Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: January 2017

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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

This Is Why Your Voice is Trashed. Really. 10 things to Stop!

The words 'trash' and 'voice' don't belong together!

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
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How does your voice feel today? Is it gunky? Limited? Tired? Trashed? Or does it feel Normal, Better than yesterday, or Fantastic... like you could sing anything you wanted to? Asking that question is the first step to getting your voice in great shape, because as I often tell my students:
...the first step to Change is Awareness.
Let me assure you from my experience with my and other's voices, and it may surprise you: you never have to trash your voice! It is my firm belief that
...all vocal strain and damage, barring actual organic illness, is preventable.
So, if your voice has been getting tired, trashed or God forbid, damaged - it's time to get serious and find out why. Check yourself with the following list. Consider every checkmark a big reveal.

1. Sing on laryngitis

I did this once. Lost my voice for 3 weeks! But it was a national spot for some beer company and it paid thousands, and there was to be no rescheduling of the session.  If that's the case, go for it. But if you think you'll need to speak or sing anytime in the foreseeable future, if you have laryngitis - zip it.

2. Pay no attention to the weather

Are you going to have to sing in the vocal cord-dehydrating air of Arizona? Better bring some water and pineapple juice. Will you be performing outside in the cold? Bring an artsy scarf and WEAR IT. Are they calling for rain? Actually that can be great for vocal cords if not too cold and you don't get electrocuted holding a live mic. Will you be up in the sun or under lights when it's 100 degrees in the shade? Wear some literally cool stage clothes and drink water like it's free.

3. Drink dehydrating caffeinated or alcoholic beverages

OK so if you need a cup of coffee to string sentences together like I do in the mornings, go for it. But only one cup, and drink an extra glass of water. DON'T go for it - even in the morning - if you know it brings on the phlegm frogs and you're doing the Today Show.

If you NEED to have an alcoholic drink, then consider rehab. If you just WANT one, wait til after your show, and have an extra glass of water to chase it.

4. Scream.

So you are really into that game, and somebody scores that you love or despise. Better make a pact with yourself to forgo every impulse of blood-curdling shriek. Twenty minutes of screaming can cause blood blisters on your vocal cords. In fact one special scream can cause vocal cord hemorrhage. If you are a metal screamer, learn to do it backwards. Yes, you can. Those I've taught are SO much happier.

5. Sing songs that are too high for you.

How do you know when a song is too high for you? It hurts. It hurts your throat and your listener's ears. This is so nuts... completely counterproductive. Take that song up at vocal lessons and either change your technique for those high notes, change the key, or change songs!

6. Push more breath for vocal power

Pushing too much breath is almost 100% universally an issue with my new students... at first. Because we get to that issue immediately. There is a seriously voice-trashing (eventually damaging) belief out there that to sing powerfully you need to push a lot of breath. Actually the opposite is true... for a powerful sound, PULL breath, like pulling punches, into the most efficient power source possible. Pull laryngeal vibration through an open throat channel and RESONATE for that big sound.

7. Offer your voice no support

There's an equally counterproductive belief out there that you should just relax and sing. The problem with that is that singing requires movement of air, so something is going to have to give. Controlling your breath doesn't mean holding your breath. But delegate that power support to your pelvic floor or lower, not from the middle of your chest (the diaphragm), so you can confidently support your voice without blowing it.

8. Perform with bad posture

Slumping doesn't just look bored or lacking confidence. That upper curve in your back can allow your ribcage to drop, giving your diaphragm too much slack, which blows the lid on your vocal control. You can't take in a good breath, either. Hanging your head forward results in a compromised throat channel. Stand or sit flexibly tall, head over tailbone, and sometimes a lot of issues just fix themselves.

9. Talk wrong.... a lot. Loud. Or breathy. Or monotone and numb

One of the main ways you can trash your voice is to talk wrong. You should use the same good vocal techniques for talking that you do when singing. If someone can't hear you, either move in to their ear or use sign language. Breathy talking feels like the Sahara desert wind across the edges of your cords. Monotone comes from a tight, frozen throat channel, and wears your voice out as well as the poor ear listening to it.

10. Neglect your vocal warm up before performance.

You might get by with it. Especially if you're singing a lot, with good technique. But for you as vocal athlete, why risk using cold muscles and tissues to fully activate themselves for the main event when it would be so easy to protect them by spending a little time warming them up? The caveat: If you don't know how to do vocal exercises, don't do them. Done wrong, they can hurt you. Just sing lightly, gradually getting louder, to warm up. And do it again if you have multiple sets. Then cool your voice down with light singing or exercises as you go home.

Here is a video vocal lesson via Zoom I did with a great singer named Silvana del Campo. Her issue was vocal fatigue... in other words, a trashed voice!  Enjoy... and leave comments/reviews!

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