, the evidence of your sore throat will let you know you've murdered your voice for at least the day.

21. Stay up really late the night before you sing. The lack of sleep should swell your vocal cords, which you'll then torture with an important performance.

22. Don't cancel .. go ahead and sing with laryngitis. Your voice should be trashed for at least 2 weeks afterwards and possibly much longer.

23. Roll in the hay (or anything else) you're allergic to. Allergies are great voice killers!

24. Have nothing to drink on stage. In fact, make it a habit not to drink enough water chronically.

25. Blow your voice out at rehearsal. Kiss it goodbye for the actual show.

26. Hurt your neck or shoulders incorrectly doing physical exercise. The pain will cause those muscles to spasm and guard which interferes with the free movement of your vocal apparatus. Then you'll really get scared and experience a vicious cycle of vocal issues/ bad technique reinforcment unless you get to a coach that can set you right. Free weight neck strain had severely sabotaged the career momentum of another big star who finally came in for vocal lessons with me.

27. Sing while believing you can't.  You'll undoubtedly be in guarded stance, tightening and sabotaging your voice's operation and health, and ensuring the demise of a good performance.

Are you scared now? Good!

Best defenses against voice killers 

  • a healthy fear and recognition of them, because they are quite real, and they really do cause fatigue, irritation, strain and damage to your voice.
  • good information about how these voice-destroyers operate and ways you can stop them, 
  • correct habitual vocal technique to prepare and protect your voice, 
  • and vocal training with a vocal coach you can trust. Fyi, you can find my courses and contact me for lessons right there at www.judyrodman.com, so there's no excuse for murdering your voice... unless of course, you want to! 👹

So what about you?

If you've done any of these things, or found any another ways to kill your voice, please add it in the comments! Also, if you listened to the podcast please review it at your favorite listening site. That helps me keep this going for you.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Career Tips for Female Artists - Interview With Bree Noble

Bree Noble
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Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

For this post, I did an audio interview with Bree Noble… entrepreneur, musician, speaker, business coach and hit podcaster. Bree is a delightful, caring mentor whose advice all rings true to me, and comes from her years of professional success. Listen to the interview at the podcast audio link above to get insider tips for creating and growing a successful music business, with a focus on female artists. If you're a guy please feel free to eavesdrop:)

Subjects we covered include:

  • A look at Bree’s 2 popular podcasts
  • Music business issues that tend to be more woman-centric
  • How to deal with ‘female artists don’t sell’ mentality
  • Why women need to learn business skills
  • Fears that need to be conquered for music biz success 
  • How to create longevity in music careers
  • What is the same, and a change prediction for music marketing
  • How to submit music to Women of Substance Radio

About Bree:

Bree Noble is an entrepreneur, musician and speaker. She founded Women of Substance Radio, an online radio station that promotes quality female artists in all genres, in 2007. She launched the Women of Substance Music Podcast in November 2014, a 5 day per week show which promotes Independent female artists. Her podcast has hit #1 in New & Noteworthy for the Music, Arts and Society & Culture categories and #4 Audio Podcast on all of iTunes. She draws on her extensive experience running her own music business, both as a solo musician and as an industry professional, to train and mentor other female musicians. Learn more about the station, the show and the artists at www.wosradio.com. Bree also hosts a blog and second podcast and offers training at Female Entrepreneur Musician, which is about creating and growing music business careers. 

About YOU:

If you want to grow a great singing and/or speaking career, you need your best voice possible. For vocal training proven to maximize and protect studio and stage voice, get Power, Path and Performance vocal lessons and/or courses on disc. No matter what your financial means, I've created several options so you can get this training. It's 'chump change' if you truly mean business.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why Inhaling Through Nose AND Mouth is Best for the Voice

For the voice, three inhale holes are better than one or two!
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Among the controversies out there concerning vocal technique is this question:
Should you breath in through your nose or mouth when you sing? 
From my experience as singer, speaker and vocal coach my answer is... 
Why? Let's do a three-part experiment:

1.  Just inhale through your nose. 
Flare your nose and try to suck a big breath in. Where did the breath seem to go? I bet your upper front chest expanded, and your shoulders probably lifted. Most of the lobes of your lungs are lower and more the back part of your torso. And lifting your shoulders are going to tighten the bottom of your ribcage. None of this is good for your voice.

