Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: April 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.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pro singers: 9 Crazy Vocal Exercises To Sharpen Skills

Now available as mp3: Listen to this post via "All Things Vocal Podcast"  or on iTunes!

OK, maybe I shouldn't have said "sharpen", lol! But we all need to hone our craft. Here are some fun things you can do to challenge the professional voice.
  1. Sing the melody to a familiar song in a different mode... if it's normally sung in a major key, flatten every third and fifth of the chord and sing the whole thing in a minor key. Or if it's normally sung in a minor mode, sing it in a major one!
  2. Sing 7 consecutive notes in whole steps (so starting at C it would be C,D,E,F#,G#,A#,C)
  3. Sing some melody with music, but sing it exactly 1/2 step off (sharp or flat.). I've driven people crazy with this one:)
  4. Write down a random series of numbers or letters. Then try to sing them. My vocal coach Gerald Arthur used to try and stump me calling out patterns like 1-3-7-13-2-4-8-5-1.
  5. Using a simple melody, create and sing at least 3 different harmony patterns that would work, then name the genres they would probably fit. (Example, for "three blind mice" in the key of C (which would be 3-2-1 or EDC) you could sing 5-4-3 (GFE), 5-5-3 (GGE), 6-5-3 (AGE) or a counter-melody like 1-6-5 (CAG)
  6. Create staccato scales (such as 1-3-5-8-10-8-5-3-1) and try to hit the pitch of the short stabs with dead center accuracy.
  7. If you're fluent with manuscript, try turning some letters into numbers, ala the Nashville number system. Tonic is 1, subdominant is 4, dominant is 5, octave is 8, figure it out from there. If you're fluent with reading numbers, try translating them into letters! 
  8. Try matching a difficult "scat", or try matching pitch, rhythm, tone and articulation of a singer who sings in the cracks of all those attributes. Hey, some of those singers are major artists!
  9. Sing a part you're not usually given. If you're usually singing low, sing high and vice versa. Definitely practice singing harder-to-hear middle harmonies.
 OK... anyone got some other stump-the-pro exercises? How did you do with some of these?

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Location change for Indie Connect meeting "...Vocals In The Studio"

Heads up... I'm giving my speech on singing in the studio at the Nashville "Indie Connect" meeting in the morning (Sat April 17th) and the location has moved. If you're coming, here is the info:

This week's Saturday meeting location has been changed. The NEW LOCATION is:
Tin Roof
1516 Demonbreun St.
Nashville TN
(5-6 doors down from the Red Rooster)
Cost: $10.00
Indie Connect Members: $5.00
"Getting The Most Out Of Your Vocals In The Studio" with Judy Rodman

Synopsis:
Have you ever had trouble capturing your best vocal sound or the true emotion of your vocals in the studio? Have you ever felt that you're just not 'nailing it' like you do when you sing live? Veteran vocal coach and sought after vocal producer, Judy Rodman, will give you dozens of tips and tricks for getting the most out of every single vocal track!
Note: This workshop is important for producers and engineers as well as singers.
Bring questions and a notebook, come and network with others... See ya there!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Soft Palate Stuck? Check The Jaw

A quick tip today for a common vocal problem... if you can't accomplish your "sweet spot sound" on a sustained note, there's a strong possibility your soft palate is not lifting enough. If that's the case... check to see if you're freezing your jaw as you hold the note. Drop jaw tension, allowing a subtle drop and/or swing of the jaw, and the soft palate will let go, too.

Happy sustaining!

NEW: Now you can listen to this post via audio file on "All Things Vocal" Podcast. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. The audio on my previous post is already showing up at iTunes. In your iTunes, just search for "Judy Rodman All Things Vocal" and consider subscribing, especially if you like to listen on your iPod or mp3 player. Also... please rate if you like it:) Thanks!

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Regaining Voice After Time Off From Singing

I have had many singers come to me wondering if it was possible to get their voices back after not singing much... sometimes not performing for years. In short... unless you have some organic damage or disease, and most of the time even then... you can indeed recover your voice. Whether it's been a few weeks, months or even years, with proper training you could end up with more vocal ability than you ever had!

