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!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Music & Wellness In Anxious Times - Interview With Katie Zaccardi

Katie Zaccardi                                                       Judy Rodman

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I recorded this interview right in the middle of the insanely stressful year 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic creating danger to life and career PLUS massive civil unrest, the murder of George Floyd and others by rogue police, fires, floods, and an election with more issues at stake than any in my lifetime. I hope with all my heart that future listeners will see this time successfully settled with changes that create a much better world. But I can't think of a better time than right now to be interviewing Katie Zaccardi, who has made the journey from anxiety to wellness and now coaches others to do the same!

Topics we covered include:

  • The dangerous advice of requiring creatives to dedicate 100+ % of themselves to their artistry.
  • Katie's story of her own anxiety disorder and journey to healing
  • Understanding the counterproductive lies (addictions, eating disorders, depression, etc) that our creative brains act on so we can free ourselves.
  • Katie's yoga work and how it can benefit vocalists.
  • How to move from anxiety towards wellness, even during stressful reality such as the year 2020.
  • Katie's artistic metamorphosis into her unique counseling career and her new musical road.
  • The benefits for artists of balancing spending time along and in company with others.

About Katie Zaccardi

Katie Zaccardi is a songwriter, artist, music industry professional, and certified yoga instructor. Through her work in both music and wellness, along with her own experience with a generalized anxiety disorder, Katie discovered the urgent need for conversation surrounding mental health and self-care within the music industry. Realizing the need for honest discussions about mental and physical wellbeing, Katie established her company 'Out To Be'. Out To Be advocates a balanced path to personal and professional success that is grounded in wellness. At its core is the idea that what you set out to do, you turn out to be; that no matter where you begin, you make your own way to the most authentic you. The OutToBe Podcast invites listeners to engage with insightful dialogue on all things wellness and their relation to working in music. Through the Out To Be Coaching platform, Katie supports artists and professionals with a personalized approach centered on cultivating positive actions & attitudes.

Find Katie at...
instagram.com/katiezaccardi
www.katiezaccardi.com
https://pod.link/1456146541 (The 'Out to Be' Podcast)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

'Act As If & Ye Shall Be' In Great Voice - or Not!

Will it be 'meow'... or... 'ROAR'?

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You've probably heard the phrase... 'Act as if and ye shall be.' Or the less lofty one... 'fake it til you make it'. Well, as any good neuroscientist, psychologist, wellness specialist, voodoo practitioner or vocal coach will attest... mind over matter is a real thing. When our subconscious mind gets focused and uber convinced can or can't do something, and we act as if, it's amazing what is possible - or impossible - for us. As in life, the same is true for our voices! 

Let's start by exploring four negative mindsets from which to 'act as if'. All of these limit and sabotage vocal ability. I'll illustrate these with some case studies of people I've worked with., leaving out names to protect their privacy. 

Fear and Anxiety

Did you know that fear - and acting out of that fear - can create expectation that literally paralyze you? That goes for your voice, too.

Case Study:

She was a singer, songwriter, performer entrepreneur and artist manager. She came in with several kinds of vocal issues and limitations. We did some vocaleses that seemed to help, but her issues were puzzling enough for me to recommend going to Vanderbilt Voice Center for a laryngoscopic examination. Turns out she had partial paralysis in one of her vocal folds! I could feel with my hand the tightness across that side of her neck and shoulder. She and I had some deep talks about things, and it turned out she was holding some serious general anxiety pretty chronically. As she began to process her fear, her muscles began to relax, her posture changed and her voice began to respond from the exercises we were doing. Three weeks later, she had another laryngoscopy, and the paralysis was completely gone!

Medical Disclaimer: 

I am not a doctor, and I make no promises that a vocal lesson will heal you of anxiety or any other psychological condition. I just try to make my lessons safe places to explore. Sometimes my students have needed professional therapy and I highly recommend that kind of help for anxiety and fear. The thing to know is, whether you need friendly counsel or professional help, facing and processing fear can allow your voice to function freely and efficiently again.

Believing the Worst

Preparing for the worst possibilities, getting examined to rule out the worst... by all means, you should do these things! But deeply believing your voice is damaged, your diaphragm is frozen, your throat is too small, etc, can cause your voice to act as if these things are true!

