Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: June 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, June 29, 2011

Last Minute Vocal Performance? How To Get Ready

I got a call yesterday to do fill in for a last minute vocal performance on a TV show (Nashville Late Night with Chris Golden). I'd had to travel out of town on the weekend and had given two vocal seminars yesterday... had been up since 5:30am. For me, usually all that would leave me too energy drained to do an important vocal performance well. Here's how I got through:

Food:
I ate a good lunch! (I often do not... what a difference a little protein can make and man was I lucky I'd done it before they called that afternoon).

Vocal technique:
I had used my PPP vocal training method with my speaking voice all day. This way, I actually had exercised my voice instead of trashing it. Lucky!

Water:
I hydrated like crazy... used the H2O Overdrive product that I find very helpful.

Positive Attitude:
I had a good suggestion offered to me by my brother Billy Devereaux, who said that I need to just know and believe that I could do it. Amazing how psychology can have a huge part in what we are capable of accomplishing... thanks, bro! (My husband seconded you).

Quick Rehearsal:
I did a vocal warmup and before I left the house, I sang the song I'd chosen to know I could hit the highs.   That helped immensely with the 'believing I could do it' part!

Angel Friend:
I was blessed with a fellow recording artist (Lyndsey Davis of "Summertown") who happens to be an expert in cosmetics and did my makeup and hair. With only a couple of hours to gather myself, choose songs and send pics and get tracks, I will never forget the kindness of some help... and she knew how to minimize bags under the eyes (ok it's a girl thing maybe?).

Any of you have experience with quick-readiness for unexpected gigs? Share!

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quick Tip For Low Notes

Hey all... I have a quick instant vocal lesson fix for low notes today:

Stretch your torso out. Don't collapse your chest like most people do when going for a low note. Pull your note from above and behind.

That's it!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Suspect Vocal Damage? Vital Tips

This morning I got a call from a friend who is singing background vocals touring with a major recording artist. She casually mentioned that she suspected she had a blister on her vocal cords. I gave her some advice that I will pass on to you here:

First and formost, if you think you have vocal damage, make a doctor's appointment at a voice clinic. Here in Nashville, we have the Vanderbilt Voice Center available. At the very least, consult a vocal coach who knows how to assess your voice.

Ok, that said, here are some things you need to do if you suspect vocal damage of any kind:

1. Honor the first rule of holes: If you're in one, stop digging! If you have swollen or damaged vocal cords, stop using your voice!

Voice rest is the best thing you can do for a compromised voice. Don't say a single word that is not absolutely necessary for you to utter. I like what Vandy Voice Clinic told one of my clients... spend your speaking voice like money... and I would say like large bills. If you have the option of taking a quiet day and writing instead of talking to communicate, do so.


2. Hydrate! 

Wounded vocal cords desperately need moisture. Drink water throughout the day. Drink diluted pineapple juice to soothe your throat if you have to use your voice. Steam also can hydrate from the outside... a hot shower or humidifier or even a pan of hot water you put your head over and inhale will work.

3. Take the pressure off your voice!

Back off the amount of push you are applying to your poor vocal cords. You must balance breath support (air coming at your cords) with breath control (air being withheld from your cords) and use compression breath instead of air force gale! Learn the fine art of pulling instead of pushing your voice (taught in Power, Path and Performance vocal training). Here's a good imagery... imagine that you don't want to leave a breath mark on a glass plane right in front of your mouth. Also... rock teacher Jamie Vendera calls it the "inhalation sensation". You are of course exhaling when you make a vocal sound, but if you do it right you will almost feel like you're inhaling.

OK, this should help you. But as I said in the beginning, if you suspect real vocal damage, consult a doctor who deals with singers.

Take care of your cords... they are very small and the only ones you will ever have.

Any questions? I'll be happy to answer.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Performance Power Is In The Draw- Not The Push


We all want our performances to be powerful. But just what does that mean? It better mean that you powerfully connect with -- and emotionally impact -- the heart of your audience.

Top mistakes which sabotage your performance power:
  • Singing too loud 
Oh my, this is a big one. I've actually seen most of the audience get up and leave because someone is blasting them with volume... and the performer actually then sang louder under the mistaken impression that this would help him gain the audience back!

Even screaming rockers should never push 100% of air pressure when singing. Pull a scream instead... it will be more powerful! In fact, you actually sound bigger with more resonance from breath control that sends vocal sound through an open throat, not 100% air pressure pushing through your vocal cords.

Your vocal volume should draw audiences into your performance, not push them away.  Read the room... are people's ears bleeding? (and maybe your throat, too?) Back off the pressure (and add passion)!
  • Singing too long
Forget fairness. If you have to cut your show short because the evening is going too long (which happens at many multi-performer events), do so! Make a great impression not only on your tired audience, but also the sound crew and the host that invited you. Not fair that you have to cut your time? Suck it up. Draw attention to yourself by leaving them wanting more... not less!

