Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Everything Affects Your Voice... Including 11 That Might Surprise You

What sets your voice off in the wrong direction? 

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How does your voice feel today? Great? Not so? Well, there might be a hidden reason for that. Of course the health of your vocal cords matter. You probably know that what you eat and how much water you've had matters. But everything else does, too! For instance, here are 10 factors that might surprise you:

1. Your clothes

My student came to her first studio vocal session dressed to the nines. Her tight dress had a waist cinched up like an old fashioned barbie doll, making opening the bottom of her ribcage, and breath inhale/support/control, all difficult. She learned fast... for her next vocal session she arrived in sweat pants!

How you look and feel in the studio and on stage is important. Yes, it can help your voice if you feel confident about the way you look in the studio or on stage, because if you aren't confident you will tend to tighten or slump around your core, and numb your body/facial language. And then there are those outfits that help define your artistic persona. But you need to balance feeling pretty with feeling physically unobstructed. And guess what? For singing and speaking, how you sound matters more than how you look.

Workarounds:
Choices to make: Wool jacket or soft cotton? Figure flattering or loose & flowing? Waist or hip belt? As you pick out what you're going to wear, remember that for best results in performance, ask your voice what it wants.

2. Your shoes

If your shoes don't fit well, you will be distracted by how your feet feel. Your boots need to fit your feet like a soft but sturdy glove. The front of your footwear shouldn't cramp your toes when you move your feet. The heels of your shoes matter a ton... if they are too high, low or the slant is wrong for your feet, they will create breathing problems, pain, and distraction. If like Tina Turner or Dolly you are used to wearing high heels all day, then your Achilles tendon may be short and flat shoes may cause pain. If like me you don't wear stilettos much, then your Achilles is longer and wearing those heels for long will cause pain and fatigue in your feet and legs. Any shoe that causes you to have an increased swayback will be a problem for your breath, and therefore for your voice.

Workarounds:
In the studio, if I come in shoes that don't feel that great, I make sure I'm wearing or taking socks and just take those shoes off. I've done that on stage, too, but be careful. I remember when I took my shoes off halfway through my Austin City Limits show and had to do my last songs with a big splinter in my foot! For stage, I have boots and high heels which are a bit of an illusion... the soles are thick for height and the heel is thick also, for ankle safety. Voices do NOT like twisted ankles😩! For studio, I like brands like Sketchers footwear because they simulate feeling barefoot, which my voice has always liked best. When trying on potential performance shoes, walk around and be sure they make your spine, your legs and your voice feel great.

3. If, when and how you do physical exercise

Your voice needs your body to be in shape. Aerobic exercise, core exercise, stretching and weight lifting can all help your voice if you do them at the right time and with good form. Exercising too long and hard before significant vocal practice or performance will be counterproductive because of tension and physical fatigue reduces your ability to control and support your voice. How you lift free weights can affect your neck and shoulders. If you've even tried to sing with a crick in your neck, you'll realize how tension and pain in those muscles can sabotage your voice by affecting your throat channel among other things.

Workarounds:
Strengthen your neck and shoulders with exercise but avoid excessive weight lifting that over-tightens those muscles and restricts your larynx. Also, don't grunt (do glottal stops) when lifting those weights. Don't make your vocal cords do that work!

4. Pain in your big toe and anything else that hurts

Gout, stumping your toe, menstrual cramps, a headache... pain anywhere will cause compensatory muscular tension and mental distraction. Your voice will not be at it's best when the focus of your brain is otherwise occupied.

Workarounds:
Get to the bottom of the pain issue. For headaches, if you'd like to avoid taking too many NSAIDs, you might try putting peppermint or Eucalyptus oil on your temples, occipital bone, forehead and upper lip. This will often take the headache away and also deliver a boost of energy. Your voice doesn't mind that you smell like a Peppermint Patty. Just be careful not to rub your eyes after you do! (Ask me how I know😱.)

5. Your emotional state

When you are sad, depressed, angry or anxious, your voice won't work as well as when you are centered, confident and positive. This is because your emotional state will be somehow reflected in your body language. Fight or flight brain will create protect mode that closes in your ribcage and throat, and moves your power center up too high in your body. Your expectation of how your performance will go, how well you'll hit a high or low note, how you might hurt your voice, will negatively impact your vocal ability.

