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, February 19, 2009

Vocal Training: Reasons Not To Do It

There are many reasons people choose not to take vocal lessons. In the spirit of good-faith debate, I'd like to offer my rebuttals for some of these reasons I've encountered.
  • REASON NOT TO:
It costs too much and I'd rather use the money to hire another musician/mixer/soundman/get hair extensions.
  • REBUTTAL:
I would suggest the prime definition of 'The Music Business' as the selling of sound - more accurately: the selling of messages delivered by sound.

We put time, money and effort into care of our musical instruments, computer software, mixing engineers, cranky musicians, managers, attorneys and bus drivers. But the care and feeding of the voice is many times the last on the list.

So... we stay all night up overdubbing studio musicians, rehearsing for our show or hanging out with people after our gig, and at the last minute a nagging thought occurs to us that we should really get some sleep since we've scheduled lead vocals for 10am the next morning...

Then we'll get up too late to eat breakfast so we eat vending machine food and drink cokes for the energy we lack.

When we put together our musical project budget we do not factor in pre-production vocal lessons or a vocal producer, and we book as little studio time as possible to record our vocals (hey, most songs are less than 5 minutes long anyway, how long could it take?!)

We look great but the only vocal contest we could win would be something like the spot on Can You Duet where they needed something truly horrible for viewers to gasp at.

Clearly we need to examine our financial priorities. If you have a vocal career, your voice is your MAIN ASSET.
  • REASON NOT TO:
It would take too much time to make a real difference.
  • REBUTTAL:
The truth is, with a great coach, ONE HOUR-LONG LESSON can change your life.

If you can't take the time to come in for lessons because of traveling distance, work or family situations, you can train by vocal training materials available such as my Power, Path & Performance CDs. Even if you never take a lesson, by studying the right materials you can radically improve your vocal abilities. You can also take lessons by phone.
  • REASON NOT TO:
It will change my natural style.
  • REBUTTAL:
From Willie to Andrea, Colby to Carrie, Sting to Stevie, Bonnie to Allison, vocal training should only enhance natural sound and enable your best performance within your chosen style. With the right training...

The sound of your voice is more resonant, highs and lows not weak, strained or hollow, musically multidimensional and dynamic rather than sterile, numb, with everything sung in one color (even if it's a powerful color) eliciting no emotion. This, I believe is a reason American Idol winners seldom go on to any lasting, artistic success.

Your voice also records way better without having to be unduly compressed.

As to your Style: licks and embellishments are more fluid, precise and easy (and actually possible!), ceiling and floor: highs are not strained, lows are not hollow. You voice doesn't crack unless you're yodeling on purpose.

You should not be able to hear 'vocal training' in a performance... only an emotionally connecting delivery of the material. When a voice is straining, the audience experiences the strain. When you are thin, weak, harsh, tight, hooty, your 'natural voice' has unnatural and unnecessary limitations.
  • REASON NOT TO:
If people find out, they will think I have vocal problems.
  • REBUTTAL:
To protect their investment, I know it's been the policy of some major labels to have new artists get their cords scoped at medical facilities specializing in voice, such as the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic in Nashville, before they will sign them. They consider vocal study evidence of the seriousness of the artist towards their craft.

I get clients from referrals of industry insiders all the time. The 'anti' has been 'upped' as to the general vocal quality required for true commercial success. Vocal training is now the norm instead of the exception for professional working voices. My students are proud of their dedication and have talked about their vocal training in public on many occasions. It's not something to hide under a rock any more.
  • REASON NOT TO:
My producer/friend doesn't think I need a vocal coach.
  • REBUTTAL:
Most people have no idea how much better a voice can be with training. Vocal ability can be increased dramatically, vocal 'issues' like pitch, tone, control, range, volume, etc. can be dealt with successfully. Hearing the resulting final vocals can truly convert the cynical.

There is also the matter of protecting your most important musical asset from harm!

Have you ever heard of a singer losing his or her career because they lost their voice? One of my student's producers once told him at a frustrating vocal session that he didn't think the artist's voice would ever come back. Now there's a real boost to the confidence! This producer should have sent the artist directly to the best vocal coach he could find. Another young girl's handlers told her mother that her husky young voice was just 'natural for her'! I sent her to Vanderbilt Voice Clinic where she was put on voice rest for a month and told not to sing for a year.

It doesn't take long for the beginnings of damage to occur. This is sobering: you can get the first signs of nodes from just 20 minutes of screaming. The sooner vocal damage is discovered and dealt with, the more likely it can be healed with corrective vocal training instead of surgery or extended, career-interrupting voice rest.

Surprising to almost everyone, with correct vocal training, a voice NEVER has to become strained, baring laryngitis caused by a respiratory infection.

Many times an artist who has done a lot of live performance needs help getting the magic of their live vocals into their studio vocals. It's easy to hit the talk-back button in the control room and tell a singer "give it more passion on this pass", "you're out of tune", "your voice is sounding thin and weak", "I don't believe you yet", etc. The poor singer can be left emotionally, physically and vocally exhausted and experience a loss of confidence. An in-studio vocal coach, also called a vocal producer or consultant, can help even a modestly talented singer get amazingly effective vocals in the studio... and can help a great vocalist maximize studio vocals for commercial hit potential.

If you truly can't afford a vocal producer or consultant, or if your producer's ego would be crushed, at least grab a lesson or two before you go into the studio.
  • REASON NOT TO:
I'm just a songwriter... or I've already screwed my voice up to badly... or I'm too old to learn new tricks.
  • REBUTTAL:
When your vocal ability increases, you write better songs. The melodies are more interesting, you can focus on better lyrics because it feels good to sing.

As to veteran singers learning something new... I'd already been singing professionally for about 13 years. I got sick and lost 1 & 1/2 octaves. Re-training my voice with Italian Art Songs and then pro coach Gerald Arthur, I got it all back and then some, and then I went on to have a hit career as a recording artist.
  • REASON NOT TO:
I don't want to sing. I'm a speaker/actor/teacher/preacher/teleseminar host, not a singer.
  • REBUTTAL:
You're using the same voice people sing with!

If you experience vocal fatigue after speaking you need to know that a little vocal training could really help. I've worked with public speakers, preachers, acting coaches and teachers who talk all day... now they never feel strain.
  • REASON NOT TO:
I'm as good vocally as I want or need to be in my life, and I'm not experiencing any strain that bothers me.
  • REBUTTAL:
I have none. This is the only legitimate reason I can think of!

What are YOUR reasons?

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3 Comments :

  • At February 19, 2009 at 11:52 AM , Blogger Leigh Ann, MyFamilyDoctor Mag said...

    Wow. These are great arguments.

    My other reasons: It's fun and, with the right teacher, it can send your confidence soaring.

    It's always interesting to hear a famous person is on vocal rest because of vocal cord damage.

     
  • At February 19, 2009 at 4:38 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    So true Leigh Ann. The voice is so much a part of the psyche... when it is feeling bad, so is the person, and when it's feeling good, the person can fly. I love it!

     
  • At February 21, 2009 at 10:26 AM , Blogger Phil Bennett said...

    I am in total agreement here. I had several vocal sessions about 15 years ago and I still use those techniques today. It truly changed my life, expecially the breathing exercises. They were worth their weight in gold.

    Judy, thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog. I appreciate it greatly.

    Bless you today,

    Phil

     

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