Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: June 2014

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.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is My Vocal Coach Wrong?



OK so it happens. Experts disagree. When it comes to vocal technique, how do you know if what you've been told is right?

First, here are three reasons voice experts may tell you different things:

  1. There is more than one way to help you do deal with that vocal issue.
  2. There is more than one way to explain the corrective technique, creating the perception that you are getting conflicting advice when you are not.
  3. One (or both) the 'experts' are wrong!

Here are two reasons the right vocal training might not work: 

  1. You are not understanding the technique being suggested, or you're not  applying it correctly. This can be a communication problem between you and the vocal coach; be sure to let the coach know you're not getting it so the teacher can try a different approach. Remember... the only dumb question is the one you don't ask!
  2. The goals of teacher and student may not be the same. For instance, classical and contemporary training will lead to different ends. Both of you should agree on vocal goals.
  3. You don't practice the new techniques! (mm hmm, you know who you are:)

Here are three signs you are getting the wrong, or unproductive, vocal training:

  1. The techniques suggested do not correct your vocal issues.
  2. The training does not help you sing the material you want to sing. (See my prior post about trusting a coach on this)
  3. The techniques cause your voice to feel strained. Don't mistake good vocal stretching for straining. Challenging your voice with good technique will improve your voice, straining can hurt it!

What to do if you think the vocal coach is wrong:

  1. Discuss it with him or her. A good teacher welcomes a student's feedback so the right approach/technique can be found. I know I have grown through the years as a vocal coach from the feedback of my students, and the resulting research I did. Vocal training is a team sport - your coach needs your input!
  2. If it doesn't help to discuss it, you must find another vocal coach. If you can't find a good one in your area, try Skype vocal lessons.

Bottom line: Correct vocal training will deliver these results:

  1. Your vocal ability will increase. It will be easier to sing. 
  2. Your voice will sound better. You'll start to get more positive feedback from listeners.
  3. Your vocal issues and limitations should diminish. 
  4. As long as you are using correct vocal technique, you should never strain your voice!
What about you? Have you ever run into conflicting vocal advice? What did you do about it?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vocal Scooping- How To Get This Style Trick Right


Scooping a note is a style thing. It's like salt, though... a little goes a long way and a lot can hurt you in many ways!

First: Why do we scoop notes?
  1.  For style purposes. Certain genres are by nature 'scoopier' than others.
  2. To help reach a note. Yep. Admit it.
How to tell you scoop too much (too often, too deeply) when you sing:
  1. Your listeners get seasick.
  2. Your producer gets agitated.
  3. Your pitch swims like a warped record (lps, you know... 'vinyl').
  4. Your pitch is sliding around so badly the tuner pulls it to the wrong note.
  5. The actual melody is lost in the peaks and valleys of scoops.
  6. You can't keep up with the drummer because the time it takes to scoop is weighing you down.
What to do about it:
  1. This may fry your brain so be patient: Take some quality time and practice singing with NO... and I mean NOT ONE... scoops. Try singing your songs completely straight, sort of like a formal choir style version. You may need a coach to help you know whether or not you scoop a note. Scoops are vocal quirks that get memorized pretty easily and become almost subconscious. You may be shocked to find out how many scoops you did during a song or even just a phrase.
  2. Practice bouncing scoops up quickly instead of sliding interminably (and usually inaccurately). Try to scoop weightlessly from 1/2 step or less under, rather than a whole step which would be like trying to get up from a plush, deep couch.
  3. Your voice will now have options. Try singing again, experimenting with and without scoops here and there.
  4. Have enough good vocal technique to be able to control your voice. That way you can avoid the deadly scoop that stays down too long to ever get up! And you can actually make style choices.. because you ... can!
Hit me up for a vocal lesson (in office, Skype, phone) if you need help.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Songwriter Vocal Strain: Hazards of Singing While Writing Songs


Unless the song is an instrumental, the act of songwriting requires a lot of singing during the creative process. Many times your passion for the piece will take you the extremes of your vocal range. If you are a songwriter or co-writer who creates melody lines, you may have experienced vocal fatigue while writing. It's not usually imminently dangerous for your voice as long as you have good recovery time the next day, but if your voice is important to you, why risk more vocal strain than you have to? And if you write a lot... you could be heading for some chronic vocal issues.

Causes of Songwriter Voice Strain:

1. You haven't memorized the 'dance of the melody' yet. But of course... you're in the act of creating the melodic structure! When the song is finished, with good vocal technique you will memorize the body and facial language that will enable you to set up, support and follow through for the high notes, vocal licks, loud passages, sustains you intend to use.
  • Tip: Don't sing full voice until the melody starts to really take shape and you can start to anticipate and pull for those voice-stretching sections. Even when the melody is established, as you continue writing lyrics for the next verse, etc, don't sing full voice every time you sing the song. Test a section, yes... but then save your voice for the worktape!
2.  You are typically in a terrible posture. 'Thinking voice' does not trigger the same body language as 'performance voice' ... and of course you're thinking about the unfinished song.
  • Tip: Get in the habit of sitting or standing with a straighter upper spine. Learn to 'pull' instead of push your voice to minimize vocal cord stress from breath pressure... even when you aren't singing full voice. Don't whisper... just use clear, bell-like tone.
3. You don't have good vocal technique in the first place.
  • Tip: Take a vocal lesson! There are many reasons songwriters would do well to train the the voice: writing better melodies because you can actually sing them, performing songs out to expose them to industry, recording your own demos or at least good worktapes.
4. You forgot you have a physical body. You are either having a great time digging into a song that's well-worth it, or you having a difficult time figuring out the perfect bridge. Your voice depends greatly on your physical stamina! 
  • Tip: Make sure you eat and hydrate before a writing session. If you can, do some physical exercise, too. Prepare for a great session by bringing water, protein-rich snacks and a plan to break for a meal.  If your voice is a bit irritated for any reason, bring a can of Dole's pineapple juice and add a little to your water as you sing.
 What about you? Ever experienced vocal strain while songwriting? What did you do?

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