Case Study:

He was a recording artist on a label and came in having trouble with vocal control. He was absolutely convinced that his diaphragm was tight and he couldn't do anything to loosen it! I tried many exercises, to no avail. I called Vanderbilt Voice Center wondering if it was possible that his belief could be creating his condition. The doctor there told me that this is almost always the case! This singer didn't come back in for another lesson, and I'll never know if changing what he believed could have changed the tightness at the bottom of his ribcage. But at least I am assured by medical advice that this is indeed possible. It might have been the stress of his career or personal concerns and he might have been helped with psychotherapy. I really hope so; I regret that I was unable to help him.

Case Study:

She was a singer/songwriter who had successfully worked through a number of vocal issues with me stemming from her eating disorder. We'd been working together for quite a while, when suddenly she started having trouble singing sustained notes smoothly. She, too, decided the problem was that she had a tight diaphragm. Remembering my previous student, I sent her to the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic to be examined. When they told her that she did not have a tight diaphragm, she came in for another vocal lesson with me. We did the exact same exercise and she performed it without a hitch! Her sustains were not a problem from then on. 

Focusing On What Others Think

Comparing and competing with our voices can create vocal insecurities for any of us. For this case study, I'm going to use myself.

I was doing a lead vocal on a song of mine. There was a high note I wanted to sing, but I could sense that the engineer didn't think I could hit it. So guess what? My voice literally acted as if what he believed about my voice was true. I couldn't hit that note 'til I went to another studio and then sang it with no problem. The voice is so sensitive... our subconscious mind sometimes called the 'lizard brain' that works our voice is so sensitive. Critique and good correction has to be truthful but needs to be positive and kind for the voice to have faith in its full ability to do something or to learn something new.

In the past, I have definitely created my own drama thinking someone didn't like my voice, and it affected my ability to sing around them. I find it helps tremendously to realize with humility and humor... to accept the fact that there will always be people who don't like my voice! It's not usually an intention to be mean, it's just that we all have our own tastes and preferences, and no voice can be all things to all people. Realizing that there are people who don't like voices, styles, and/or songs of Barbara Streisand, Andrea Boccelli, Celine Dion, Willie Nelson, or Taylor Swift... puts things into perspective for me. Those artists have been loved and financially supported by millions:)

I quite frankly also learned not to sing for people who don't like my voice, expecting them to change their minds. It's not fair to them or to me!

Trauma

Physical and emotional trauma can create a chronic mindset to 'act as if you are' in danger'. When trauma is internalized, the body goes into a counterproductive protect mode long past the need to protect. In this wonderful article by Andrei Schiller-Chan titled 'The Voice Keeps the Score', the trauma-induced fight or flight syndrome can move on to a shut-down state. Vocal ability is compromised by limited breath, as well as jaw, tongue and shoulder tension. The throat is constricted from neck tension, and the ribcage is dropped to protect the heart. The lizard brain directs the body to produce a voice that communicates a lack of confidence for the sake of survival. From the conclusion of the article:

There is no quick fix ... it begins with taking some time to understand your body and your habits. The most important facet to remember is whatever your body has done to keep you safe, it did so in looking out for you; so, when it comes time to let go of these habits, as naked as it may seem or the feeling of shame that comes with it, be kind, it did the best it could.

 Case Study:

She was a brilliant young songwriter who had experienced terrible emotional and physical trauma in her life. She came in for her first vocal lesson with the voice the size of a little mouse. Her songs were incredible, but she had no idea how good she was. After a season of vocal lessons, performing, recording and psychotherapy, she developed one of the most iconic voices I've worked with. She's singing and in general doing extremely well, now that she has fully embraced her voice's truth and beauty.

'Act As If' Mindset For Success

Ok, no matter what has gone on in your life or right before the gig - there are ways to corral your thoughts to create positive intention that can raise your vocal ability right there on the spot. Here's one of my favorite student success stories:

Case Study:

She was an emerging public speaker who had landed a keynote spot at an important event. She had learned how to successfully deal with a severe eating disorder, had written a book on it, and was speaking to doctors about ways to avoid triggering the disorder while working with their patients. She called me from the hallway before going on, just about to have a panic attack. I told her to look around, notice colors, smells, sounds, sights, textures and notice that she was safe. Centered in that moment, she was safe.

