Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: May 2008

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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Music Going Green

The world is getting to be a dirty place. Too much garbage and pollution. As we make our art, it would do us all well to consider the footprint our actions have on the earth and future generations. Here are some cool links I found...

Music Matters is an organization dedicated to "helping you do good" , i.e... finding environmentally responsible solutions to music matters - so music can matter. http://www.musicmatters.net/

Here is a stunning idea for a radio station, as reported in a cool blog I just discovered. Check out its mission statement goals; then let your favorite radio station know if you'd like to hear them make similar shifts: http://sumigirl.wordpress.com/2007/04/24/new-rock-radio-station-in-dc/#comment-3288 . Power to the people!

Question for you: Has anyone had experience with a good company who sells cardboard cd jackets to replace the hard plastic ones? I see plenty on the internet, including some blank and some companies that print graphics on them, but want to hear from someone's personal experience.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great guide for using Twitter

Need to learn the best ways to use the quickest networking tool out there?

Click here for an awesome free guide to using Twitter. Written by internet marketing expert Caroline Middlebrook.

I use Twitter for:
  1. Getting word out that I've made a blogpost or sent a newsletter
  2. Posting special links I find very interesting
  3. Asking tech or business questions of the Twittersphere
  4. Meeting new people and networking (i.e. I just met a graphic designer that I may use to create my upcoming ebook cover).
  5. Finding tweets of interest to use and to share with my network
  6. For fun, a bit of a personal journal that I wouldn't mind anyone on earth seeing.

It's fun... I'm hooked!
You can follow me on twitter here

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Tips to better breathing for the voice

Can't seem to get enough breath for singing or speaking?
Run out of breath too soon to complete your phrases?

Here are some tips:

Change your posture!
  • Sing or speak at the wall with your head and heel against the wall. Because your ribcage is wider at the bottom, your diaphragm will be able to flatten lower and draw more air in - without you even having to think about it.
  • After you vocalize (sing a song or do some tongue tanglers or speak a poem or story) at the wall, come away from the wall and try to retain that sense of tallness, with your head balanced on your tailbone.
  • Important: DO NOT STIFFEN - even as you stand tall, make your spine feel somewhat like the liquid in a lava lamp.
Don't think of sucking air in- let it FALL in!
  • Think of your lungs as being in your low abdominal area.
  • Imagine a beach ball lying in your pelvic floor. Inflate it.
  • Avoid "chest breathing". Better to fill the air container from the bottom up!

Give yourself permission to breathe!
  • Don't sing or speak till you run out of breath. Always have a bit of reserve so you don't sound like someone punched you in the stomach by the end of your phrases.
  • Take breaths more often... don't make your phrases so long between breaths!
  • Slow down - this actually can give the listener time to "digest" what you're trying to tell them, and gives you an opportunity to breath.
  • Take time to listen and watch for reaction. This also will give you opportunities to breathe, and make what you say more relevant to the conversation.
  • Learn to edit yourself. Make what you say more concise... short and to the point. This will help you trust that you'll be able to say what you want to say without being interrupted or tuned out. "Stream of conscious" spewing of information is only for YOU to hear yourself get it all out. Save that for therapy sessions.
Practice breathing exercises!
  • One good one is: hold a candle or two fingers about 4 to 6 inches from your mouth. Take a breath and see how long you can blow without running out of breath. While you may not make it 12 seconds ("one-thousand-twelve"), try to extend the time to 30 seconds or more.
  • Another good one: stretch your arms out to your sides. Then stretch them over your head which also stretches the ribcage open and draws in a nice full breath.
Comments appreciated as you try these things... if you're reading this in email, click on the title to this post and go to the source of my blog at my website. Then look for "comment" link below the post.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Kim's comment on correcting forward head posture

Thanks to Kim Rushing for the following comment:

"I can't find the comment link
so here is my comment

great info!