Fear is a particular saboteur... it caused partial vocal cord paralysis in one woman I worked with. It can cause tension in your throat, and even in your diaphragm, which will affect your breath/vocal control. I can't promise this result for everybody, but three weeks after we started working to relax her mind and connect it properly to her body and voice, she went back to the doc that diagnosed her and found that the paralysis disappeared!

Workarounds:
Act as if and you shall be. You can use this wisdom to change your state of mind, and then your refocused mind/body/voice connection can improve your performance dramatically, immediately. A good therapist or intuitive vocal coach can help you defeat your invisible foes, too. It's important to work with someone you trust to have good information.

6. Your hormones

According to Sameep Kadakia, Dave Carlson, and Robert T. Sataloff in an article on hormones for the Journal of Singing,
The voice is exquisitely sensitive to changes in the hormonal milieu.
Androgens, progesterone, and estrogen cause changes in the larynx as females and males go through puberty, along with degrees of muscle and ligament bulk and resulting vocal range extension into adulthood. We recognize the somewhat clumsy adjustments males go through resulting in voice cracking and the need for careful training through the voice change. For females, cyclical changes in hormones cause fluctuations in all kinds of areas such as edema and blood flow in laryngeal structures, acid reflux, and mental anxiety. Higher levels of androgens can cause a drop in the female voice after menopause.

[NOTE: I am in my  6th decade, and have a wider vocal range than ever in my life... including extension at the top of my head voice (from C3 to E6). So don't use this as an excuse for settling for limited voice, ladies!] 

Thyroid hormones can also affect the vocal apparatus. Both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism can cause hoarseness. Several other hormones influence your voice, which you can read about in the article just mentioned.

Workarounds:
If you have mysterious vocal limitations, you might want to have a doctor do a thorough check of your hormone levels. Some are and should be cyclical, some may warrant medication to correct. The other thing you can do is to train and use your voice. Your fluctuating hormones may limit your outer edges, but your practical vocal range should be just fine. Sing and speak to your heart's content; just be careful to habitually use healthy vocal technique whenever you make a sound.

7. What someone just said to you

OK we creatives tend to pay attention to things we should ignore. Here are some saboteuring words others can throw our way:
  • "are you nervous" ... right before you go onstage (a personal peeve).
  • "don't mind me I just want to watch" ... by a distracting control room visitor as you head back to the vocal booth.
  • "I'm not sure what to tell you but can you try another pass" by an audio engineer who doesn't know what to tell you when you're flat, sharp, numb, or for whatever reason, you need another pass.
  • "Why can't you pay attention to me instead of your stupid music" or any other stressful phone call.
  • "-silence-" after you just performed your best song brilliantly before the wrong audience.
Workarounds:
Avoid these voices at least during these situations. In the studio, make sure someone in your audio production team knows how to help you get your vocals right... or better yet, get my book and be prepared to give yourself advice.

8. Humidity or the lack thereof

I've done some of my best singing in the rain (under a tarp) and choke on dry midwest air. But others are bothered by humidity and do better in Pheonix in the summer. Where you grew up can acclimate your voice to certain weather. Of course, your personal allergy susceptibilities can, too.

Workarounds:
Know yourself, and be prepared. If your voice is a humidity lover and you have to perform in Tahoe, be sure you have a humidifier in your room and diluted pineapple juice on stage. If your voice gets gunked up with too much humidity, stay inside as much as possible and raise the level of your internal hydration (drink water) to thin out the phlegm.

9. Congested lymph nodes

When a good warmup and correct technique is no longer working, it could be unusually congested lymph nodes. When excessive lymph fluid builds up, it can cause problems in the neck, throat, larynx, and sinuses.

Workarounds:
A student of mine recently asked me to suggest something for her mysterious vocal limitations, and I asked her to try the self lymph drainage massage by Heather Wibbles, LMT. Her video is embedded in my blog post on getting mucus off vocal cords.

10. Back problems

Your spinal curve affects your breathing. If you have scoliosis, pronounced swayback, bent-over or humped upper back or problems with pinched discs, all of this can limit your breathing, your open throat, and your performance focus.