Then with a flash of inspiration, I suggested that she 'act as if' she was completely confident in her speech. How would she be standing; holding herself? How would she be breathing? Where would her hands be and what would they be doing? I took her through a deep breathing, centering exercise and then focused her on the task at hand. Who are you about to talk to? I asked, and had her think of the room of doctors as one heart. Why do they need to know what you'll say? How can what you say change the lives of their patients? What will their response be if they understood what you will say? 

She called me after her speech, thrilled because she DID IT... and they responded! That was a couple of years ago; I saw her speak again recently and didn't hardly recognize the confident, well-paced, powerful communicator she has become. She acts as if she knows that what she's saying is valid and important, she knows the room of listeners needs to hear her message, and that her voice is absolutely able to send that message out and get the response that says they got it.

Your Next Performance

Here are some ways to get into the mindset you need for your next speaking or singing performance. Acting as if you'll be great... in other words, expecting and intending to succeed, can be a powerful self-fulfilling prophesy. Try these 5 steps:

  1. Find a quiet corner where you can be alone to focus. 
  2. Acknowledge and accept the butterflies of any anxiety, and give them time to settle as you center yourself with your senses into your safe zone.
  3. Move your mind on now to focus on the task at hand
  4. Laser focus on your first words, or lyrics. Who are you talking to? Why? What response from the heart do you want? 
  5. Go out there and get that.

I'd like to leave you with one more quote from an article called 'How To Beat Your Lizard Brain'.
The lizard brain is powerless in the face of art.
So: Want to be a confident, powerfully effective communicator? Act as if you are. Then you most likely shall be. It's a vocal mind trick worth mastering!

Want to work it out with me? Hit me up for a lesson online. 

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Chat with Kevin McCarty, Cofounder of "We Should Write Sometime"


Kevin McCarty                                         Judy Rodman 

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According to Billboard Magazine, for songwriters, 
Finding that perfect cowriter is a lot like dating. Now, there's an app for that! 
Listen to my chat with Kevin McCarty to find out about a phone app for new and veteran songwriters who want to find new co-writers. Kevin and his co-founder Richard Casper have created a real game changer, available for iPhone and Android. It's called 'We Should Write Sometime'.

Topics we covered include:
  • Kevin explains what this app does.
  • How using this app for meeting new songwriters saves time and energy (you can cut way down on the bar and club hopping!)
  • How the app helps you investigate potential collaborators before reaching out to connect.
  • The development of the app (they developed it before Covid!) and how timely it is now.
  • How virtual co-writing can actually be better, safer, and freer for creating songs.
  • Ways this app can benefit not only new songwriters but also veteran pro writers who want to reach the new wave of artists as well as different collaborators for fresh fire.
  • The incognito aspect of using the app.
  • Where the app is live now (US, Canada, Australia and more to come).
  • Some of the added benefits of co-writing (instead of writing solo).
  • Things songwriters don't know about the business (PROs, licensing, publishing, etc) and how that information could be a future feature in the app.
  • Ways the app can be used safely and securely.
  • How to get on this app. By the way, it's free! Future premium tiers will be eventually be developed, but Kevin says they want to keep the highly functional basic version free.  
The website of the app: WeShouldWriteSometime.com

The app icon

Bios of the co-founders:

Kevin McCarty - CEO & Co-Founder

· Originally from Cincinnati, OH - graduated from Miami University in 2006.
· Moved to Nashville in 2015 to get into the music tech industry to combine his two passions: music and tech.
· Tech Leader in Sales, Training, & Development "Intrepreneur" for a Fortune 500 company & Education Tech Company
· Advisor for TN Dept of Education - Marketing, Distribution, Entrepreneur and Logistics Industry
· Organizational Leadership Degree from Miami University (OH)
· Inflight Graduate from Nashville Entrepreneur Center
· Certified Sales Trainer
· Sales Consultant for local businesses in Nashville
· Co-Host on Nashville Hits Collecting Dust Podcast

Richard Casper – Co-Founder & Chief Vision Officer

· From Bloomington, IL
· United States Marine Veteran, Purple Heart recipient, Artist, and Entrepreneur.
· Co-founder and executive director of CreatiVets,
· TIME’s Next Generation Leaders. Recognized by President George W. Bush and The Bush Institute for his passion and work helping disabled veterans.
· Keynote speaker
· Teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Southern California.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Michael Arterberry Interview - How To Use Hard Times

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Voices are fragile. When we are emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually challenged, our voices reflect that state of being. In 2020, we may feel like we are being buried under a load of care, worry for ourselves and others. So I thought you might enjoy, as I did, my chat with a man who has not only overcome all kinds of adversity but learned to powerfully use it. Please meet my guest, Michael Arterberry.

