Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: October 2007

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, October 30, 2007

Vocal techniques for lifting the soft palate and opening the throat

I recently received this question: "...What can I do to lift my soft palate, as well as expand my throat so it can remain effortless throughout my singing?" Here are some suggestions:
  • First of all, you can use the 'inner smile', a time-tested technique which feels like the beginning of the yawn. This is not to be confused with the tight, horizontal external smile. Think Mona Lisa.
  • Imagine a ping pong ball on the back of your tongue. This will cause the soft palate to lift, as well as loosen the jaw and relax the base of the tongue.
  • Get your eyes and nose into the act: Remember that the back of the nasal membrane goes on back behind the eyes and continues above the soft palate. Soft palate and nasal membrane (nasal pharynx) should lift simultaneously towards the top back of your head in order to open the channels of the throat. Flare your nose at the same time you raise the back edges of your eyebrows and notice what it does for this lift.
  • Get your spine into the act: Move your head flexibly back a bit, causing the top vertebrae (C-1) to open the throat channel from behind.
  • Do what I call the 6-way inside stretch (eyes, nose, jaw, both ears & scalp) as you sing. The center of the stretch should seem to be in the back of your head.
  • Do some 'wall work' : sing with your heel and head against the wall (chin flexibly level), which will help keep your head back and your breath supported and controlled.
  • Back off the pressure! Remember that vocal volume comes from resonation, not excessive air pressure. Back off and your throat will be able to open.

Try these things and let me know how they work for you. As always, your questions are invaluable, and the answers will benefit others as well... just click 'comments' below and join the conversation!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Singing and golf

I had never played golf in my life. My husband, an avid golfer, decided this week it was time to teach me. To my surprise, I found it to be like ... singing! I truly didn't know one end of the putter from the other, but with his patience and skill I learned a great deal (at least in my head!) of what I must master to be allowed on a real golf course (shaking his head, he says maybe sometime next year!) Here's what I learned:
  • Golf... It's an athletic discipline, requiring strength, control and balance.

Singing... Ditto!

  • Golf...For the best swing, you absolutely have to relax your grip on the club and loosen tension in your body.

Singing... For a the best sound, you absolutely have to relax the grip in your throat and loosen tension in your body.

  • Golf... You must never confuse power with brute force... swing with no more than 80% of your strength and you'll be able to control the swing.

Singing... You must never confuse power with brute force... sing with no more than 85% of your air pressure and you'll be able to control your voice

  • Golf... For best results, aim at the target before you swing!

Singing... For best results, aim at the pitch before you sing!

  • Golf... Practice, practice, practice with correct techniqe so that your swing becomes natural without having to over-think (and right now it's about as un-natural a feeling as when I learned my first Shaolin block in Kung Fu years ago >:)

Singing... Practice, practice, practice with correct technique so that correct singing becomes natural without having to over think.

  • Golf... It's not good to try to whack the ball. For best results, the ball gets hit just by getting in the way of the (correct) swing.

Singing... For maximum performance impact, the audience gets moved just by being in the presence of the meaning of the song being authentically delivered by the singer. You don't get best effect by your goal being to "win the contest".

  • Golf... A positive attitude is essential. If you think you can hit the ball in that little hole, you'll be a lot more likely to do so.

Singing... A positive attitude is essential. If you think you can hit that note on pitch without straining, you'll be a lot more likely to do so.

  • Golf... Anyone serious about golf... including and especially professional players... has a coach watching over them.

Singing... well, I think you get the idea!

OK... How bout it, fellow golfers? Any more parallels you notice?? Any suggestions for my golf game??? (My husband will thank you!)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Remastering Old Records and Tapes

I'd like to alert you to a new service a producer friend of mine named Dick McVey is offering: Digitally remastering old records and cassette tapes. I would think it would make a cool gift idea for someone... I have old cassettes of my son when he was a baby and if the oxide is still viable, I hope Dick can bring them to life and put them on CD. There are many people who can do this, but I'm sure Dick will offer a fair price on this service.
If you're interested in talking to Dick, here's his contact info:
Dick McVey
876 Springfield Hwy
Goodlettsville, TN 37072
Phone 615-264-3637
Cell: 615-714-3637
Website: www.dickmcvey.com
Email: dickmcvey@comcast.net

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Your vocal coach's poke for posture

Your vocal coach is BACK!! Well, not quite... still travelling home from my wonderful vacation in St. Augustine, Florida with my husband. Oh my, what a wonderful thing it is to be back at my precious ocean. I have been happily singing under my breath for the first time in a long time.

Vocally speaking, I noticed the correlation between people's posture and their speaking tones. It's incredible how differently human voices sound when they are sufficiently supported by breath. At one restaurant near the ocean in "Old Town" (where I had mahi-to-die-for), I noticed an otherwise beautiful young girl so hunched over she looked like a clam. I told my husband I wanted to poke her in the upper back (you students of mine will recognize this tendency I have) so she could lift her ribcage and breath. My husband suggested I let the urge pass :) I also heard many waitresses with razor thin, brittle "can I get you anything else" 's.

It takes energy and awareness to assume the open, flexible posture which automatically causes better breath support and control. Do yourself a favor. Count to 10, loud. Now ask someone you trust to poke you in the back, right in the middle about an inch below your shoulderblades. Respond by moving your spine forward there, opening your ribcage and giving you a tad bit more height. Try counting to 10, loud, in this posture. What do you notice?

If you're doing it properly, you'll notice that you actually breathed deeper and your throat should have felt just a bit less constricted.

Now pass it on... go poke somebody else!

PS... I'll be back in my office Tuesday Oct. 16th with a little sand in my suitcase and calipso in my head... see ya soon!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Last Week at Huntington Ridge Drive!

OK, I'm really doing it... moving-my-office-day is this Friday, Oct 5th, vacation the 10th and I'll be back on the 16th.

I'm still doing voice lessons amid the boxes I'm packing... (thanks to my vocal student Darby Haas who brought 2o boxes over) so if you are scheduled, walk carefully so you don't trip- and forgive the clutter! I can't remember the last time I got in bed before 2:00am, so if you emailed me you might notice I am checking in the wee hours. In my spare time (!!??**) I have been writing Runaway Home songs manuscripts to send off to the people with the "Finale" software which turns it officially print-ready. My husband John (who was a professional drummer) is helping me figure out how to make the complicated rhythms easily read.

All I can say is, thank God for friends and family who are helping - it feels like and old fashioned barn raising (ok, if you're too young to understand this phrase, ask your grandparents) But it is going to be wonderful for all of us to have the room, sunlight, and scenery of this beautiful new place.

I will be going on vacation Oct 10th (which is nuts, trust me, my husband and I booked the vacation before we knew when my office was moving!) and will get back for lessons Oct 16th. I will have a laptop to check email sporadically while on vacation but will try to do this on a very limited basis (or my husband will kill me :) I so look forward to the trip; it's been way too long since I took off. St. Augustine is calling... and the ocean I grew up around. (Nashville thinks of itself as the Third Coast, but I'll be danged if I've seen any sandy beaches or salty water around here!

I'll be a better teacher/producer/writer for the break... Thanks to everyone for all the precious friendships and music made at Hunting Ridge Drive - See ya soon at Sherbrooke Court!

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