Workarounds:
First, get to the bottom of your spinal dysfunction or misalignment. It's so important to get your spine in great shape that I always make a point to get a chiropractic adjustment the morning before any important vocal I do. Secondly, if your habit is to slump, become aware and change that habit! You may need to strengthen your back muscles and your core abdominal muscles. Try wall work when you sing... put your back against the wall, head and heels touching it.

11. Face and heart are missing

If your face is habitually in ventriloquist mode (still eyes, frozen jaw), and you aren't communicating to one heart, your voice will be weak and/or tight and your range will be limited. In one of my most recent and rewarding cases, a teenage boy asked me to teach him how to talk with a louder voice. He didn't feel like he was being heard by those around him. He explained this rather frozen-faced and the issue was clear.

Workarounds:
I introduced his voice to his face. After doing some bio-feedback work, he activated his eyes and opened his jaw more freely. Then I introduced him to the main thing...focusing a message to a specific heart. His voice responded immediately, and when he contacted me about another lesson, he was just thrilled... his mama in fact had asked him why he was talking so loud! He is doing videos to encourage others, and I am thrilled to have provided some wind beneath his wings because I think Ryan Stewart aka 'RyRobio' will go on to change the world for the better!

Got More?

OK there are tons more factors that affect the voice. Please share and add to this collection if you've noticed odd factors that matter for your singing or speaking. And hit me up for a lesson if you want help with your own vocally limiting mystery!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Rehearsal Voice vs Performance Voice - Why The Difference Matters

Ironically yes, you can practice performance voice in rehearsal... just add the heart you're singing to!

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Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn RadioStitcherSpotify, Android apps

We humans have a lot of different singing and speaking voices. Some are just practice voices, some are message delivery. Let's talk about why we need both of them, and also why it's vital to choose the right one for the right situation. First, let's define these different voices:

REHEARSAL VOICE

OK, let's define Rehearsal Voice as the practice one, your internal voice. It can be a lot of things, such as:

- silent. The forming of intention. You're thinking your message up and imagining yourself delivering it, all of which you can do without making a sound.

- soft, breathy, mumbly, inarticulate. This is an appropriate choice when you're just thinking about saying or singing something, because you don't want anyone to actually understand you ... at least not yet! It works for compiling thoughts and experimenting with verbiage... and drumming up courage!

- or it can be plenty loud, full of experimentation and stop/start repetition of phrases we're trying to 'get right'. We tend to focus on technique, but not quite on the 'big picture' of communication. This is an appropriate choice when learning a song or speech, creating and practicing the 'dance of the melody' to commit technique choices to muscle memory. It is something we actually need to do a lot when getting ready for the main event:

PERFORMANCE VOICE

Let's define Performance Voice as the sound that delivers the message. It is by that very definition, your external voice. To make the successful transition to this voice, a different goal must be aimed at and hit squarely. The goal of performance voice is not compilation and distillation of thought, word and lyric. It is also not perfection of technique. It is this and only this: to get the specific response you want from the heart to whom you are communicating. It matters more than technique, or even vocal health, though of course if one wishes to be in performance voice for long, technique and health are important.

Here's the thing to remember:
Rehearsal voice in all it's components should be in the service of the voice's true reason for existing... delivering the message with Performance Voice!

WHEN YOU GET THEM MIXED UP

If you need to figure out what you're going to say or how you're going to say/sing it, then prematurely going straight to performance voice can get you in trouble these ways:

1. Your voice won't have the confidence or clarity it needs to successfully deliver its message. You may even be confused as to whom you're supposed to be directing your voice. So it won't quite know how to choose the authentic tone, phrasing, volume or articulation necessary to get the desired response.

2. If you try to use Performance Voice power before you're focused on-message and ready, you may end up with vocal strain or damage. That's because when you have the ultimate goal of getting a specific response in mind, it puts your mind, body and voice together to accomplish that goal. In other words, if you have been in rehearsal voice enough, your voice has access to a big box of crayons. Your performance voice then picks from the available options the right colors to paint the sonic picture that successfully delivers the message. I know, it sounds complicated, and it is... because human communication is chock full of subtle nuances!

WHEN SHOULD YOU DO WHAT?

