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, July 12, 2021

In-Ear Monitors: Don't Use Just One! (Updated)

  I use custom ear molds with Sensaphonics ears and the Shure PSM 900 Wireless System. 

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Anyone who has ever performed live knows you need some kind of stage monitors that will help you sing accurately and deliver confident performance magic. The mix of instruments and voices, the sonic envelope, ambiance and volume of sounds you hear in your monitors can make or break your performance, because your vocal apparatus responds to what your ears hear. Hearing too little of what you need will usually result in pushing your voice excessively, which can lead to vocal fatigue and damage as well as limit vocal control. Too much monitor sound, or the wrong mix of sounds, can sabotage confident breath support as well as control, and can cause you to sing out of tune, among other issues.

In my career, I have most often used stage wedge monitors, but finally made the plunge and got a set of in-ear monitors to use myself and to be able to advise my students.

Personally, I really love hearing the whole room when I perform, and getting ready for my first in-ear show I wondered how I would do with those monitors inserted in both ears, isolating me from the sound I'm so used to. I actually ended up LOVING them!! 

We've all seen artists on stage, even on the major music award shows, with one in-ear monitor dangling on their neck. When I asked several singers and doctors about wearing them in just one ear, and received conflicting advice. However, the jury is now in: For the safety of your hearing,

...never use just one!

I got to chat with the real expert on the subject of in-ears: doctor of Audiology Michael Santucci, who was manning his Sensaphonics booth at a NAMM event. When I asked him about using just one side of these monitors, he stated in no uncertain terms that it creates a serious risk to hearing to use just one in-ear. He explained why, but rather than try and call that up for you verbatim, here is Michael Santucci and Mike Dias of IEM manufacturer Ultimate Ears, explaining it in Mix Magazine:
Santucci explains: "One danger from too much isolation comes when musicians decide to “fix” the problem by wearing an earpiece in only one ear. When players take one out, their brain loses its ability to do binaural summation, where two ears together add up to a 6dB increase in your perception of loudness. If you're hearing 90 dB in both ears, your brain thinks it's hearing 96 dB. If you take one ear away, then that one ear has to go from 90 to 96 to sound like 96. And now the other ear is open and getting bashed by the band, the P.A. and the crowd. So this loud sound coming into the open ear causes you to turn the other ear up even more. In terms of ear safety, using one earpiece is a dangerous practice — it could actually be worse than using none at all.”
Mike Dias continues the discussion: “There's a common misconception that an artist can use just one earpiece and still use stage monitors, but this results in the worst of both worlds,” says Dias, who offers a simple experiment to demonstrate this. “Have someone stand onstage with a beltpack using one ear and turn it up to a comfortable performing level. Now shut the beltpack off and run the stage monitor to a comfortable level. When you turn the monitors and the single earpiece on, the artist inevitably thinks the in-ear sounds weak and cranks it up to compensate. But when you turn the wedges off, the artist will notice that the earpiece is too loud. In the case of one-ear listening, you don't get the benefit of hearing protection and you don't get the accuracy benefit of the in-ears.”
I don't know about you, but I value my ears too much not to heed this advice from this authority. If you find yourself in the habit of dropping one of your in-ears on stage, and you have the budget, it might be worth an upgrade to ambient sound in-ears, which gives you the ability to 'dial in' just the right amount of ambient sound. 

Or, you might do like I do; put them in both ears but insert them just loosely enough that a little outside sound can leak in without them dropping out of your ears. BUT: Just know if you wear them loosely, you won't get nearly as rich a sound in your mix. It's really best, if you use them a lot, to work with a sound engineer BEFORE the tour to get your snugly-inserted in-ear monitor mix just right, and then rehearse with them that way so you get used to the feeling and the sound of snugly wearing your in-ears.

More In-Ear Tips:

  • Don't forget to clean them after every use! That wax build up can create problems.
  • Be careful how much bass you have in your mix. Bass overtones can cause you to be pitchy.
I really like the advice given in these Youtube videos I found:
  • from the Shure company...  https://youtu.be/Q_cQx6qd4VQ

  • from audio professional at Kettner Creative... https://youtu.be/bfWeA0FP62A

 Now what about you?

Do you use in-ears on stage? How are they working for you? What tips can you share about them? I'm very curious! 

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sofia Evangelina Interview - Teen Phenom in Pursuit of Excellence

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Today's interview is with a joyously driven and phenomenally talented teen pop/R&B artist who has a stunning voice and a journey full of wild successes in the arts and athletics. She has an amazing mother who watches over her and gives advice informed by her own business success and global travel, and a fully supportive father. Yet it's Sofia who drives her own boat. This phrase in her bio defines her well...