Caution: While you are on stage, don't apologize. Confidently occupy the stage for the time you're there... and then get off leaving them wandering what just wonderfully hit them.
  • Talking too much
OK, people in the audience don't care about what you have to say unless it  entertains them. Accept that fact and you'll be a much better judge of what to say and how long to go on with your story. Yes, if time allows it is often good to give people a personal glimpse into you and your music by talking to them between songs. But if you bore... they may head for the door.

Again... read the room and the reaction to what you're saying. Tell them only what would draw them in-- not just what you want them to know.  

Caution: Do not talk too fast, do give pauses so the audience can absorb what you're saying... but spend your words like big money and keep it short!
  • Using the wrong body language
If you are in a small venue, don't use pushy, showy body language. If you're in a large venue, occupy the space and open your body language up. It's like the difference between film and theater... gesture size needs to depend on venue size and characteristics.

And don't point at people! Talk about pushing... how do you like a finger in your face? Draw your audience in skillfully with body language and gestures appropriate to the venue, the occasion, and your genre of music.
  • Being negative 
In general... consider the stage a no-whine zone! Reality check... Your audience doesn't care that your significant other dumped you last month or that the record industry dissed you or that you're having a hard life. Your job is to take care of THEM, not ask them to take care of YOU.

Yes, it can connect you to them by revealing a hard fact about your life, but always spin it positively. People are drawn towards the light, and music is at it's most powerful when it makes the world a better place.

Even if you speak to the ills of the world (some of the post powerful kinds of music teaches and warns) - make your performance cause the audience to think about what they can do about the problem instead of plunging them into hopelessness.
  • Underarticulating
This is one of my personal pet peeves. It's like stealing a song from me when I can almost make out a few lyrics to an otherwise compelling musical performance. You can't draw a listener in nearly as well with nonsense syllables as you can with clarity of diction.

Genre needs to dictate diction, yes, but even the slurriest genres need to be understood. Don't over do it... just make your communication clear. If you're lyrics aren't strong enough to draw people in, choose another song:)
  • Forgetting to be generous
When we perform, it should be an act of grace. If your audience perceives a spirit of generosity in the person to whom they are listening, they will be drawn in. If on the other hand there is a stinginess perceived it will push people away faster than anything I know.

Share the glory with others. Where time allows, thank people... side musicians, co-artists, hosts, support people and servers at your venue. When time does not allow, do something to communicate gratitude to your audience. Take a pause to acknowledge applause. Don't 'diss' their gift back to you by immediately turning your back to them after each song.

OK did I miss something? In your own role as audience, what did you experience that drew you in or pushed you away from a performance? Got links to performances that you consider particularly powerful? Your comments welcome!

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Physical workouts and Vocal Problems


OK friends... another good question in my email this week concerning physical training and vocal issues... thought I'd share that conversation with you:

Question:
Hello Judy. I'm a classical tenor who's training at The Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. During this year, I've been experiencing a lot of trouble with my voice due to some stress and anxiety. I'm hitting the gym and finding that I'm vocally tired when I do a session there. As a result, I have not had a natural falsetto, which I wouldn't use a lot but it's standard to have one as a male singer any way. I feel very dried out a lot of the time and I'm horse a lot too lately. My energy decreases very quickly when I sing and I can't pinpoint what's wrong. Any tips on what I should do?
My answer:

I’m glad you are recognizing trouble. If your falsetto is leaving you then your vocal cords must be swollen. One thing you must do is avoid closing your glottis in a grunt when you work out. This can be very stressful to your cords. Do not try to sing after strenuous workout. Also… maybe lighten up on any weight training, especially for your shoulders. Get those too tight and you’re in trouble. Pay attention to doing good stretches before and after workout.

You are obviously dehydrated, so lots of water is in order of course, but you can add some pineapple juice to your water for a soothing drink for your throat. Dilute the drink 1/3 pineapple and 2/3 water.

You might invest in a good massage to alleviate your stressed and tense muscles. Also make sure you’re getting enough sleep and that your diet is good.

I would suggest you get my 5 page report on vocal health, available with signing up to my newsletter at my website. There are lots of tips there you could probably use.

Don’t underestimate the value of getting your head voice (falsetto) back. You simply must do this, and you won’t do it until cord swelling goes down. If you still have trouble, get yourself to a voice clinic and get scoped.

Make sure your posture is correct when singing; head balanced over your heels. DO NOT PUSH your voice when it feels strain or fatigue. Be sure and warm up before… and warm down after … rehearsing, vocalizing or singing.
Hope this is of benefit to others... it is very important to stay physically fit but as in most of life, moderation is the key to keep physical fitness from sabotaging voice!

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