Ironically, even though Performance Voice is our ultimate mode, we should practice many more times in rehearsal mode than performance. You can indeed practice performance voice... but not but a couple of times in a row, because your automatic nervous system will go 'why are we doing this? we already did it!'. Like the Olympic-level events of athletics, you should actually practice rehearsal voice with more technique and crazier options than you plan to use in performance. That way, your voice KNOWS it can do what it chooses when communicating for real. Sometimes it will even get cocky and do things you didn't even know it could do... but that comes from all that time in rehearsal mode.

Be careful about what I call 'singer/songwriter syndrome'. It's one of the biggest mistakes I see in Nashville songwriter rounds. This is when the singer is unknowingly still using internal voice. Often you can see that the singer feels the song, but not communicating it outwardly. Even a very intimate song, like a movie scene, should be delivered to the intended heart in such a way that the listening audience can understand it.

EXPERIENCE THE DIFFERENCES 

[for the podcast you'll find my own demonstrations of these differences]

Pick a song you know, and sing it in both voices.
  • Rehearsal voice: Don't use communicative body language. How does that change your sound and delivery?
  • Performance voice: Communicate with your eyes, hands, stance. Hear the difference?
Now try speaking these phrases in rehearsal voice, and then in performance voice. What do you have to do differently to change voices?
  • As keynote speaker at a business seminar, say: "Today I'm going to show you how to successfully get your list from 'to do' to 'done.'
  • As a narrator of an audio book: 'When Jim saw Jane, he totally forgot his grocery list.'
  • As a reporter for a TV news segment: 'the police have the highway and the off-ramps shut down, so if you're driving, you'll want to avoid that area until later this evening; Back to you, Sally.'
  • As a history teacher: OK people, let's talk about how the Middle Ages moved forward to the Renaissance Period.
  • As a voiceover for a documentary: The elephants form a circle to defend their calves against the lion pack. But the lions have cubs to feed, too.
In true performance mode, you may be amazed at what subtle, authentic to the message options your laser beam focus can bring out of your voice! Performance is the Olympic event. Go for the gold, and you'll deliver the magic.

I'd love to help you make this lesson personal. Inquire about an online lesson today!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Audio Branding - Interview With Jodi Krangle

            Jodi Krangle                                              Judy Rodman

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Jodi Krangle's backstory up to the present moment is fascinating. She has been a voice actor since 2007 with clients from major global brands in a multitude of industries. But on her road uniquely traveled she has done everything from selling computers before computers were cool, diving into the internet and internet marketing very early on, becoming a singer/songwriter/performing/recording artist, developing an award-winning songwriter resource website called 'The Muse's Muse', and now has her own fascinating podcast called 'Audio Branding'. I asked her about all of this and more...

QUESTIONS I ASKED HER:

  • Did you set out to become a renaissance woman?  
  • Let's get right into the power of sound. You've really been researching and talking to thought leaders about this on your podcast. Take us into some of the ways sound vibrations work.
  • Some of our listeners may be interested in music therapy occupations. What have you learned about the power of sound for health, pain relief and healing?
  • Give us some examples of the power of sound to influence behavior, Why do you say it's the 'hidden gem of marketing'?
  • Take us into the world of voiceover. What do you like about it? What have been some challenges? What would you say to someone wanting to look into that career?
  • As we speak, the world has changed. Are you seeing vocal career opportunities change in the age of COVID-19? 
  • Besides a voice actor, you are also an accomplished singer and it looks like you've been working on your artistic definition! OK what is the Filk scene? That's a new one on me!
  • What do you do when your internet is down?
  • How important do you feel it is for career vocalists to have a community around them? 
  • Where can we find you, your podcast and your work?

JODI'S LINKS:

WHAT ABOUT YOU?


Has this triggered some ideas about audio branding for you? Please comment... we'd love to know!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Thoughts For Voices in the COVID-19 Crisis


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Canceled gigs, tours, presentations and recording sessions... counting toilet paper rolls, chicken breasts and cans of tuna, not to mention getting an illness that has heavy coughing and compromised breathing as main symptoms. Around the globe, everyone in the world is facing physical, emotional and financial stress from this pandemic, including those who depend on their voices and voice work. The worst part of it is the feeling of helplessness that leads to hopelessness. This perfect storm is unprecedented in modern history.