2. Inhale from your mouth. 
Open wide and breathe in. Where did the breath seem to go? It was high again, wasn't it? How drying did it feel to your throat? How tight did your neck get?

3. Now inhale through both nose and mouth. 
You don't need to open your mouth wide... open your lips for a little sip, at the same time flaring your nostrals. Don't suck air like a Hoover... let it fall in. How much faster and deeper did you breathe? 

OK, here's why I find inhaling through nose and mouth to be best:

  • It allows breath to fall the fastest.

It does this by encouraging expansion in the low torso, shifting body contents downwards to make room for the flattening diaphragm to lower the lungs and create a partial vacuum. This action draws air in instantly. You get a much better quality breath.

  • It encourages a low power center for the voice. 

Singers and speakers tend to power the voice from where the breath seems to be taken in. For optimal balanced breath support/control, it should feel like you're powering the voice from the pelvic floor. Opening nose and mouth allows air to fall in low, not be sucked in high.

  • It is the least dehydrating way to move air through the throat.

You'll notice when you inhale from nose and mouth, you tend to do so silently. It doesn't feel like you moved the sahara desert through your throat, drying it out and causing irritation that could lead to a voice-sabotaging tickle or cough.

  • It expands the whole throat channel (nasal, oral and laryngeal pharynx).

This pre-opens the throat for conducting laryngeal vibration to resonators before you say or sing a word. 

So why do so many people say you should breathe through the nose?

Many athletic coaches recommend nose breathing for athletic activities, for many good reasons. However, for the voice, it's not the best strategy. When I began teaching one of the books I read was Jeffrey Allen's book 'Secrets of Singing'. He came to the same conclusion, while also mentioning it was controversial. In my teaching experience, every time someone comes in singing while nose breathing, they have all kinds of vocal issues including lack of breath control, tight throat and range limitations. Just opening all three holes to let air in (both nostrals and the mouth) creates instant vocal improvement. 

Silent, Deep and Wide

I find that a lower torso sensation of 'Silent, Deep and Wide' will create the best quality inhale for the voice. Opening nose and mouth creates this sensation. Practicing it on purpose will create muscle memory so it becomes your modus operande for singing and speaking.

Did you try it? What do you think?

For more practical vocal training like this, check out my course "Power, Path and Performance".

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Singers, Got Trolls? Let's Talk! How To Deal With Internet Bullying

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Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

There is a cruel practice on the internet these days commonly called trolling. People who do it are trolls. I would define trolling as the art of malevolently offering the meanest, most insulting, scathingly negative critique with the highest shock value the troll can create for the purpose of causing emotional pain for the one being criticized. And if the troll can deliver a surprise attack, all the better for their soul-sucking joy de vivre. The voice, dear friends, is a frequent target of trolls. If you have them, congratulations; you're in good company. If not, you need to be prepared. They're coming for you. And me.

My latest experience with a troll...

The situation: I won't go into enough detail to embarrass the organizers, but the program I recently performed in was a disorganized, logistic nightmare. The venue owner never showed up with the keys to the building. After all the musicians, artists AND audience members stood out in the sun for hours, somebody finally broke in the back window (yes, there was talk of being charged with breaking and entering) and opened the doors. You can imagine the ensuing chaos as the staff propped the stage and the musicians set up for an online video show that was a half hour overdue to start.. I sat as out of the way as possible on a bench in the front, waiting for my time to hurriedly set my keyboard up and do a quick mic check ...and then immediately perform. It would have made great footage for a reality show!

