Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: September 2011

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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5 Tips for Breathing in the Vocal Booth

                                Jenny Cooke (of the duo "Jenny and Ashley") in the vocal booth

How you breathe in the vocal booth will determine your degree of vocal control- affecting pitch, tone, volume, vocal licks and your susceptibility to vocal strain. As is true for all singing, breath during vocal recording includes three areas that should be balanced and mastered:
  1. Inhale (air you are getting in)
  2. Breath Support (air you are sending through your vocal cords)
  3. Breath Control (air you are holding back from your vocal cords)
Unfortunately, the vocal booth is often one of the most frustrating places to get all three of these areas of breath technique right. Why? Because of your position, stance and body language at the mic.

You don't have to do three months of breathing exercises to make a huge difference in your singing breath. Try these things for an instant upgrade in your vocal booth breathing:
  1. Move the music stand so that you can place your feet closer in towards the mic, balancing your head over your tailbone or heel (same thing).
  2. Use your hands when you sing... do NOT hang them limply at your sides.
  3. Stand tall with a flexible spine
  4. Make sure the mic pop screen is placed a height that will not encourage you to lift or dip your chin.
  5. Pull, don't push, your voice for resonance power!
Did you find this useful? There are so many more things you can do to help you optimize your studio voice and conquer problems in the vocal booth. Check out the absolute ultimate resource you can get on studio singing at SingingInTheStudio.com.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Long Should You Warm Up Before Singing?

                                I'm warming Bridget Lappert up for a "We The People" performance

Doing vocal warmups is as vital before vocal performance as it is to an athlete before a game. How long should you do it?

... As long as it takes to be warmed up!

That means if you're singing regularly and in good physical and vocal shape, you should be great with about 10 minutes or even less of some wise vocal exercises (and yes, you should still do it). If however you are NOT in top shape or are waking up a little thick-corded, you could take as much as 30 to 45 minutes to be completely conditioned for singing.

Warm up smart... not hard. That means take it easy at first and don't push yourself til you've worked your cords a bit, then get more strenuous as your vocal cords tell you that they're ready. If you vocalize too hard at first you will experience a tighten up, not a warmup.

Also, please remember that when it comes to vocal exercise, form is everything!! If you do a great exercise with wrong form, it can actually hurt you instead of help.

OK... all ready? start with the bubble or trill..... hopefully you know the rest:)

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

How You Know If Your Performance Works

                               Fred Knoblock performing at JAM Pro Round, pic by Thom King

There's lots of us critics critiquing artists' performances these days. From American Idol and other talent show judges and audiences, choir directors, school teachers, industry insiders, family and friends, TV talking heads, radio DJ's, bloggers, mag news reporters and other media mavens as well as the random man/woman-on-the-street, there is no lack of opinion out there. So many opinions... sometimes diametrically opposed! Just think of the love/hate differences of opinion on a performing artist like Taylor Swift for goodness sake!

So how do you know if your performance works?

The answer is: If it gets you a favorable response from YOUR audience. Period.

Whether it's a recorded vocal or live performance, the best goal you can reach for is to do it in such a way as to reach the heart of your specific audience. You have to define that audience in order to achieve this. It could be...
  • The live audience observing your onstage performance
  • The internet audience by whom you're seeking to be found
  • The booking agent in the audience who YOU want to book you for his/her venue because you feel their venues' audience would be into who you are as an artist
  • The label rep in the audience who YOU want to sign you because they market to the audience who would be into who you are as an artist
  • The listeners to the specific type of radio show on which YOU want to be played because they reach the audience who would be into who you are as an artist.
It is totally counterproductive to try and get a favorable response from those who are NOT into who you are as an artist. Don't try to please...
  • the crowd that is not into who you are as an artist. (What does Taylor Swift care that diva lovers don't have a favorable response to her performances? What does Andrea Bocelli care that classical critics think he isn't legit enough? What does Bob Dylan care that... well, you get the picture:)
  • industry insiders who want to change the essence of your artistry. That doesn't mean you can't work towards a more commercial application of your work, but if your insides churn and wave the red flag, disregard their 'wisdom' and commit to your own calling.
  • a drunk audience or frantically worked up crowd. They might love or hate anything... but they won't remember you in the morning!
  • talent show judges. Make them feel something just as if they were your ideal audience... but don't try to please them because they are looking for magic that people-pleasing won't bring... or they have already chosen the winner anyway!
  • your producer, engineer or anyone in the recording control room to whom your lyric is not directed.
Your thoughts on the matter? Please hit the comment link...

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Power of Hydration for a Vocal Performance

Water is a voice's best friend!

From experience, I know there is a ton of difference in my vocal ability - in the sound as well as the feeling - if I am well hydrated or not. Here's how to get more water in your tissues for optimal operation of your voice:

1. Drink a lot of clean water BEFORE your performance. Actually, increase your intake of water DAYS before your performance. It takes time for the body to hydrate the tissues of your voice, because the water you drink will first go to other tissues more important for life. You can survive not singing, but not breathing, not having your heart beat or your brain work will prove quite a bit more problematic! So make sure your body has time to send water to create the right viscosity in the mucous membrane covering your vocal cords. That is where the initial vocal sound vibration is created.

2. Drink a lot of clean water before, during and after performance! I like to use glass or stainless steel bottles when possible because plastic can leech into the water. However, if you forget your bottle, drink from plastic- it's better than no water!

3. Steam your throat. A shower, a hot bath, a pot of water with a towel over your head... expose your throat and sinuses to steam and breaaaaaathhhheeee it in! I really have to do this after plane or car rides because the air is so drying in those environments.

4. Drink watery drinks, but limit black or even green tea because of the drying effects. I particularly like to diluted pineapple juice with water 4 parts water, 1 part juice). I also recommend something I call "fire water" which is water, lemon juice and ceyenne pepper.

Anyone else have success with something to hydrate your voice for performance?

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Conversation With ...Your Voice

Have you had a conversation with your voice? I know. Sounds funny. But let me give you a mental exercise that might reveal things to you and possibly increase your vocal health and ability.

You see, your voice is like a finely strung horse which runs on subtle instinct and honesty. Your conscious mind is like the rider or trainer... and your horse takes cues from what your conscious mind tells it to do. Maybe your "horse" needs to talk to you about your "riding skills".

I'm going to borrow a technique a client of mine learned from a great psychotherapist in Nashville named Tom Rutledge:
  • Place two chairs in a quiet place, facing each other.
  • Sit in one chair and imagine your voice sitting in the other.
  • Ask it what it wants. Questions like... How does it feel? What are it's complaints? Are you neglecting it? Are you abusing it? Are you belittling it or constantly putting it down? Are you not trusting it enough to use it? Imagine it replying, and really let it tell you it's truth.
Now ask yourself what you should be doing differently if you want your voice to do it's best. Let me know what you find out!

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