BUT if we take a closer, deeper look around, and brainstorm possibilities, there are things we can do to help ourselves and others not only get safely through this global pandemic but come out better for the battle. I'm going to share some thoughts and hopefully turn a light or two on for you in whatever your unique situation is.

OK, FIRST THE BAD NEWS

We need to understand and acknowledge the reality to successfully do something about it. The truth is that we are universally experiencing a dangerous pandemic... a new world-wide flu that is wreaking havoc with physical health and economic systems and can no longer be ignored. The pathogen is called the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The disease it causes is called COVID19. 

There are valid reasons why public events are canceling, cities, states, and whole countries are locking down, schools are closing and lessons (including mine) are going online only. The recommended practice of 'social distancing' and the resulting gig economy cancellations are devastating to scores of businesses including the entertainment and public speaking industries. It's also true that most people can get this virus, get over it without medical intervention and come out just fine. So...

WHY IS THIS FLU SUCH A CRISIS?

  • It's super contagious.
This particular virus is extremely contagious because it's so new the human race has not developed any immunity to it. Young, healthy people, including children, may carry the virus with no symptoms at all. You could be carrying it with no symptoms, unknowingly passing it around to others, including people most likely to get the sickest. But even young people are sometimes being hospitalized with it. This isn't the time to rebel and join friends for spring break, possibly coming in contact with and transporting this back to your families.
  • Those who do get diagnosed with COVID-19 disease will be asked to quarantine themselves. 
Talk about cabin fever! You can't even grocery shop; you have to rely on people bringing food to your doorstep.
  • The biggest reason: It can overwhelm our health care system
A March 20th article from NPR estimates that 20% of COVID-19 patients end up in the hospital, 10 times that of the common flu. Though difficult to figure out right now because most cases are mild and go unreported, many experts estimate the death rate from this virus could also be 10 times that of the common flu, with a higher mortality rate for those over 60 and those with underlying health issues. As this virus spreads like wildfire there will be increasing numbers of people requiring hospitalization, stretching doctors, health care staff, beds and ventilators way past capacity. When health care workers are exposed (and they are lacking enough protective gear right now), they will need to self-quarantine, further exacerbating the shortage of medical help. 

Now for some good news:

THIS CRISIS WILL END!

As in the poem classical vocalist Katherine Jenkins shared on Instagram that was written by her sister Laura, '...soon just like other crisis before, this will all be a distant memory'. However, it may last as much as a year or more, so we need to accept our new reality of pandemic plus job losses and figure out what each of us must do until we see this in the rearview. 

I have been earnestly and prayerfully searching for what I can offer at a time like this. Three suggestions have come to mind:

1. STAY ALIVE AND BECOME STRONGER

Don't just barely make it out alive... use this challenge to become even healthier! 
  • Shelter in place when the local authorities call for it. This could keep numbers of hospitalizations at a manageable level, saving a bed or a ventilator for a time of your or someone else's desperate need.
  • If you DO get sick with this flu...
    • try to minimize hard coughing as much as possible. Try to 'pull' your coughs to lessen the stress on your vocal cords
    • if you need to be intubated on a ventilator, tell your anesthesiologist or doctor that you are a professional singer (or speaker) and to please use extra care inserting the tube.
    • I have some vocal recovery information at this blogpost, including some exercises to help you get your voice back from any illness.
  • Raise the bar on all your health practices including physical exercise; research some new ones (online yoga, dance, deep breathing, healthy cooking classes), stop smoking, adopt better eating habits (paleo anyone?), drink more water, walk outside (even if just on the balcony), get more quality sleep. I'm trying a phone app for binaural beat therapy to get to sleep because my brain is on overdrive right now!
  • Adopt protective habits:
    • Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Stop touching your face. Stay 6 feet away from sick people. Avoid crowds and don't fly unless you absolutely have to.
    • Bring alcohol wipes to any studio or gig you do.
    • When you can get back in the public, interacting with others (including fans), use the forearm bump instead of a handshake, or better yet, just wave and smile. 
  • Guard your mind. Watch your time surfing the internet... lots of bad news and false stories abound. No, there are no dolphins in the canals of Venice, but there ARE wild animals venturing more boldly into city streets. Look for helpful, positive stories to balance what you need to know to deal with the real situation.
  • Take time to be still. Pray, meditate, breathe and be in the present. 
  • Ask for help when you need it. Give help when you can... it's the fastest way out of your own fearful mindset!
2. CREATE AND TRAIN