A bit of a rabbit trail:
I have learned to roll with the punches, and these things happen if you spend time on the road. This 'adventure' reminded me of the time years ago when my whole band and I waited in the hotel lobby for the scheduled vehicle that was supposed to get us and our gear to the airport in time for our flight to the next show. That vehicle never showed up, so my band leader commandeered a laundry truck for transportation in exchange for my signed picture! Yes, we made it to the airport, just in time and though nerve-racking back then, it's one of my funniest memories now.

The point is, people rarely know how difficult a performer's job really is. The backstage chaos, personal and career stress, travel guffaws, the mild illness or personality conflicts in the band have to all be ignored when foot hits stage floor. The performer's ability to capture the venue with a seamless, friendly, professional and musically excellent performance should be all the audience is aware of. (Although a glimpse at normal backstage preparation can be illuminating and fascinating, like this NYT fast-forward through backstage preparation at the Metropolitan Opera.)

OK, Rabbits, back to present day...
So we finally finished the late internet show, and got a lot of sweet comments from hosts and folks in the audience. I got home and after putting my keyboard back up in my office, revved up my computer to check my email. There was a comment on my Facebook page that took my breath away. Someone had written "I don't appreciate the way you strew your purse, bag (gig bag of stuff for my keyboard) and coat (what coat? It was 100 degrees!) all over the front bench! I want you to know you were rude and unprofessional!

While I'd had trolls comment with violent, sick profanity on some videos I tried to promote on YouTube, I had never had anyone in over 50 years of performing tell me I was rude or unprofessional. It was strange how deep it cut. I found out who she was, spent some time figuring out how I wanted to respond (various replies ranging from sorry she felt that way to tearing her a new one, then decided the wisest course for my own spirit and conscience was to unfriend and block her. I eventually found out that she hated any music that wasn't old-style traditional country. But instead of sharing that truth, she chose to cut a complete stranger (me) down as meanly as she knew how.

Things I've learned about trolls:

  • They want, most of all, to be seen and heard. Unfortunately, they are using hurting others to call attention to themselves. Therefore one of your best strategies is to decline to acknowledge the troll's existence. In other words, unfriend/block/delete the comment.
  • They also love to strike from hiding places of anonymity. Once more - best strategy is to erase them and their critique without your verbal reaction, which they live for. Starving them of your response is like starving them of food, and they generally move on to someone else who will feed them. 
  • Trolls are emotionally and/or mentally challenged. I mean, how many people who get an endorphin rush out of hurting others on purpose do you know who are not spiritually and mentally sick? Hurting people hurt people. Knowing this helps take the sting out of the hateful things they say... which is never based on the real value of the voice they are criticizing. 
  • Understand how they get their power. The reason singers can be so hurt by trolling is that voices need to be sensitive, unique and unguarded to effectively deliver messages. Trolling a singer is like shooting a sitting duck. So don't sit there turning the troll-scat over and over in your mind try to understand it. A troll's mind will never make sense to you. Move on to something affirming and positive so your heart can deflect the hit! 
  • Know the difference between an honest critique and bullying. Be sure to differentiate between a comment that is trolling, and one that is just an honest opinion you don't agree with. 
  • If you choose to respond, be careful: don't just feed the troll. Someone wise once asked me why I was trying to convince someone of something they didn't want to believe. Feeding a troll is an exercise in spitting in the wind, and a waste of time and emotional energy. That said, if you need to use the situation for your own purposes to straighten something out publicly or correct a damaging lie, do so succinctly and in a way that looks emotionally controlled and professional. Under certain circumstances, you can even respond legally and sue for defamation of character.
  • Your best weapon: Forgive and forget. The worst thing I could probably wish on a troll is his or her life. Unlike Martin Luther King, Gandi and Jesus, the cuttingest of troll comment hasn't stopped my heart beating. The nursery rhyme rings true, 'sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me' unless of course I continue to let them. You need to be emotionally honest and process the nastiness of being trolled, but then finish the process: forgive and let go of any lingering negativity. Then get away from the crazy makers! disconnect… unfriend/unfollow/delete/block them!  
  • Never Be One. It should go without saying, but there are always those 4 fingers pointing back when we point one forward! May all our critiques always come from love, not from cruel lack of empathy. It's ok to recognize that someone's performance sucked, but you'll probably never fully know why... and next time it could be you. Or me! Correction of the cause is almost always possible, if suggested with good timing and kindness. Do unto others as you want done to you.
More recommended reading: 10 Ways to Destroy An Online Commenting Troll and some of the suggestions are artful ways of engaging without actually feeding them.

