Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: December 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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Singing causes tissue adaptation!

When we sing, our tissues and muscles change. This is all the more reason to practice with as much perfection of form as possible on your vocal exercises.

There is a vocal coach I have been talking to on the vocalist social network website "The Modern Voice.com" named HIH Darrison Noto Bentheim Murat. Writing on his recent blogpost, veteran opera singers have what is known as "frontal tracking" which he says is like a callous starting at the gum line at the top of the teeth going back along the "suture line" to the soft palate, which can be felt with the tongue.

Now I know most of you reading my blog will not be opera singers, but this concept has a lot to do with all kinds of contemporary singing, too. The act of consciously, properly and habitually placing your voice in the voice "Path" of the open throat that I talk about causes certain muscles to strengthen and coordinate, certain tissues to become more flexible and certain adaptations in various structures of the throat and mask. This makes it easier to get in the right place the next time you sing.

Breath function works this way, too. If you get in the habit of correct inhale, breath support and breath control, certain muscles strengthen and coordinate and others (shoulders, neck, jaw) relax and become flexible.

Psychological habits also cause physical adaptations. If you perform as communication, your face will get a work-out. Your body language will be sensitive to what it is actually communicating instead of just going through the motions of singing.

This incredible knowledge should give you fresh incentive for what should be one of your new year resolutions: To practice using your voice correctly. The better the form, the more this practice becomes your "modus operandi", and you wouldn't think of singing any other way, because your body has adapted to "make it so". (yeah, I'm a trekkie)

It should also let you know that you are capable of more voice than you think... if you work with great vocal technique. A beginning chef or guitar player has hands that are not nearly ready for the heat and moisture a master chef's hands deal with, or for the riffs and stamina of playing by a veteran guitar player.

Practicing INCORRECTLY, on the other hand, is like banging on a piano. The vibrations actually affect the wood of the instrument... playing well makes a piano "sound" better as the wood hardens around those great vibrations. Playing poorly messes up the wood.

So... work mindfully and carefully as you do your vocal exercises and/or your pitch practice, and if you are interested, join the modern voice.com network and add me as friend!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

OK, I'm back! Now, about those resolutions...

Hi everyone;

Please accept my sincere apology for neglecting this blog. I've been quite sick, but am on the mend. The good thing about being sick is how GREAT you feel when you get well!! And, it makes me remember that I am a human being, not a machine. I need to practice what I preach.

So... back to eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising and chilling out time!!

It is my fondest hope that you all had a very merry Christmas! And... may all your New Year's resolutions "take"!

By the way... do make at least one. You are less likely to reach a goal you don't set. What is the most important change you need to make in your life? In your musical endeavors? In matters of your health? In finding time for connecting to family and friends and God? In setting your business and personal priorities? Like I used to tell my son; when looking at what seems an overwhelming task (like cleaning his room!!) then just pick up the sock next to you and go from there. Set that goal, then set some strategies and tactics for accomplishing the goal.

My love goes out to you all... Have a safe, joyful, prosperous Happy New Year!!

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two mindsets for using the voice: Thinking and Doing

Are you communicating or just thinking about communicating?

I just had an enlightening conversation with a student during a phone lesson which helped her make a breakthrough, and thought I'd share it with you.

There are two things we can do when using our voice, and our choice makes all the difference in the way we use our anatomy:

* We can
THINK the song or speech. A one way street INWARDS. Examples:
  • Songwriter voice (usually lightly singing as we create the song).
  • Talking or singing without completely committing, such as occurs when we are not really confident what we are voicing will or should be heard, or when we don't think we can sing the song well.
* We can DO the song or speech. A one way street OUTWARDS. Examples:
  • When we are truly committed to communicating and directing a message to someone, without being too concerned whether they hear us or not.
  • When we are confidently speaking or singing because we trust our technique and our message.
The problem comes when we do the wrong thing at the wrong time. For instance:
  • If we try to power the communication when we are not confident, we may stress our voices and/or we will be communicating weakly or harshly and ineffectively.
  • If we sing the song we are in the process of writing too hard, our bodies may not yet have learned to properly support the melody until it has a chance to "learn the dance". Again, this may cause vocal strain.
Alternately,
  • If we sing in performance without commitment and confidence, we will not support the voice or open the throat, leading to all kinds of weaknesses and strain.
  • If we sing in performance without directing that communication to someone, we will only be internally communicating and that will sabotage the performance. We MUST sing TO someone in such a way that they can understand the words and the meaning behind the words for optimum performance results.
The choice is yours. I find it empowering to know I can choose between these two options! Do you?

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Singing with your eyes closed

I got an email from someone recently who said they thought they sang better with their eyes open instead of closed and wondered why.

Well, actually you CAN sing just fine with your eyes closed.
Or not.

What matters is what else you're doing with your eyes closed.

It WON'T work if:
  • You are going too far in to your head, like a songwriter writing or rehearsing a song. You must at all times be communicating TO someone with passion befitting the lyric.
  • You are numbing out, just going through the motions and avoiding eye contact with others
It WILL work if:
  • You move behind those closed eyes. Your eyebrows must lift naturally like if you were actively engaging someone with your eyes open. Your mask (nose, sinuses, eye sockets) must be engaged. A great example was the awesome singer Etta who just recently passed away. I watched a taped performance of her on National Public Television tonight.
  • You are really talking to someone with your emotions. It's hard to freeze behind the eyes when you are truly communicating.
  • You are actually closing your eyes because it feels like the most honest emotionally appropriate thing for you to do at the time. (best reason)

So, how do you know if you're doing the right thing when you sing with your eyes closed?

If your throat gets tight, you're not.
If your ribcage is still instead of open, you're not.
If your vocal ability is more limited than when your eyes are open, you're not.
If you are not feeling something yourself, you're not.
If you open your eyes and the audience is still with you, you probably are, unless they know you and just wondered if you're closing your eyes because you're about to pass out :<

What's your experience?

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