You know those hours you wish you had more of every day? They're here - use them!
  • Create material! Write songs, scripts, books!
  • Create more ability! Study your craft, research, explore, experiment, go deeper, take some online training so that at the end of this crisis, you're better than ever at what you do. 
  • Do something you've never done - learn to play piano, guitar, study music theory, sing harmony (or lead!), public speaking. There are tons of free and paid courses online. Read more books!
  • Work on your artistic definition. What is in your heart to sing or speak? Who do you want for your audience? What are you missing in your body of work?
  • Study music business, marketing and promotion. Gain skills that will help you move your career forward like a rocket when this crisis is over. Create a detailed plan for launching a new project or tour.
  • Large groups of people are asked NOT to gather during this crisis, so this will impact live audience concerts as well as writers' nights and speaking events. Connect with your fans in other ways. Do online shows with virtual tip jars. Try out Patreon or use Buy Me A Coffee for small one time donations
  • Do some internet infrastructure work (website updates, social networking, etc). 
  • Find creative ways to make financial ends meet. 
    • Some mortgage lenders are now pausing payments for as much as 12 months and freezing foreclosures and evictions. We're globally all in the same boat... so don't hesitate to ask for payment grace. 
    • Be willing to look for at least a temporary new type of job. While most businesses are being crushed, the food industry including delivery and local grocery stores, health care, wellness and home fitness industries, online education, remote work
3. BE USEFUL 
  • Check in with family and friends. Social distancing doesn't have to create emotional distancing! 
  • Be useful to your fanbase. How can you make their world a little better? They love what you do. Love them back with something special that is a one-way-street gift to them. A free online concert. A personal message or live video event to support and encourage them for what THEY are going through. 

HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

To protect us all, I will only offer online lessons until this crisis passes. If you can't afford lessons right now, I will be giving plenty of free information out in this blog and podcast so people can still train. Please stay in touch and tell me what you need! One thing I'm considering is a video about centering, opening and breathing to help anyone who is having emotional or respiratory distress. Let me know in the comments if you'd like that... or any other subject you'd like for me to cover.

MY LESSONS: If you can and would like to, there are some silver linings to doing online lessons with me:
  • You can't catch a virus through the internet (except a computer one:)
  • You don't have to deal with traffic to get here. 
  • You can take the lesson on any device anywhere you get internet (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer) - in the parking lot, a green room, your bathroom, your motel room, your car.
  • You can take a lesson even when you're sick! Or still in your pajamas!
  • If you wonder how online lessons work, read/listen to an article I did on it...  https://blog.
  • judyrodman.com/2017/02/online-vocal-lessons-pros-and-cons.html

FINAL THOUGHTS:

  • NOW IS THE TIME to adopt proactive and protective practices so we can avoid contracting this dangerous flu and spreading it to others. Remember... it doesn't just matter to you, it matters to everyone you come in contact with. 
  • LOOK FORWARD: There WILL be an end to the crisis. It may not be til next year that a vaccine and/or effective antivirus drug gets developed. But audiences will gather again. People will shake hands again. Right now we don't need to panic... we just need to prepare. Prevention is better than cure.
  • STAY CONNECTED! Call & check up on family and friends, text, email, message, chat face to face online. Look for fact-based sources of information to make wises choices as things progress. We are all better together.
Be well... Be kind... Stay positive!💗  Judy

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Is Your Music Visible? My Chat With Denise Wakeman