What about you?

Have you ever been hit with a cruel comment? Have you ever mistaken positive correction for negative trolling? Have you ever been embroiled a troll flame war? How did that work for you? What has helped your heart deal with hurtful critique?

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Monday, June 5, 2017

A Lyrical Journey to Phenomenal Singing... Part 1 by Salem Jones

My guest blogger Salem Jones

From Judy-
A few years ago I was active in a singer's forum online and met the incomparable Canadian artist Salem Jones. Fueled by our like-mindedness and mutual curiosity, we have become close friends, regularly having tea via webcam as we chat about all things life. She is a fiery rocker and a fascinating combination of a brilliantly independent and original-thinking brain, a loving empathetic heart and a fearless spirit fighting for right things. She also sings her butt off. She guest posts today, going deeper than the usual caves we explore when pursuing the kind of singing that is truly phenomenal. I am so grateful she has chosen to share some of her thoughts on this blog. Here now is Salem Jones...


Hey, how am I singing?

Now there’s a question. It’s one that can float through various levels of our awareness, appearing here or there, remaining unknown, and consequently unasked (and therefore unanswered), gig after gig, session after session.

If the thought of it even occurs to us and we dare to follow through on the asking, the following often happens. (Unless we’re narcissists) we gird up our loins to courageously query cast, crew or studio, in part or whole, (ourselves included), while also staving off a near loss of consciousness due to the acute anxiety we experience in the scant split seconds- miniscule seconds that have gone into bombastic, cinematic sloooooow time, kettle drums and all- yes, those same s e c o n d s that we must survive, while we await an answer to a loaded question like that one.

It’s not easy being a singer. Our instruments are simply too close to the jugular vein.

So we may be offered multiple answers, some that start a fistfight or a new career path (probably for the one-time, bullet-dodging, overpaid “producer”, who insists he “ah, has somewhere else to be right now…phew…”), but regardless of whether or not the feedback is as positive as we want and will it to be, it is more often than not, technical in nature. Technique is necessary. Yesiree, it most certainly is! If for no other reason than to take a glorious stand against autotune. But I’ve seen the impact of a technical over-focus keep singers from deep, optimal performance. This became my nemesis one day. And what a brain battle it was.

I had been gaining some technical ground for a few years, but ironically, I found myself moving farther away from my own voice. I felt like I was sliding down an annoyingly muddy hill while some deranged farmer kept turning on the garden hose. I realized that I had actually been delivering The Message far better at the beginning of my vocal journey, even though my technical capabilities were few. I had been touching more Hearts, including my own, and I wanted nothing more than to regain the spirit of that. But how?

Well, if we ask questions, we receive answers, right? I’ve learned that the better the questions, the better the answers. Still, “How am I singing?” seemed to be a good question, one that was on the right track. But it wasn’t great. After some thought, I realized that it wouldn’t evoke a specific answer because it was too general. So I shifted the angle and experimented further.  This question materialized:

How well is The Message coming through my voice?

That one changed the perspective completely and clarified the goal, which created a whole new focus on a pointed intention. Much better! I could feel I was onto something, with one dry foothold in the mud I was trying to climb out of. I then noticed that some songs were connecting much better than others, and that took me to the age-old, fantastically leading and logical question, one that should be asked over and over, “Why?” To not bore us, I’ll cut to the chorus… I finally asked myself, 

WHAT am I singing?

Something clicked and locked in like Tower of Power’s rhythm section.