Small frame, big voice, with an old soul and an urban spirit

She has chosen to dedicate herself to award-winning excellence in such diverse fields as painter, dancer, Canadian national championship team snow skier, actor, singer, songwriter, performer. Now she is laser focused, zeroing in on her music career. She has released a dynamic single "Endure" (see below) and will be releasing 5 more this year. She's also performing back onstage now that things are beginning to open up again.

Sofia's creative energy, willingness to learn, and empathy for others truly inspire me; I'm so honored to work with her as vocal coach. As you listen to this interview, we want to ask YOU... what dreams do you have from deep in your heart that you haven't pursued? For the sheer joy of it and to make the world somehow a better place, perhaps it's time! Join us for the sweet conversation. 

More of Sofia:


1. Acceptance speech for 'Best Album' at Young Artist Awards 40th Gala in LA 

2. Listen to 'Endure' on several links: https://lnk.to/ENDURE

3. Watch Sofia's Malmute Husky 'Laska' join us for vocal exercises!

Monday, June 14, 2021

How to Practice Your Voice Without Irritating the Neighbors - UPDATED 2021

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I received a very practical question in my email ... Julia in Albuquerque asks,
I live in an apartment complex and like to practice at night. What should I do about the noise? 
Singers sometimes need to do vocal warmups and practice songs in hotel rooms, houses shared by others or on postage stamp lots, artist dressing rooms, public bathrooms, between-set-alleys, band buses, a back corner of the venue itself. How can you do this without annoying neighbors or giving away the sound of your not-yet-warmed-up-voice? Here are some suggestions:

Quietest solution:

Silence! Mime or lip-sync your songs. Use your facial and body language, flex your pelvic floor power, do everything but make a sound. Use silent vocal exercises like lip or tongue trills - try the "Mental Body/Voice Connection Routine" which is in my 6-disc Power, Path & Performance vocal training course. Tell you what; I'll just give it to you as a signup bonus right now! (If you don't see this signup box below, go to the blogpost site online

Cheapest audible solution:

Consider getting a pair of HearFones. These gadgets are like having a PA system that requires no electricity or batteries. Wearing them will also have the added benefit of keeping you from using too much air pressure. You won't push your voice loudly because it will sound like yelling at yourself! So you'll most probably be prompted to use better techniques for opening your throat and balancing breath support and control. A win-win for you AND your neighbors!

Good will/kindness solution:

Try garnering a little good will by contacting and alerting neighbors about when you intend to practice, being willing to work around times they especially need quiet (working night shift and need to sleep, baby's napping, etc). If you're singing with your instrument or your band is joining you for rehearsal, try using quiet practice gear and maybe some headphones. Your neighbors (and family) could become supportive friend-fans and organic show promotors!

Location solutions:

  • For an apartment, hotel room or space you don't own, you can try warming up and singing in the shower! You can also try vocalizing into a pillow or window curtains.  However, don't practice in 'guarded stance'. A hunched over, too-careful posture and numb delivery could lead you into bad vocal technique, causing you to tighten up instead of loosen up!
  • You can always practice in your car... but if you practice correctly you must be mindful of how you are singing. SO.... don't tailgate, stay away from other cars, or better yet... park and sing! Oh and don't let your posture slump. 
  • For your home, you might consider dedicating a space for playing/listening to/practicing music. In my home, my music room is located over my garage, and there is carpet on the floor. It really is a great situation for me and my students. So is, of course, the fact that I'm mostly working online with lessons, background vocals and production right now.

High end solutions

If you want to go the whole distance (and have the funds to do so); 
OK you... now go practice! Got neighbors? Where there's a will there's a quiet way:)

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Before Marketing Your Artist Career, Know Who You Are - Chat With Diane Foy


                                Diane Foy                                                             Judy Rodman

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I interviewed PR & marketing coach Diane Foy hoping to get some good advice for artists. Wow, did she deliver... honestly, pulling no punches... about what it really takes to be successful in the business of the arts. I found her refreshingly authentic and generous with strategic advice. If you answer 'yes' to her question: "do you have an unstoppable drive, but lack a strategic plan?" then you really want to hear this chat. My thanks to Diane for sharing her valuable insights with us, and you might want to check out her own podcast, too (you'll recognize her guest)!

Some of the Rabbit Trails We Explored: 

  • How Diane helps people thrive financially with their talents, including her "6 C's" roadmap to book gigs and make money.
  • How a love for artists led Diane to become a photographer, makeup artist, publicist, journalist, and finally a coach with deep and wide understandings of how the business of the arts works.
  • The importance of getting out of our comfort zones, even if we are introverts.
  • Diane suggests that for real success an artist has to attract fans, media and industry.
  • The effect of the pandemic on Diane in Canada, and the mistakes she has seen artists make in not taking advantage of industry downtime.
  • Diane talks about coaching her artists to explore their stories and form their personal branding to gain confidence before learning about and digging into strategic social media activity.
  • How music marketing and promotion strategies have changed significantly; why hiring a publicist may not be your answer.
  • The importance of having a trusted team, and how you can vet the people you work with.
  • How coaches can speed up career trajectory.