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Have you been wanting to extend your internet fanbase? Listen to the podcast audio link of the interview I did with my own internet mentor, Denise Wakeman. Here are some of the topics we covered:
  • Introduction to Denise
  • Understanding fans as customers
  • The importance of getting found by your audience
  • Taking action to reboot unsuccessful online efforts.
  • The importance of publishing consistent content
  • Creating the know, like & trust factor as music makers
  • Types of content you can create and share on social media
  • Visibility strategy for artists on media shows and large events
  • How to create online relationships with fans
  • Why an artist should create a blog
  • Blogging with multimedia content
  • The importance of creating your own online real estate, capturing emails
  • Traveling tips – the importance of being kind
  • Music experience Denise had in her global travels
  • What is changing for internet marketing
  • The importance of experimenting with online apps
  • Identifying your ideal fans
  • Tips for discerning your music career path
  • Deeply connecting by sharing your story
  • What Denise saw Elton John and Bernie Taupin do that made her love them

About Denise:

Denise Wakeman has been working online since 1996. She has become a highly respected expert on blogging and online marketing. She teaches, trains and consults with a holistic approach to building businesses with targeted audiences on the web.

As an early adopter and active experimenter, Denise jumps on just about every social network that comes online. She helps her clients navigate through the myriad platforms that are begging for attention, with recommendations suited for each individual client’s personalities and business.

A trip to Peru in 2013 sparked a new business venture for Denise. “I’ve always loved traveling,” she says, “but I’d always kept my personal adventures separate from my business life. I realized that it was all part and parcel of the same thing. I needed to bring that adventurous spirit into my work, too.” So, she started creating travel experiences for others and “Adventures In Visibility” was born. It has infused her internet mentoring business (and her clients) with fresh fire.

Denise doesn’t just teach… she’s done it. She has created a powerful, visible presence by using the tools and teaching others to do the same. In the music business, becoming visible means being FINDABLE by those who would love our music. I began this All Things Vocal blog in 2006 with Denise’s training. If you enjoy it, we both have her to thank!

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For more help getting your music visible... Find Denise at

Get her special post and download checklist for building your internet platform:
www.DeniseWakeman.com/platform

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Introducing BALLOON Phonation Exercises



In this post, I'm going to introduce you to a brand new type of vocal exercises I've developed using a balloon, an alternate to the straw phonation exercises created by voice scientist Dr. Ingo Titze. Watch the embedded video demonstration I just published, featuring my friend Mark Thress.

How Balloon Exercises Were Developed

Vocal coach Mark Thress, with whom I exchange classical and contemporary vocal lessons, introduced me to straw phonation using a cocktail (small diameter) straw. I found these quite useful in encouraging more breath efficiency, as long as I pulled back as I blew forward. Neither one of us prefer using a bigger straw.

After working with the small straw for a few weeks, I started wondering what effect using a balloon instead of the straw would be. So I bought a package of assorted small balloons and started experimenting on my own, then with Mark, then with students. I found that most of us preferred and benefitted from the balloon instead of the straw!

Balloon vs Straw Comparisons:

  • I believe they are both SOVT exercises. 
SOVT, short for semi-occluded vocal tract exercises, include the lip bubble, tongue trill, raspberry,  blowing through a hole in the bottom of a cup, and the straw.  According to the excellent, detailed article on straw phonation at VoiceScienceWorks,
"SOVT exercises lengthen the vocal tract and narrow the opening, creating increased acoustic back pressure that helps the vocal folds vibrate more easily."
The straw has a hole at the end. The balloon, with no end hole, requires the vocalist to let a bit of air leak around the lips. This, to me, qualifies it as a new (SOVT) exercise protocol.
  • The balloon is stretchy, the straw is stiff.
The malleable balloon skin responds to vocal sound with more nuanced feedback than the straw. The vocalist must blow with more nuanced control to sound the balloon properly, requiring a finer degree of breath efficiency to open the balloon but not 'blow it into next week!"
  • The balloon requires that less breath pressure be used than the straw. 
This develops the finer degree of breath control.
  • 'Pulling' up and back while using the balloon also opens and relaxes the throat. 
I experience the same thing with the straw, but find it easier to open the throat tract in more nuanced ways with the balloon.
  • Most prefer the small size of both straw and balloon.
The best results I've found myself and with my students is with the smallest (2") water balloon, but sometimes I have students alternate from the small one to a little larger one and back... just to challenge the ever-changing degree of required breath balance.
  • Both the straw and balloon can be used with any scale or song melody.
After you get the hang of using the balloon in scales, try voicing a melody with it.