Topics include:

  • Michael’s backstory.
  • Michael’s parable of the Donkey in the Hole.
  • We dive into Michael’s tagline ‘be encouraged!’ 
  • His life-bringing challenge to ‘shake the dirt’.
  • Michael’s understanding of faith and how it affects his life and work.
  • How Michael works to encourage and empower kids.
  • The importance of changing the systems around dysfunction.
  • The power of reflection to go forward in times of frightening change (like this Covid era).
  • Mentors & teachers that helped Michael; the importance of being one.
  • How side interests & diversity help create a well-rounded life.
  • Funny stories, serious success stories.
  • How Michael uses mind & body to be in good voice.

About Michael Arterberry:

Michael is a public speaker, author, and mentor with a non-profit devoted to working with youth. Childhood dysfuntion and spinal surgery have only served to inform and shape his life's work... successfully and deeply motivating and encouraging others. As he states in his website, 
As a Motivational Speaker, my life is dedicated to moving people from an uneasy time in their lives to a place of peace. I don’t change their circumstances, but I help change their perspective. - Michael Arterberry 
His many career achievements include:
  • 2010 USA Network’s Characters Unite Award for exceptional commitment to combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance within the community, 
  • 2014 100 Men of Color Award for leadership in education, government, mentorship, entrepreneurial success and community service,
  • 2016 Educator of the year award from Y-Cop in Mount Vernon, NY. as well as a proclamation from the Mayor, Certificate of Merit from the Board of Legislators, and a Citation from the Mount Vernon City Council.
Find him on the web:

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How To Have Unforgettable Songwriter Rounds


Me, Randy C Moore, Bobby Keel, Jim Parker in the round at Huntsville Civic Center

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 A songwriter round can be a yawning spectacle for an audience who is just there to support a family member or friend and can't wait to exit the venue. Or it can be a magical night the audience will never forget and that can significantly benefit your career. I've done a ton of both types, and here are some things I've learned. Even if you're a 'round' veteran, I hope you catch a new thing or two!

What is a 'songwriter round'?

For the as-yet uninitiated, this term is short for 'songwriters in the round'. This kind of event originated in Nashville, where it has become a hallmark tradition. The classic version is 4 songwriters in a circle, taking turns to sing their songs, with the audience seated all around outside the circle. Sometimes the songwriter performers are in a row if the stage is not conducive to the circular arrangement, like the round I did in the photo above. The songwriters typically accompany themselves on keyboard or guitar, but sometimes are accompanied by another musician. And often, the songwriters chime in with instruments and/or background vocals on each other's songs. When done well, these are really great shows.

Know what you want to accomplish.

Before hosting or performing in a songwriter round, it's important to be clear about your goals for the show. Typical goals for these shows include...
  • Number one: Demonstrate your songs to get your songs cut by a recording artist, or to move your career forward as a recording artist who writes. For these goals, choose a venue where industry people like to go, and a time they'll probably be available. Invite specific people to your show who you think might be looking for songs, including publishers, managers, A&R people, producers, label people, and the artists themselves. 
  • Feed and express your performing and creative spirit. Singers and songwriters deeply need to sing and have their songs heard. It's fuel for our music-making hearts, and it's important.
  • Practice performing! There's nothing like a songwriter round to get you doing your vocal exercises and raising your vocal stamina. It's also a great way to get used to playing in front of an audience, or get back to it if it's been a while.
  • Get some audience reaction to your songs. Listeners' feedback is an awesome way to know what is working and what isn't. A songwriter round audience is an intimate one, so it's pretty easy to read their interest - or the lack thereof - in your songs. You might be moved to re-write something, drop a song entirely, or to record the especially favored ones on your next album.
  • Make a little money. (And I mean a little!) Cover charges and tips won't make your house payment. But your music should be good enough to be worth paying for.
  • My three goals for my current songwriter rounds are: to express my own voice again, to showcase some great singer/songwriter artists I'm working with to increase everyone's visibility, and to create magic... true value... for our audience. My goal is a triple win!