many of us have "forward head posture", especially those of us who do the following: work at a computer, read a lot, are future focussed, play piano (i learned that putting the bench back farther from the piano helps with this--note to the singer/pianists out there! : )

i learned a great isometric exercise for fwd head posture--from my chiropractor/masseur/drummer husband:

stand about 3 feet from the wall, leaning back, put the back of your head Just at the top of your skull against the wall, you will be leaning on the wall with your head holding you. make sure you aren't sticking your chin out. hold for a minute or so. then stand up,
you will feel your head pull back into a neutral position--

this one reminds me of when we were kids, and we'd press the back of our hands against a door frame. then when one stepped out, the arms wd rise by themselves in reaction...

there is another one you can find on the internet called "breugger's position" not sure if i've spelled it right, but it's one to do at your desk to balance out the muscles which get over used sitting at desks..

thanks again for the info"

Note from Judy: for "Breugger's exercises see http://www.chiroweb.com/archives/14/20/04.html

How to comment on this blog

Hey...

I just got a great comment on my last post, emailed to me from Seattle jazz singer and
pianist Kim Rushing. She emailed me directly instead of commenting on the blog itself because, she noted in her email, she couldn't find the "comment" link.

So I checked my email copies of my blogposts and sure enough... there's no comment link in the email. So sorry to all you who have tried to comment and experienced the same thing. Here's what I know now:

You have to actually go online to my blog to find the "comment" link and be able to comment.
  • Just click on the title of your emailed blogpost (either "All Things Vocal" or the title of the article itself).
  • You'll be taken to my blog.
  • Look for, and click on, the "comment" link at the bottom of any post you wish to comment on. Then chime in to the conversation!
And thanks so much to Kim for notifying me of the problem. I will copy Kim's comment into the comments link to share what she wrote.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Help for thin, weak, hooty, lifeless, nasal and edgy voices

OK... thanks again to all who suggested subjects for my posts... here's another one:

"What do you do about thin, weak, lifeless, muffled/hooty, nasal, monotone and and edgy voices?"

They all have one thing in common- the "resonance cave" of the voice is not completely open.

These vocal sounds are not nearly as "listenable" as rich, clear, bell-like, multi-textured musical sounds of voice when the throat is open. Sometimes a person is so used to speaking or singing with a compromised voice they don't even know it's possible to change it. But with vocal training to open the throat, you will be amazed at how great you can sound.

The "resonance cave" of the voice involves a forked channel. The channel goes from the larynx in the throat upwards where it forks into the mouth and the nasal and sinus passages. The nose is actually huge inside. The top of the nasal membrane goes all the way up to the eyes.

Resonance is created and modified by the state of the channel. This is the way it works:
  • The vocal cords vibrate the larynx.
  • Sound waves coming off the larynx go through the channel to bounce against other tissue surfaces and cavities in the throat, mouth, nose and some sources say even down the trachea.
  • These alternative resonation zones add their own character to the sound waves.
  • If the channel is open, more vibrations can reach more surfaces, and the resulting sound gathers and comes out the mouth much richer than when the channel is constricted anywhere.
Another very important point is that different pitches need to vibrate through different resonation zones. If your throat is tight anywhere, that will keep vibration from freely traveling and you will experience limited range - and vocal strain if you try to hit inaccessible notes.

Tips to open your throat and gain resonance you never thought possible:

  1. First of all.. record yourself speaking or singing something so you have a baseline from which to assess your progress.
  2. If you have what is commonly known as a "nasal" sound, the nose is actually constricted - like when you have a cold. Paradoxically, to get away from the nasal sound, you need to sing through an open nose - not just your mouth! Try singing or speaking with a flared nose to see the difference.
  3. Another thing that can help open the nasal portion of the throat channel: Use your eyes!! Try counting to five LOUD with your eyes small and frozen. Then count again with your eyes wide moving like you're communicating to a baby.
  4. To open the throat channel where it forks into the mouth... Articulate your words in the front of your mouth... NOT AT THE JAW! You may not realize you're speaking from the jaw so try this... put your knuckle in your mouth and try to speak. Then take your knuckle out but try to speak like it's still there.
  5. Sometimes it helps to rock the jaw slightly sideways to keep from locking it on a note or passage.
  6. Try speaking or singing while imagining a ping pong ball is on the back of your tongue and you don't want to crush it.
  7. Another thing that affects the channel at the top of the throat and back of the mouth: Don't hold your head forward! Try doing wall work: Stand against a wall (head and heel against the wall, flexible spine, chin level and floating) and speak or sing. Notice and/or hear a difference?
  8. When using a mike, pull your mouth back from the mic like you're playing tug of war. Don't go too far, just a little stretch. Your head should go back and to the side a bit, and keep your chin flexibly level.
If you have my PPP vocal training cds, study the section on the "6-way inside stretch" to learn more about expanding your channel. It's important to make the stretch equidistant so as to keep the larynx from lifting or dropping, and instead allow it to float in place so it can rock back and forth slightly as it adjust vocal cord length and width.