CASE STUDIES (these are some of my actual experiences with clients)
  • A young country artist abused his voice terribly until he lost it... and his career. He didn't perform hardly at all for four years, then felt the renewed passion to see if it was possible. After some intensive re-training, he's now back on the road with a great new- and vocally incredible- album. 
The focus in his lessons was to concentrate on relaxing his deeply tenacious tension in his body and his vocal apparatus. We also worked on his mental state, getting fear, dread and counterproductive striving under control. As befitting Power, Path & Performance training, he regained his breath support and control, opened his throat and was able to get his performance concentrated back on his audience through his songs, rather than on how hard it would be to hit his high notes.
  • A veteran gospel singer and recording artist had stopped singing due to such vocal strain that one of her vocal cords had a degree of paralysis. After re-training, she joyfully sings whenever she wants, both in live performance and in studio, and now teaches others what she has learned. 
What we did was to work on transferring the tension she held in her throat, neck and shoulders to her pelvic floor, where she learned to power from. This freed her throat, and also eventually freed her mind from fear.
  • An actress and singer came to me after being told that she was too old to sing well anymore. After one Power, Path & Performance lesson, she was hitting her highest notes with as much ease as she ever had!
What I did was to convince her (by helping her accomplish those notes) that it was indeed not true that her age affected her vocal ability. Actually, the reverse can be true... as long as you are otherwise healthy, I find that the hardening of the various cartilages comprising the voice box allows even more sonorous tones... much like well-cared for older guitars and pianos can outplay the shiny new ones. In her new confidence she took on a body language that enabled better breath support/control, an open throat channel and a focused ability to engage her audience with her songs.
  • A middle aged rock singer came to me with a tight, thin, uncontrolled screaming voice that didn't make his throat feel very good and wasn't pleasant to hear. He has now successfully recorded several songs, is regularly playing out and has an incredible, controlled and emotionally compelling vocal delivery.
I started changing his posture right away. He had been working hard in another profession requiring him to bend over a lot, but his heart needed to sing, and sing rock. We enlisted an Alexander technique practitioner to scope out the subtle sources of tension he tended to hold in his neck and shoulders, and then we explored how to make those rock sounds without vocal strain. He is having a ball and gaining a following!
  • And the last case study is about my own voice. I don't perform live regularly, though I teach and sing in the studio all the time. I find that I have to do the following things to be in my best voice for live concert. (Recording artists resting between tours or needing to get back into the studio... take special note) --
   **** Pay special attention to health! 
I up my hydration, nutrition, sleep and exercise, and try to limit stress... sometimes limiting my work schedule.   
   **** Do my own vocal exercises!
Even when demonstrate vocal exercises for my students, they do most of the vocalizing. My own voice needs to do full sets of various scales and exercises. Sometimes I find I need to exercise longer if the pollen count is high or if I'm feeling a bit sluggish or notice any thickness in my cords.
   **** Sing full voice! I find it imperative to sing at full volume at least as long as my gig... preferably twice as long. I do this every day at least 4 days and preferably two weeks before my gig.

Fyi, you can, of course, take Power, Path & Performance vocal lessons in person with me. You can also train with my vocal training courses, which are highly effective and are a way you can train your voice every day.

Now I'd love to hear from you... what experiences have you had with regaining your vocal ability after time off? What makes you think you may have "lost it"?

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Singers: Soft First Verses Need To Deliver Impact

I just worked with a singer who has been asked by her producer to sing the first verse of a song softly but not breathy. I think that's good direction, and a way to build a song. But she was having trouble knowing how to do it effectively.

Here's what worked for her and can work for you when you want to sing with a smaller dynamic.. first verse or breakdown 1/2 chorus are common places:

Sing everything with all of you! From your heels to your face... your whole being has to be involved.

You need to support and communicate the lightest places in your song as passionately and purposefully as the highest, longest, loudest notes. This works for all genres of music.

Think about it... do you want the audience to be lightly involved with the first verse? Or do you want to engage them from the start... making them understand something from your very first lyric? Here's a fact...if you don't engage them at the beginning, you'll likely loose them for the rest of the song, too!

Like a great athlete or violin player, even the smallest moves are deliberate and purposeful. If you just sing from your shoulders because the passage is not hard or you're trying for a quieter dynamic, you will not communicate. Don't tense your body, but do involve it. And pronounce your smallest lyrics as clearly as your loudest. Support (as Power, Path & Performance teaches -- without pushing) every note with breath.

Something to think about the next time you want to sing soft. Your comments are most welcome!

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