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.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Overpowering Vocals

Overpowering vocals is bad vocal technique because it communicates a kind of power that is counterproductive on several levels, including:
  • Yelling is not persuasive communication that invites listening. So if you want me to listen to you, don't yell at me.
  • Screaming your melody to the top of your lungs may make me momentarily go "Wow, the singer is certainly trying to be great", but it won't make me go buy your album.
  • Over-blowing your vocal cords hurts them. If you value your instrument, you must take care of it unless you intend it to only work badly for a short season.
Watching the Country Music Awards Show last night (just like every other genre of music award show where energy and emotions are high), I saw overpowering in several performances. If you've never done these kinds of shows, they tend to be events where it's hard to hear well. You have a lot of ambient sound swirling round and it's easy to get disoriented, disconnected to your voice. Then, oh my gosh, you have to make such an impact so you give it all you've got.

Mistake.

Giving it all you've got translates to pushing 100% of the breath pressure you have available through your vocal cords- and 100% is TOO MUCH PRESSURE! Doing this always results in a lack of control. Lack of control makes you pitchy, makes your vibrato flutter irregularly or unnaturally, makes you unable to execute vocal embellishments (licks or ad libs) well. It also causes your tone to be too thin or harsh, because it tightens your throat.

You need to do what great sparring partners do... learn to pull your punches. Control what you are giving out and it will be much more effective (not to mention, it won't hurt them or you!). Back off the forward breath pressure until your power seems to be balanced at your tailbone. Then you can actually give more communicative life to your performance.

Here's the magic equation for best vocal performance:
Back off the pressure and add passion.

Country artists who habitually balance pressure and passion just right include Reba (the queen of balanced vocals), LeAnn Rimes, Faith, Trisha, Jennifer Nettles, Clay Walker, Brad Paisley, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and sometimes Keith Urban (he began pushing too hard at the end of his performance). Notice again... these all give quite empassioned performances. Martina and Gary of Rascal Flatts can also be great and balanced but were, I thought, pushing just a little too hard last night.

Did you catch the CMA's last night? Do you agree with my assessments? What did I miss?

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