Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: February 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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Singing While Seated: 5 Things You Need To Do

Got a great question in this morning about singing while you are seated. This is the reality when doing certain singer/songwriter rounds, parts of performances where for looks you want to change from standing to sitting for a song, or when you are physically incapacitated from back, leg or other pain and can't stand without it hurting you, and when your recording equipment configuration requires sitting. Yes, you can do this... but if you want to sing with good breath support and control, and also keep your throat open, you need to do the following:

1. Don't slump in your chair.
Sit on the front edge of the seat with one foot more forward to balance you securely as you sit tall. When you "go" for something, press your rump into the seat, and your forward foot into the ground. This should allow your spine to stretch freely and flexibly.

2. Make sure your upper back stays stretched and flexible.
Don't let the curve of your spine slump, and don't freeze in place, either.

3.. Be sure your head is balanced over your tailbone, chin down and floating.
It's "smooch de morte" (kiss of death) if you let your face drift forward while singing. If you do move forward, do it from your hips, not your shoulders.

4. Use your eyes.
"Talk" with your face just as expressively as you would standing.

5. Use your hands.
"Talk" with your hands. If you are holding a mic, make sure you do that correctly. (Another post soon about that.) Those of you who read this blog or are my "Power, Path & Performance" vocal students know that I caution against letting arms become "rib anchors".

Try these things and let me know how you do... your comments always welcome!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Singing High Notes: 3 Quick Fixes To Make Them Easy

Straining and squeaking on high notes is a common malady for singers. Here are a couple of tips to rescue you from high note frustration. They not only can make your high notes doable... but also sound better:

1. Stand tall with flexible upper spine
...instead of crunched, shoulders up, neck tight, upper spine stiff.
This will help you control your breath instead of pound it against your cords.

2. Move your head slightly back, chin level.
...This will open your throat channel.

3. Drop and move your jaw.
...Try a slight chewing motion as you hit and hold the note.
This can cause a huge difference because it allows the soft palate to lift.

Squeaking is for mouses. (Mice?) Let me know how this works for you.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

11 Things You Don't Think Your Voice Can Do (It Can!)

I have the most wonderful job. I get to hear miracles take place with people's voices. These breakthroughs happen because of the team of teacher and student.  It takes both, as any good teacher knows. Just this week a happy Power, Path & Performance vocal student told me she wished everyone knew what was possible. So I told her I'd do a blogpost on it.

Here are 13 of the many surprising things your voice could do:

1. You can learn to sing without vocal strain. This blows some people away to realize.

2. You can learn to sing on pitch. Most of the time it's not even your ear that's the problem, but if it is, it's amazing what a little pitch practice can do.

3. You have more vocal range than you imagine. You can sing higher in chest voice, without strain, when you learn to use mixed or middle voice to do it. You can also sing lower than you think. You enable low notes just like you do high notes... by stretching, not crunching.

4. Your voice is capable of richer, more interesting tone than you think is natural to you. You find your full resonance by learning to open your 'voice cave' so that the vibrations from your larynx can reach all your resonators.

5. You can learn new vocal licks, and learn to use them appropriately to reach the heart of your audience instead of sounding fake. There are tricks good vocal teachers know to help you.

6. Even if you have breathing issues, you can have enough breath to sing. It doesn't take much when you do it right.You can sing long notes without running out of breath. The answer is to balance breath support and control.

7. Your voice can get better with age. As long as your physical health is good, you can find even more resonance and ability, not less, as you get older.

8. You can learn to sing in the studio with the magic you get in live performance. You can also learn to sing live as well as you record, if you are a veteran session singer. Performance coaches can do wonders!

9. You have all the voice you need to deliver a message in any style except classical, if you just know how to "play your instrument". (Don't you know a singer whose technique is lacking but whose voice moves you?)

10. You can sing "ee" and "oo" vowels (and all other ones, too) on high pitches without getting tight. You learn to modify the vowels more openly and vertically and no more squeaky highs!

10. You can get a handle on numbness and stage anxiety when you learn the psychological and body language secrets of making your performance about your audience, not you.

11. You can learn to speak more effectively...without vocal fatigue or strain. The lack of strain in the speaking voice can be life-changing for public speakers and teachers, but benefits your singing voice as well.

12. You can mend frustrating vocal breaks. I used to have the worst "break" I'd ever heard of. I conquered it and now I know how to help others do the same.

13. You can afford to train your voice. Even one Power, Path and Performance vocal lesson can help you. You can get PPP training materials online and have a vocal lesson every day if you want!

So... I'd like to hear from you. What do you think your voice can't do?

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pop Style Trick: Suspend Vocal Technique Momentarily

Some of the most amazing AND emotionally powerful contemporary vocalists out there have something in their bag of tricks you'd never guess could come from a trained singer. This pro trick is an illusion... the singer temporarily suspends and deliberately drops "vocal technique" out of their performance, giving the sense of quite casual and intimate conversation.

Like most illusions and abstract art, this trick can be poorly or expertly performed. And also like an magician or painter, the real genius is in the mastery of their control... in this case, vocal control. Again: It takes great vocal control to suspend support with complete control of how much and when... and when to bring support and power back in.

Check out this example of de-constructing technique from Cassandra Kubinski, an artist I consider an expert in the technique. Notice that you can still understand her even when she "unsupports".
Here's another video, this time a co-write with me.  singing "Still Breathing".

This is a great way to deliver lyrics with authentic emotion, and not just "sing". I consider it an important skill to master for many contemporary styles of singing.

What about you... do you do this? Do you do it deliberately?

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