About Diane Foy

There is a section on Diane's website titled 'My Why'. She says it's her life-long passion for arts and entertainment. Helping artists and performers succeed is her purpose in life. 

For 25 years Diane has been a creative entrepreneur, including 16 years as an arts & entertainment publicist representing renowned celebrities as well as independent artists. When traditional media began to downsize, there were fewer opportunities for the indie artists she most enjoyed working with, and 'artist development' departments had vanished from the entertainment industry leaving new artists to figure out on their own how to build their career. So Diane found the solution to help both artists and herself to thrive: She studied and became a certified coach. She developed what she calls her 6 "C's" of the Sing!Dance!Act!Thrive! Pathway to a successful career. Testimonials on her website speak to her client's success. 

Diane's Links

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Raspy Voice... Cool Sound or Voice Killer?

Yours truly adding a little rasp at BB Kings, Nashville

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Cool Rasp:
The raspy voice has been a signature sound for some singers with legendary careers. Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks, Bonny Tyler, Macy Gray and Brian Adams are among the artists that come to mind who have successfully used this sound, plus of course rockers who use extreme versions of rasp and scream. In many contemporary music genres, a degree of raspiness can add a cool, passionate, exciting factor to vocal performance.

Dangerous Rasp:
The raspy voice can also be the tell-tale clue for the presence of vocal damage. It's one of the signs of vocal nodes, polyps, cancer, spasmodic dysphonia. Yes, there are surgical techniques to remove and repair serious damage. But watch these vocal surgery videos (especially the first two) and I think you may find yourself freshly dedicated to preventative vocal cord care instead of possible vocal suicide!

But what if you want to have a raspy sound in your voice? Can you safely do it? 
It depends on several factors. Check yourself for these three: Vocal health, stamina, and technique.

Your Vocal Health 

- the presence of any vocal strain or damage
Case study:

Some concerned parents brought their child in for a vocal lesson. Their little girl already had a successful vocal career going, and was in the middle of a professional production, but was experiencing some problems. I had her sing for me and found her voice to be breathy and raspy. The parents told me that a coach their daughter had been working with told them that some people's voices are just naturally that way, so they never worried about it. Hmm. I had her do some gentle, targeted vocal exercises that almost always clear a voice up, but I couldn't get her speaking or singing without those sounds. Recognizing the signs, I sent her to Vanderbilt Voice Center in Nashville where they examined her vocal cords, diagnosed serious vocal nodules, and put her on extended voice rest. Her vocal career was stopped in its tracks. I'm not sure what happened to her, because I never heard from her again, which is unfortunate because it is my experience that with time and careful remedial work, vocal damage can usually heal without surgery, and careers can be resumed.

If you have any vocal strain or damage, do not sing or speak with a rasp, vocal fry, or 'gravel' sound. Period. Picture rubbing two wounded emery boards together every time you sing. Wait until the vocal damage and fatigue is completely healed before attempting to create rasp (if ever!).

If you have a raspy voice already and you can't make a conscious choice to speak or sing without it, it's very important to investigate why it sounds that way. For instance, you could have excessive mucous on your vocal cords (folds) due to allergies or dehydration. You could have a degree of irritation or a growth of some kind on your vocal cord(s). You could even have throat cancer. You could be fatiguing or damaging your voice by the vocal fry you don't even know you're using when you speak.

Contrary to what you may hear (from ANYBODY), it is not a good idea to ignore it just because you've had vocal raspiness for a long time, and think it's 'natural' for you. Any chronic case of vocal raspiness, hoarseness, or discomfort should be investigated by a doctor. It's best to go to a vocal health center where medical voice specialists can scope your cords, rule out anything serious and illuminate you about anything you may be doing or not doing that is causing the sound. A good vocal coach can help you change techniques that are keeping your voice unhealthy.

Your Vocal Stamina

- the conditioned strength of your vocal apparatus.

Some voices can just get by with more punishment than others. Think of the guy or girl you know who can eat habanero peppers like candy. Some voices are strong enough, or have been exercised long and correctly enough,  to create vocal sounds that would fatigue or damage weaker voices. It is my opinion that such is the case for career raspy singers like those mentioned above. Unless, of course, they lose their voices on tour!

Case Study:
I sang for about 7 years as part of a group that sang jingles from 8:30am to 3:30pm 5 days a week. One of the singers in our group developed a vocal hemorrhage from the hours of singing. Why did she have the issue and others did not? The better question is, what were the signs she needed to rest? And yes, she did heal completely and went on to a stellar career.

