Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: February 2013

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, February 17, 2013

Singing Soft Powerfully - Make Light Phrases Zing!


 Singing soft doesn't have to mean communicating weakly. Getting this right can make the difference between a soft passage that no one pays attention to and one that subtly but surely sucks the air out of the room and demands attention!

First verses, breakdown choruses, light bridges, tags are some common places that can be more effective with softer dynamics. Confusing soft singing with meek, ineffective sound is actually something I hear all too often and is too important to leave uncorrected.  Here are some ways to get powerful emotional responses from soft singing:

Don't drop your voice off the map...

Good and interesting vocal dynamics require variety in volume intensity. However, level your intensity a bit... definitely back off loud notes, but also don't sing so soft or 'covered' (hollow, hooty) that you can't be heard, especially on low notes. Use tone variation -- communicate passion in all the notes and lyrics -- instead of huge volume swings. Your voice won't scare or lose your live performance listener, and it will also record much better.

Keep your articulation clear...

Lowering vocal volume shouldn't lower your clarity. You can whisper and still draw the ear to you if you make sure to make the words are understandable.

Use the power of hushed intensity...

This is something I learned as a jingle singer where everything we sang had to have memorable impact as well as surgical precision. Keep energy in your breath compression power source! Your soft tone needs to be supported and controlled. Singing soft is a kindred art to ballet, juggling, plate spinning, putting a golf ball... it looks so easy, but it takes real power to support the apparent effortlessness (quite the paradox, isn't it?)

Listen to playback

Put on the listener's hat. Do you hear yourself communicating or just keeping the message to yourself?

Remember: Soft singing is not for wimps! Come on... zing somebody!



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Monday, February 11, 2013

A Sneaky Source of Vocal Tension... Dehydration!

This is a quick post today. Just thought I'd share with you something besides wrong vocal technique that can cause vocal tension and strain. When you have this condition, it doesn't matter how right you sing, your voice will still get tired. I actually diagnosed this pesky source of vocal fatigue in one of my students just yesterday:

It's dehydration!

Even if you're just a little short of water, your vocal cords will suffer to some degree or another, because your body doesn't consider them as first priority for scarce h2o. You can read my article about hydration and the voice at the H2O Overdrive site.

So what do you do if you are in need of a quick fix (you don't have time to let your body absorb in the usual time-lag way the water you drink that your voice needs)? I have three suggestions:

1. Drink a diluted solution of 25% pineapple juice (a little can of Dole's will do) and 75% water. The pineapple juice has enzymes that make the throat feel wonderful.
2. Drink one of the products they sell at the H2O Overdrive site. These formulations really are fantastic. I like diluting mine with water, about half and half. I keep them on hand for my own performances.
3. Hydrate yourself through steam before your performance (shower, hot bath, warm air humidifier).

But the best thing of all to do is stay hydrated on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb I've heard from nutritionists is to take your weight, divide in half, that's the average ounces of water you should drink daily.

Think this fix is too simple to be that important?

Let me answer with old proverb... possibly dating in some form back to the first century:
"For The Want Of A Nail"
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
My paraphrase would end with the line:
"For the want of water the voice was lost." Word to the wise:)

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