Tips for hosting a great round:

  • Choose the right songwriters!
    • Try to choose performers whose audiences are compatible... so anyone who loves listening to one would also enjoy the songs of the others you book for that show.
    • Songwriter round chaos is almost always totally preventable stress if you clearly communicate the show agenda to all involved. Make sure your venue will be available and the soundperson will be present for soundcheck. Give performers plenty of notice about the venue location, times for soundcheck, when doors open, and when the show should start, the length of the show (number of songs they'll do), and where they can find ticket purchasing information they can share. Ask for any photos, videos, and/or bios you need for promotion prior to show. From my experience, add a deadline to that request!  
  • Promote the show!
    • It's hard to draw an audience that doesn't know you're having this songwriter round! There are lots of free and paid ways to advertise, including online social networking, email blasts and local flyers. 
    • Make eye-catching banners with photos and info on the gig. I personally use Canva to create my graphics. You can customize and size the banners for social networking as well as posters and email news blasts.
    • Promote multiple times. Announce the show a couple of weeks out, then again and again as you get closer to the date. Share reminders on social media the morning of the gig.
    • Get others to help promote! Ask your songwriters to promote the show, and share your show banner graphics with them. Don't forget your family, friends, and fans you can enlist to help spread the word.
  • Either have a cover charge or a tip jar. 
    • Find out what your venue usually suggests as a cover charge, and who collects it.
    • Consider using 'Square' or 'Paypal Here' for credit cards.
    • Designate someone to be in charge of passing the tip jar during the show. 
    • They can also sell any merch or recordings that performers have.

Tips for performing songwriters...

  • Choose the right songs. 
    • Avoid most depressing, sad, cry in your beer songs... at least don't do a whole show of them. If you have them, include a funny and lighthearted song. A lot of round veterans write special songs just for these shows.
    • Create your intended set list, but prepare more songs than you'll need, in case you feel the sudden need to change one to better follow a song someone else just did. On the show, read your audience... what do you think they'd like to hear next?
    • By definition, songwriter rounds are for original music; not cover songs. But every rule can be broken. For instance, I often sing a song that was a hit for me as an artist but written by someone else. Just be sure you are clear about what is expected of you by the person who books you. 
    • You might be bored with them, but do sing hit songs if you have written them; audiences love hearing songs they know. Add brand new ones...  A really good mix is hits and new songs that might be next hits! 
  • In all ways, be prepared!
    • Bring water or diluted pineapple juice to sip between songs. Eat a simple meal with protein before your show. You'll need not only physical but also mental energy.
    • Make sure your instrument is prepared - check batteries, cords, strings, capos, picks, stools & stands if not provided - anything else you use when you play. 
    • Make sure your voice is prepared - A songwriter round can be as important a career mover as any gig. If you haven't been singing much lately, get your vocal stamina up by singing full voice for days before the round. Definitely warm your voice up like you're about to do a live Grammy performance. A rule for you that I learned from the late Sarah Cannon (Minnie Pearl): make every gig special, no matter who is there.
    • (Dear round playing veterans... pay attention to this one...) Know how to sing well sitting down. Slumping over your guitar or keyboard into a mic will cause a lack of vocal control and thin sound. (Can you feel me poke you in the middle of your shoulder blades?) My point is that if you will be sitting, as in most rounds, then practice that way.
    • Know your songs! Memorize lyrics, chords, and arrangements! Yes, it is common and acceptable to bring lyric sheets to songwriter rounds, but only use them as prompts if you need to. 
    • Know how to enter and draw the audience into the scene of each song; how to differentiate what you do between songs and what you do as you begin them. Take a lesson so I can show you how a bit of acting technique can raise the bar on your performance.
    • Either bring your own microphone (if they'll let you use it) or bring alcohol wipes! In most songwriter round venues, the mics are not in pristine sanitary condition. Use an alcohol wipe on mic and anywhere you'll touch the mic stand. If there's a show after you, wipe it down again. For these pandemic times, it matters more than ever.
  • Be considerate!
    • Show up early for the gig. If there's a soundcheck, (even online) make sure you're there for it. 
    • Make sure your participation adds to the magic instead of subtracts or distracts from it! Don't chime in on another songwriter's performance unless 1. you know they will appreciate your contribution and 2. you're confident you can play or sing well on that song. If these two boxes are checked, please DO add your voice and/or instrument - everyone will be grateful!
    • Support your fellow performers... interact with them as friends would in a casual jam session. When they are performing, actively listen as you'd like them to listen to you. The more fun, friendship and comradery the performers have, the more magic the audience experiences.
    • Interact with the audience. Include them naturally in the conversations. Make them laugh. Get them wrapt in attention as you tell the stories behind your songs. Ask them things, find out where they are from; let them know that you see them. It's the least you can do for their support! Creating this sense of relationship - this instant 'village' is a vital component for truly magical songwriter rounds, and a good way to expand your fanbase!
    • Watch your language. Be courteous, common sense, and read your audience for cues.  A great round often includes some mature song material, but dropping a curse word in the wrong crowd is a great way to ruin a moment, and decrease your fanbase. 
    • Complimenting and thanking your venue, audience, and host, reminding people to tip waiters, and maybe even tipping the soundperson are great ways to get invited back!

