Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: August 2010

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, August 31, 2010

17 Performance Tips I Learned The Hard Way

There is no substitute for experience. I've done every one of these things wrong... that's how I know what to tell YOU about giving a great performance... 
  1. Sing full voice when rehearsing/preparing for a gig, don't just do vocal exercises. You  have to have not just correct form, but also sheer vocal stamina to perform well.
  2. Wear shoes your feet feel great in. Your voice needs your feet.
  3. Don't point a mic at a speaker. That's a good way to make an instant enemy of your sound person.
  4. Start hydrating yourself early. Drink your water and water-mixes at least a day BEFORE the performance... don't wait til the morning of. Steam in a hot bath or shower to moisten your throat just before the gig.
  5. Be sure to warm up your voice for rehearsals as well as performance. Kind of dumb to trash your throat before your gig.
  6. Also do a warm down of your voice after the rehearsal or gig. This minimizes vocal cord swelling. A warm down is like a short version of the warm up, with a special focus on head voice exercises to re-lift a voice that's been singing a lot of chest voice.
  7. Don't talk to a lot of people before you perform. Find a quiet space to chill out and focus.
  8. Don't treat any performance as unimportant. It's a really bad habit to allow yourself 'less than' your best, and it could end up as the one gig where someone important hears you.
  9. Bring your own gear if at all possible. It bolsters confidence to play your own axe, which you've used so much it's like a part of your body.
  10. Rehearse your band or accompanying player or background singer(s)... or go it alone! Never leave it up to others to 'do the right thing' and know your stuff unless you've gone over it with them.
  11. Don't leave high notes to chance. Make sure you sound them at least once that day by rehearsing that place in the song before you go on, and you will be most likely to use the confident body language that will enable the notes in performance.
  12. Eat a simple, high protein meal a couple of hours before you sing. It's best not to perform on a swollen belly OR and empty one.
  13. Don't consume mucous-forming foods or drinks if you are scheduled for a performance. Watch this even days before the gig.
  14. Do a light physical workout the day of your gig, being especially careful not to strain your neck and shoulders.
  15. Double-check that you have everything. I once left every stitch of my performance clothes hanging over my bathtub. Another time I left my piano stand. Then there was the time I forgot what state the gig was in. Argh. 
  16. Always bring gaffer's tape. You won't believe what I've needed it for... everything from taping my set list down and my piano's sustain pedal so it doesn't slip around to using it to fix my bus's headlight.Oh... and engineer/producer Ronny Light reminds me to actually make it Gaffer's tape , not duct tape, so as not to leave adhesive all over stuff.
  17. Leave early... arrive much less stressed. Especially when that road, you know that one you always take... has been closed due to the football game. I re-learned that one last week:)  
So what have YOU learned along the way that you could share?

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Vocal Production" workshop at Indie Connect MONDAY!

This is a heads up to any of you singers near Nashville who are going into the studio. I am giving a workshop  for Indie Connect this coming Monday morning at 11:30 at Corkey's BBQ in Brentwood.

Title of the workshop: "Getting the Most out of Your Vocals in the Studio"

Details at website below.

Brentwood TN Lunch | Indie Connect

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gig at The Limelight tomorrow

Hey... just wanted those of you in Nashville to know that I'm playing the Layhew charity concert for homeless children at the Limelight this Saturday (August 28th).

I'm in a songwriter round starting 2:00pm. I'll be busy, of course, trying out things that make my voice work better... research to benefit you:)

Come see if I practice what I preach; this is for a worthy cause and is organized by people I trust.

Other acts performing for the event are listed on this playbill:

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vocalist: How Brave Are You?

Using your voice requires something you may not have considered: courage. Here is a list of questions to help you determine your level of courage.

Are you brave enough to:

1. ...commit to the connection to your audience?

This means you would actually "look em in the eye" so to speak -- not just go through the motions or hold back in an insecure, guarded stance -- but actually focus your communication like an icepick to MOVE them emotionally.

2. ...allow a real part of yourself to become known?

To effectively connect, your audience needs to be able to tell that you are really with them. This requires that you truly give them a glimpse of at least part of who you are. There is a time to guard yourself... being onstage is not one of those times. A consultation with a media expert or performance coach will help you determine what you will and will not expose about yourself to your audience. And a side note... you can keep part of "YOU" to yourself. The public does not own you or access to you at all times. They just deserve an honest part of you while you perform, if you want to reach them.

3. ...to let someone know you're having trouble?