And one last point... sometimes the throat tightens to try to defend the vocal cords from too much breath pressure. That's why I emphasize the three cornerstones of Power, Path & Performance vocal training - studying breath technique along with open throat and performance communication. Put them all together and you have.... GREAT VOICE!

Let me know how you do with these suggestions by clicking the comment link.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Getting the magic of live performance in the studio

There is a frustrating disconnect with many people who are great in live performance but can't seem to get that same great vocal in the recording studio. Here are some tips to help you bring your live sound into your recorded sound:

  • Create the ambiance you need to "do the scene" as you deliver the song. Ambiance creating suggestions:
  1. Make sure the music stand is back far enough under the mic so you can stand in such a way that you don't need to lean forward.
  2. Don't read lyric sheets, or if you do, park the music stand way off to the side.
  3. Ask the engineer if it's possible NOT to point you facing directly into the control room.
  4. Ask for your vocal booth lighting, and if possible also the control room lighting, to be turned down so you can focus your mind on the story.
  5. Some people are helped by "props" ... Light a candle, put a picture near, plug in a lava lamp... whatever it takes to get you into the scene!
  • Play with your imaginary friend(s). Sing TO someone to whom the song is directed. Try to make that person feel something from your communication of the message... just like live.
  • Don't sing to anyone in the control room. They are there to judge your performance and edit you. Listen to them, then go right back to sing-talking to the object of your message (lyric).
  • Use body language! You won't believe how using eyes, hands, legs, expressive body language can cause the song to take on amazing life. Ditch your inhibition (and possibly your pride) and physically get into your delivery.
  • Use "Studio Hands" - This is a technique I use- put your fingertips together and push them into each other to help you with breath control.
  • Use a dummy mic! Try holding a dummy mic or similarly weighted object in your hand. Put the dummy mic up to your mouth and sing into it like you would live, but position yourself close enough to the live mic to make sure it picks up your voice.
How does this work for you?

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fans Rule! - the new music business model

If you're not into social networking and you want to sell music, you either need to get into it or get someone who IS into it to become a part of your marketing team. Instead of being depressed, I have to say I'm energized by the way music business's apple cart has been turned over and the bottlenecks are irreparably broken. Now listening and concert-attending FANS are driving the business, instead of the other way around. I say, "long live fan-archy!" hehehe...

There are awesome stories on the net of music marketing successes using this new model. Go here to read about some) .

Don't be fooled...It's HARD WORK doing business this way. To become successful... (and I am borrowing from the writings of Internet marketers such as Mari Smith and Brian Clark) ... you must:
  1. Connect with your fans.
  2. Interest your fans in staying around.
  3. Motivate and excite the fans so much that they want to buy from you.
Think you'd have to make millions of fans to "make it"? ... Here are two links to a debate going on about the premise that it only takes 1000 "True Fans" to make a living in the music business:

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/04/the_case_agains.php

Social networking sites I recommend for you to put up your profile and become active:

1. Myspace.com
Recommended resource: Bob Baker's "My Space Music Marketing" (about $20)

2. Facebook.com
Recommended resource: Mari Smith's "Facebook Fortunes" (free)

3. Twitter.com
Recommended resource: "Why Twitter Isn't A Waste Of Time" (blogpost)

Anybody out there have other suggestions to share? Click "comment" below this post!

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