Three songwriter round fails to avoid...

I have witnessed all these mistakes, and they really steal the magic out of a songwriter show.
  • Performing internally
Not articulating lyrics clearly enough to be understood. If I'm listening in the audience, I'm thinking 'beautiful melody, sounds interesting, wonder what it's about? Hmm. Next." That's not the response you want!
  • Talking too long 
Yes, everyone expects stories at songwriter rounds, but READ YOUR AUDIENCE... and shorten your story if it seems they are bored, or you are taking too much time from the next person's performance.
  • Arrogance 
I find that arrogance is usually the opposite of confidence. Acting uninterested in the other performers, or over-interested in one while dismissive of others goes over like a thud. Even if you've never met before, a songwriter round is best when it looks like everyone is enjoying and supporting everyone else. Friendly, equal relationships between performers and the audience really sets the show up for magic. All you need to add is great songs! (And sing them well:)

Tips for creating virtual shows...

Please note: I am not a tech guru. I can only share info on the limited things I've experimented with. If you do a virtual show, I highly recommend you do your own research and scope out the increasing options available for live streaming... and I'd like to know what you find out! That said, here are some thoughts.
  • Why do a show online? As I write, we are in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, it is dangerous to fill a small room with people like the songwriter rounds we've known before. However, there are creative ways to bring people together through the internet. The tricky issues include...
    •  the technical difficulty of having multiple people simultaneously connected online,
    • and the latency effect if they try to play together while truly live.
  • To have a true 'songwriter in the round' experience, 
    • Performers need to be able to interact with each other and...
    • the watching audience needs to be able to interact with performers, as well.
    • The performances should not be full band, but more 'unplugged' or stripped-down versions, with acoustic instruments, electronic keyboards, and even simple percussion instruments as appropriate accompaniment.
  • Choose your software: 
    • Be.Live Broadcasting. This is the option I chose for my show I've named 'Cloud Rounds'. You can use this software to stream live to Facebook or Youtube. I went live on Facebook and was able to engage live audience comments, and respond to them as the show progressed.
    • OBS - Open Broadcaster Software. This is a free and open-source application for video recording as well as live streaming. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
    • XSplit Broadcaster - another live streaming option.
    • Restream which enables streaming to 30+ social networks at once.
    • Zoom - a limited option as to participants and viewers. I don't recommend it for songwriter rounds.
    • Please let me know if YOU have used any streaming service, and whether or not you think it would work for songwriter rounds.
  • Try to ensure the best quality audio and streaming video possible
    • Streaming video can be glitchy. Be sure that all performers know to turn off any other internet-using device anywhere near them during the show. Exception: Someone in the house could use their phone to watch the show in another room, as long as the phone is using cellular data instead of your WIFI.
    • Audio can really be a problem when streaming live. It's best for performers to wear earbuds or headphones to limit excessive, echo-ey room sound.
    • For my virtual show I called Cloud Rounds, I had all songwriters pre-tape our performances to prevent the typical live instrument digital glitches. Then with Be.Live software, I inserted the videos into our live show. I was transparent about it, and the audience didn't seem to mind at all. We chatted live between the pre-recorded videos and it really gave the audience a much better audio experience.
  • Setup and promote a virtual tip jar
    • My choice for Cloud Rounds... an app called 'Buy Me A Coffee'. I like this because it takes anyone's credit cards, which go directly to my PayPal account. Also, people can leave comments which I can respond to there.
    • Other options... Venmo or your direct Paypal link. These might be simpler, but with Venmo your tipper would need to have a Venmo account. I also use Square to take credit cards. 
    • Remember to tell people you have a tip jar several times during the show.
    • Make sure to mention your website, merch and music store you have online!
  • Take advantage of 2 things virtual rounds have over physical venue rounds: bigger audience potential, and the replay factor. 
    • Consider paying for a small 'boost' promotion for the show replay on Facebook. Between the organic reach and $20 boosted replay, my first Cloud Round has so far landed over 6 thousand views, about 1 thousand of them full thru plays of the 1.5-hour show! Tons of likes, comments, and connections, too. This is a much bigger reach than a physical songwriter round venue like Nashville's iconic Bluebird Cafe.
    • Consider editing the show (I use Cyberlink Power Director for this) to remove any really distracting speedbumps such as long silences while getting the tech right, freezing or out of sync video performances, and such. Then multipurpose the video to Youtube and other video platforms. It will live there for virtually ever:) Speaking of which...
Check out our "Cloud Rounds" show
my first experience creating/hosting a virtual songwriter round!

