Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: September 2012

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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Performance Magic: The Power of Almost Losing Control

 Ready To Create Magic?

Performance is, or should be, an experience for your audience so powerful they lose themselves in it. If you add a little magic to your performance, you can really take the audience for a ride. I call it the 'illusion of almost losing control'.

Notice I say 'ALMOST' losing control. Think about it, we don't go to the circus to actually see someone fall to their death or get trampled by an elephant. We want to see the beauty of the impossible physical feat completed without a scrape. We don't really want to see NASCAR carnage - we want the driver to walk out of the car miraculously unscathed. But the real or perceived danger of the performance is definitely a draw.

For a singer, this edge of control/lost control should be COMPLETELY under the singer's control. What does it take?

1. Energy ... Vocal, mental and emotional stamina warmed up and ready to the nth degree. Always be able to do more than you will have to vocally accomplish.

2. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. Full voice, full band, practicing as close to performance situation as possible.

3. Confidence from experience, experience and more experience performing before an audience.

There is no shortcut around the above to this illusion of standing on the edge of space. When you pull it off, you can give your audience a gift good enough to spirit them away for the duration of your performance. And it is SOOOOO much fun!!!

What do you think? What performer do you performs this demanding, rehearsed, confident illusion best?

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Stance Secrets to Singing With Guitar

 Practicing my new stance

Singing with guitar can be helped or sabotaged by some subtle stance choices. I've been having to up my game due to my upcoming band showcase - I play guitar on a couple of our songs.

I was having trouble with buzzing strings, cramped hands and back, hurting shoulder and a tendency to forget lyrics because of too much mental distraction from my guitar playing issues. I ended up going to Gary Talley (guitar teacher), Dr. Dwaine Allison (my chiropractor) as well as consulting with band members Eric Normand (lead guitar) and my husband John Rodman (drums). You know I'm always doing research for you, so here are some tips I learned from them that pretty much fixed all those issues:

1. Gary Talley noticed two things.. that my hands were weak from not playing for years (I got complacent... playing guitar on keyboard settings). That has been cured by just DOING IT. He also noticed some chords that I could be making much easier, with fewer fingers and less motion necessary. Again... practicing will bring that home.

2. While rehearsing with me on afternoon, my husband John noticed my weird hand positions. Ergonomically- minded drummer that he is, he suggested I raise the neck of the guitar to make my hands less awkwardly positioned and cramped. OH MY GOSH... presto, so much easier to play! My chiropractor confirmed this wisdom.

3. Dr. Allison noticed that my back muscle tension below the right shoulder blade was due to my uneven shoulders while playing. He had me lower my left shoulder (on the neck side of my guitar) til it relaxed the muscle cramp I had been creating in my back. OH CHEEZBURGERS, THAT feels better!! He also suggested that I put one foot more forward to keep my head back so my chest stays open. (He's my guitar-playing vocal student, so he knows that I always advocate not crunching over a guitar so as not to tighten ribcage).

4. At rehearsal the other day, our fantastic lead guitarist Eric Normand suggested I get a bigger, padded shoulder strap. He also confirmed the different fingerings suggested by Gary. Also, since he is my vocal student, he confirmed that the tension he used to carry in his neck and the back of his head has gone away now that his stance is more voice friendly (ribcage open, head loosely bobbling over heels). I must practice what I preach to him:)

5. It's not enough to know intellectually... I really do have to practice these new stance tips. I have to practice enough - correctly - so I don't have to THINK about them when I'm on stage. When I sing and play, I have to be a singer playing, not a player singing. The voice comes first. And... when it does, I can remember my dang lyrics!

OK, what say ye singing guitar players... have any thoughts or suggestions? Please share!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Vocal Vibrato is Like Garlic


Vocal vibrato is like garlic... some songs/dishes call for more, some less. Sometimes you want artichoke garlic, sometimes elephant garlic - sometimes you want faster wave vibrato, sometimes slower. What you want in both the singer and the chef is... control!

Garlic aside, in my practical experience, these are the two most effective remedies for control of vibrato:

1. The diaphragm.

 You must enable the diaphragm to control itself so the air sent to your vocal cords is controlled (enabling breath control). The diaphragm works in conjunction with the automatic nervous system. What you can do for it consciously is to widen the base of your ribcage, giving it a good taught stretch. This helps it control the air bounce it sends upwards.

2. The mental intention.

Again.. the diaphragm is directed by the automatic nervous system. What you can consciously do is to fully intend a certain amount and speed of vibrato. Just 'think' it clearly... do you want to hold a tone straight? Want to start straight and end with a 'shimmer' of gentle vibrato? Start with vibrato, go straight and/or shimmer out at the end? Want a big wavy vibrato? Be proactive... INTEND what you want to do. This gives your automatic nervous system its marching orders.

Special note... you can sometimes reinforce your mental intention by looking at your hand moving up and down, at the speed you want your vibrato.

And btw, garlic is good for your voice!

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