If you are having vocal strain, stage fright, difficulty connecting or numbing out in performance, trouble hitting notes or controlling your voice, substance abuse or eating issues, there is help. In this competitive music business world, there is a temptation to hide all weaknesses, and indeed in some quarters you should do so. But you need to have safe places to get real, and friends/professionals to whom you can confide problems. Oh if only Elvis, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain et al had known this, we would still have them with us. And many other singers and speakers would not have fallen silent.

Real singing and public speaking is not for the squeamish.
But when you gather your courage, get problems fixed, commit, reveal and connect- it's a blast, believe me... and bungee jumping can't compare with that rush:)

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Techniques for Vocal "Licks"


Vocal embellishments, colloquially known as "vocal licks", can enhance or detract from a vocal performance.

When used correctly they:
  • Make the sound of the singing more interesting
  • Heighten emotional connection and response
  • Make the voice feel better, not worse, by throwing off tension.
When used incorrectly they:
  • Make the delivery of the song sound fake
  • Flatten emotional connection and response
  • Cause vocal strain just attempting them.
Here are some tips for doing them correctly:
  • Learn to support and control your breath pressure! Not enough - or too much - breath pressure will sabotage any vocal lick, because it will not allow the tiny controlled movements of the diaphragm which are necessary to power the vocal lick smoothly and accurately. 
  • Learn to use your hands, arms, other body parts to help accomplish licks.
  • Learn how letting your tongue base, jaw hinge and soft palate relax enough so they can make the automatic, fine, quick movements necessary for creating the licks. Learn to "pull off" air pressure for certain licks much like the guitar "pull off" technique.
  • Only do vocal licks where they 1. create interest/emotion in the language of your genre or 2. de-stress your cords. 
  • Get feedback from trusted source(s) about how your performance makes the listener FEEL.
  • Learn the typical types of vocal licks, and where/when they are put in songs, of other master singers in the musical genre you are interested in singing so you can 'speak the language'.
  • Practice "scat singing", a phrase that means just throwing some random vocal syllables around. Scat singing is typically performed over a song's instrumental, tag or fade, but here's Aretha scatting a whole song "One Note Samba"...
What has been your experience with vocal licks, embellishments, runs, flips, scats or whatever you call them?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mechanical Licenses for Selling Music

Understanding mechanical licenses is a complicated but vital information for all of us in the music business. I am going to do something out of the ordinary here... I'm going to point you to another blogpost I did on my Judy Rodman Productions website where I got into the details of the subject. So go here if you're interested in this subject. All comments welcome... let's bat it about, shall we?

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Your "One Thing" For Better Voice

I want to thank my friend, singer/songwriter Robert Anderson, for something he said in a phone conversation that has led to this blogpost. Robert is also a master of martial arts and one of my blog readers. He said that his method of digesting one of my posts is to apply a Bruce Lee principle of training is to...
 go for mastering 1%, not 100%
I thought about it and actually find this principle of simplicity to be a secret of effective vocal improvement. I would change the phrase a bit and call it...
"go for mastering 1 thing, not 100".

There is so very much that goes into the workings of all our vocal instruments. Teaching voice has really opened my eyes to "stuff that can go wrong". I feel like Sherlock Holmes especially at initial assessment lessons... I must sleuth out the sneaky weakest link culprits sabotaging the voice of my client. I also like to move people fast... increasing vocal ability as rapidly as possible. However... like a computer with too many programs open, the brain can only operate on so many levels without "freezing".

There is, as my students know, an incredible synergy to Power, Path and Performance vocal training. Applying the method correctly, if you get one vocal technique better, it will help improve others. I may give you more than one thing to think about at your lesson or in my cd courses, but as part of the training team you must ask yourself what helped the most? That's your one thing!

My job for you is to discover your most important one thing. Your job is to act with passion and persistence on re-training that one thing. That way we can get on with the next thing!

So what is your one thing? Here are some possibilities:
  • not enough breath
  • lack of breath control
  • pitch problems
  • pushing your sound
  • tight throat, jaw, lips, shoulders, neck, upper spine
  • holding a mic wrong
  • hanging your arms heavy
  • too much or too little articulation
  • performance numbness
  • physical illness
  • tense, stiff body language
  • inefficient nutrition, sleep or exercise
  • too much weight training of shoulders and neck
  • a bad back, upper or lower
  • fear
  • trying too hard
  • perfectionism
  • drug and alchohol addictions
  • smoking
  • stage fright
  • check the titles of my blogposts...I could go on and on and on and on:)
Tell me your one thing, or add one, in the comments... thx!

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