Look for future Cloud Rounds hosted by me and my co-sponsor for this event series, Mark Thress, with whom I brainstormed this virtual songwriter event concept. 

What about you?

What do you think about listening to or performing song rounds? What do you think about virtual rounds? I'd love your comments! And hit me up if you'd like to catch a vocal lesson before your next show. Let's make it rock!

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Monday, June 15, 2020

The Multi-Creative Soul - Interview with Mark Elliott

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
Available also on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher, Spotify, Android apps

PLEASE REVIEW at RateThisPodcast.com/atv

I first met Mark Elliott in his studio back in the woods outside Nashville, where I had been asked to do vocal production on a mutual client of ours. His control room window contained clouds of (real) butterflies. The plaques on the wall and the instruments around suggested he knew something about bluegrass. Next time I saw him was at the symphony. Then at a vocal lesson, where he revealed one of the best voices I've ever worked with. I also learned he is a hit songwriter and tours with a band named after a musical I worked on (he would say it was the reverse:) And he's a poet and novelist! We traded books and I found out what a treat for the senses his writing is. We began following each other on social networks and I found him a fascinating study in NEVER getting bored!! So I asked him for an interview to share his multi-creative soul with us. If you're in need of some inspiration to move forward, come with us down the rabbit trails we traveled. If you like it... please let us know!

Some quotes from the interview:

Discipline is connected to inspiration
Protecting forward momentum energizes the next thing
The legs of your forward momentum are upon content’

Some of our discussion trails:

  • Integrating multiple creative and technical sides of oneself.
  • How you can start out in classical voice and end up in bluegrass - loving them both!
  • The value of both nature and nurture, parents and environment, to Mark's journey.
  • Brick walls and turning points
  • The difference between writing songs and writing novels.
  • Mark recites his latest poem ‘Where Did You Go’ 
  • Thinking outside the box for the promotional video series to launch his single 'Craziest Thing'. We play a snippet!
  • Mark's experience with a vocal polyp.
  • Guitar strings and microphones... including how he cleans his mics.
  • Mark's future gazing; encouragement for others to move forward, too.

About Mark Elliott:

To quote Devon O'Day;
As a singer-songwriter, Mark Elliott is a ‘lifer.’ He lives and breathes the poetry of existence.
Mark started his singer-songwriter career in Washington, DC. Tom Paxton discovered him and led him to Nashville. He has won songwriting awards including the Kerrville New Folk Award, has written for publishing houses including Bluewater Music, Maypop Music group, and Sony Music/ATV, and has had his songs cut by indie and major-label artists. Billboard Magazine called Mark’s Neal McCoy hit, Every Man for Himself, “a song with rare lyrical and musical edge and the best cut on the album.” Other publications have praised his work including Martin Guitar Company’s Sounding Board Magazine, UK’s Maverick Magazine and Music Row Magazine which said Mark was "Almost too good”.  

He tours live with his band, Runaway Home, and has a new solo EP due out summer 2020, with the first single called "Craziest Thing". Mark writes books, blogs, and essays. Kirkus Reviews said of Mark’s first full-length book, The Sons of Starmount: Memoir of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, “Cheerful, more thoughtful than most reminiscences, and quite enjoyable.” Mark is a regular contributor to Songbones Magazine. 

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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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Available also on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneIn RadioStitcher, Spotify, Android apps
PLEASE REVIEW at 
RateThisPodcast.com/atv
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 11 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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