That question was stellar, because in the answering, it was made crystal clear to me that the “how” and the “what” we singers sing, are completely cosmically connected. Meditate on that for a moment because that connection is not a new concept. But, I firmly believe that it’s one that needs to be taken to a higher standard and held there forevermore. The more I explored this, the more it became apparent that the “what” is paramount and that it must come first. So, as we approach the true beginning of this discussion, I ask right here, “What, then, are we actually singing?” It would be natural right about now, if the meditation didn’t stick, to go away mad and check Instagram while muttering something like, “Songs! We sing soooonnnnggggs. Cuz we’re sssiiinnnnggggeeerrrsss.” But please bear with me and just keep reading…

…because there are times when it really seems and sounds like nobody knows, including anyone and everyone associated with the performance. But what we want to be singing if we’re going to hit the zone and REALLY make magick is what I call Resonant Lyrics. First, we need to realize that, while people refer to the “words” we sing, if we’re delivering to the aforementioned ideal standard, it’s waaaay beyond “words”. We’re delivering “lyrics”, and these sacred morsels are something that I define as a unique and symbiotic relationship between “words” and “feelings”. (Enter, The Heart.)  The term resonant lyrics is somewhat self-explanatory, but it bears considering the definition here. For lyrics to be resonant, they must: 1. Touch a singer’s soul as though they’re her own story (and they very well could be as in the case of a singer-lyricist). 2. Be the best, and most refined (yet still raw- but that’s a whole other blogpost) that they can be.

So. How do we achieve Resonant Lyrics?

Stay tuned for Part 2 (coming soon) of this guest post for the answer to that question!

Meanwhile, you might enjoy this reminiscence about a few of the answers I’ve heard to our first question, “How am I singing?” Send yours in. Let’s laugh it out. There’s always some clown. ;)

  1.  “Like a drunken lone wolf sailor”. I wondered who’d been drinking after that.
  2.  “We’re not tossing seedbags here.” From a west coast urban “vocal aficionado”.
  3. “Amazing! No wait! I was soloing Glenn’s track.” Well, I can understand this one because the producer was talking about Glenn Hughes.
  4. “You need to stop lifting weights. You’re looking way too muscular.” Yup. That was the feedback from this uberclown, a small-time A&R guy lasciviously licking his lips.
  5. “Like a cat.” I often sound like a cat. Meow.
  6. “Like Geddy Lee. When he sings like a cat.” What else can you say to that? ROFL 

Salem’s Bio:

Canadian rock singer/songwriter/performer/author Salem Jones is a prairie-born artist who has written and released several CD’s to rave reviews, including a duet with rock legend Glenn Hughes. Salem scored a small soundtrack and produced/performed in several music videos. She has been shined on by some of rock music’s elite, and has performed live across much of Canada, including the famed Francis Winspear Centre for Music. Salem is a well respected performance coach and lyric consultant at Empress Performance Consulting and Empress Lyric Consulting. 

Fueled by the deep conviction and personal experience that lyrics change lives, Salem has just written her first book called,“The Book of The Lyricist: Lyrics as a Way In and a Way Out”. It likens lyric-writing to transformational journal writing, and in her uniquely entertaining way, opens the seemingly inaccessible world of writing lyrics to anyone and everyone. 

From her book, publishing date TBA:
 Your lyrics are your truth. They're your sacred secrets, your dazzling dreams, your cherished plans, your insistent demands, your delicate suggestions, your moon riding joys, your gut wrenching pains, your heart crushing losses, your cross-the-finish-line-at-all-costs gains. They're your style, and they are the way that you change the world. Your lyrics are you. They are the lifeblood of your songs. You want them to tell the whole story, the way you intended it to be heard, in the strongest way possible, so that someone can deeply understand and will walk away changed. By you. By your words. By your lyrics. This is the essence of being a lyricist.
Connect with Salem on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Empress_Lyrics or through Judy’s All Things Vocal Training Facebook page.

Don't forget to look for part 2 of this post!

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