  • Both the straw and balloon are useful for both the singing and speaking voice. Speakers can just exercise by sirens or slurs throughout all registers of the voice.

Gratitude for the Straw

I want to take a moment and state how grateful I am for the genius of Dr. Titze in developing his straw phonation exercises. They have been instrumental in many a singer and speaker's vocal healing, and this in no way diminishes my utmost respect for them. I humbly offer this alternative exercise protocol to the voice community with full understanding that without the straw, the balloon would never have come to mind!

I need your input!

I also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mark Thress for joining me in experimenting with and presenting balloon phonation exercises. We both would love your feedback... 
  • Will you try the balloon? If so,
  • What was your experience with balloon exercises?
  • What questions do you have about doing them?
  • What suggestions would you make?
Please feel free to share with others... this is my gift to the voice community. I hope you find it of value!

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

How Imagination Creates the Speaking and Singing Voice


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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Remember making up stories, finger-painting abstract art, playing with your imaginary friends? If you don’t, ask a family member who knew you well as a child. I bet they can remind you. Human beings all develop, to some degree, the ability to imagine. Creative imagination fuels intention and expectation. Did you know your voice largely runs on this? Let’s talk about some ways your imagination directs your voice. It starts with your focused intention.

Premeditate a conversation

A bit like a well-executed crime, a conversation goes better when you brainstorm before you act. Even if it’s an almost unconscious split-second flash in a casual conversation, thinking before you speak helps you…
  • Fully enter the scene
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel dissed when listening to someone who talks or sings while distracted. When you aren’t fully present, your voice will communicate that fact. Or will not communicate at all. Make use of your senses to read the room, and chose your one-heart focus. Who are you talking to? What do you want that heart to understand?
  • Fully claim the reaction you want
Unlike most other moral situations, the Machiavelli principle… the ends justify the means… works here. If you were successful at making your listener respond a certain way, what would their reaction to your voice be? What would that look like in their body/facial language? That is your end goal… now do what it takes to get that reaction! 

Choose your sound

Guided by your premeditated intention, you can imagine how you want your voice to sound. Note: don’t worry, in practicality, these intention choices can be quite short… split-second. It's just important to know they should take place!
  • Choose the type of sentence you want to use (question, exclamation, statement).
  • Intend the length of your line. This tells your automatic nervous system how much breath to take and use. (Good vocal training makes this a lot more efficient!)
  • Choose the tone color, volume, inflection and clarity of articulation you’ll use to deliver your words. (Again, with good training the pool of possibilities to choose from will be a lot bigger)
  • Intend the pitch you want to use. For speakers, this means the area of your vocal range you center your voice in, and the shape of the curves of your speaking melody line. For singers, of course, it will mean the exact pitch of your intended notes. If you fully intend to hit those notes, you’ll actually aim and be much more likely to hit them!

Imagine you are someone else

OK, sometimes we actually want to match someone else's voice. A terrific way to do this is to mime while deeply listening. That way your imagination starts directing your vocal apparatus, breath, rhythm and articulation to match what you're hearing... BEFORE you even try it! You learn the intricacies of the other voice much quicker by imagining before sounding your voice. 

Here are some very valid reasons for mimicking another voice:
  • You want to learn a new style. 
  • You want to learn a new language.
  • You want to do a 'sound-alike'... sounding just like another lead singer for fun at a Karaoke event, or for commercial purposes when the jingle client wants a specific kind of voice.
  • You want to sing tight harmony with another lead singer as their background singer for stage or studio. This may entail really changing your vocal tone and inflections to match another's perfectly.
  • You want to mimic your vocal coach to learn a new technique. (A good coach will be very careful to help you find your own voice for your own reasons in the technique being learned.)
  • You want to mimic your dialect coach to change your accent.

Bottom line:

Human vocal sounds… speaking and singing… are amazingly intricate in variety. Like all creatures’ voices, the human voice exists for a reason. Even when we talk to ourselves, we’re telling ourselves something. If you’ve been feeling invisible, and you want to express your voice and its messages more successfully, try being more present in the moment, more intentional with your messages and more creative using your imagination!

Want to watch video versions of All Things Vocal posts? 

Check out my vocal training playlist on Youtube!

Here's this one...


What about you? How do you use your imagination for your voice? 

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