How do you know? 
    • If it hurts, your voice can't tolerate it... stop! 
    • If your voice feels worse the next day after you've used a raspy sound, your voice can't tolerate it... stop! 
    • If you haven't been singing for a while and need to sing a raspy song, try doing those raspy sounds far less than usual throughout the song. Save it for choice spots and do those BACKWARDS (see next section). When it comes to vocal affectations, less is often best anyway for performance impact!
    • If you have it because you smoke, you don't need the cigarette - train instead for the rasp you want. And don't be afraid to ... stop smoking!! You can do it!

Your Vocal Technique

- the way the voice creates the raspy sound
There are techniques to singing with a raspy sound that are healthy. If this is a sound you want to use, learn how to do it in a way that protects your cords from vocal strain. For metal screamers, I recommend the Jamie Vendera product "Extreme Scream". For those of you who'd just like some random rasp, I can help you accomplish it strain-free with my 'pulling' method of deconstructing technique.

Bottom line:

You may wish to add a growl, rasp or scream for coolness or signature impact when you sing. You may be acting as a character with a raspy voice, and need to speak with that sound. But be careful. Don't use rasp or vocal fry unless you mean to; get it out of your everyday speech habits. And if you do mean to sing or speak with a rasp for some purpose, learn vocal techniques to pull those sounds, be vigilant with vocal warmups and cooldowns to mitigate any stress to your vocal cords. Create those sounds in ways that will protect the health of your vocal apparatus. Raspiness can be cool, passionate, and harmless, or it can be a real voice killer.

If you'd like to reach out for a lesson on vocal rasp or anything else, contact me. I'd be glad to help!

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Public Speaking Tips - Dave Bricker On 'Story Sailing'

Judy Rodman                                              Dave Bricker

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Public speaking careers include more than you might think. Whether you're an event speaker, business person, teacher, professor, minster, receptionist, waiter, TV or radio host or guest, or a music artist who speaks between songs and gives interviews – your speaking voice matter a ton. I spoke to veteran speaker coach Dave Bricker who generously shared some ninja tips that can increase the impact and value of our voices in all our talking roles. 

Some questions we explored:

  • You really focus on teaching the fine art of great storytelling. Why is it such an invaluable skill for any speaker? How do stories work?
  • How do you take an extraordinary experience like crossing an ocean on a wooden boat or 
  • What about a story that is NOT extraordinary? I guess we could make one up or super-embellish a story based on fact (like great songwriters and screenwriters do) but where do you draw the line at stories that are less than 100% true? Do you ever adapt a story to fit your audience?
  • What about actually voicing the story? I love the following refrigerator magnet-worthy phrases I found in one of your videos… talk to us about each of these…
    • Turn nervous into service
    • Rediscover the power of the… pause.
    • Focus on your listener instead of on yourself. Don’t use it as your own therapy session (testimonials that make others feel like failures).
  • Any other tips on telling the story in a more engaging way? How do you elicit interaction?
  • I find that creative people are often socially challenged introverts. When they are involved in their art or music, they can focus like a laser, but they are often boring speakers, especially in radio or TV interviews. How can even introverts improve? What skills do they need to learn?
  • What are some common mistakes that speakers make—both on the storytelling side and also the technical side?
  • Now that so many in-person events & gigs have been canceled, we are all having to communicate far more to our clients and our fans online. What are some tips you could share that we can use to connect more effectively and memorably on-screen with our audiences? How do you suggest we interact with our audience during virtual concerts?
  • Looking into the future, what do you envision as the “new normal” for the public speaking business? Are there opportunities to be found in the pandemic that we can continue to use?
  • Your books are available on Amazon. How can people get ahold of you? What are you doing to continue to offer value to your customers and clients? 

About Dave Bricker:

As a young man, Dave became inspired by the remarkable world travelers, squatters and dreamers he met in a sailboat anchorage known as Miami's “secret floating village", and their remarkable stories.

By his senior year in college, Dave was living aboard his own tiny sailboat. Soon after graduation, he set sail for the Bahamas with a locker full of food and dreams … and a whole $40 in his pocket.

He traveled up and down the Bahamas, up the east coast of the US to Chesapeake Bay, and across the Atlantic to Gibraltar. He ran aground, dealt with mechanical breakdowns, got seasick more than once, slept in a volcano, survived powerful storms, and returned to the land of clocks and calendars with what he’d gone in search of—stories of his own.

Today, as a speaker, trainer, and coach, Dave Bricker helps remarkable people tell remarkable stories—through writing, speaking, graphic design, video, technology, and music. If you want to say it, share it, or sell it, bring him your story; he’ll help you tell it.

Find Dave:

  • Website: StorySailing.com
  • Course: 52 Speaking Blunders 
  • Blog: https://storysailing.com/storysailing-blog
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/davebricker
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daveBricker

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Monday, May 10, 2021

Opportunity: Free Workshop on Alternative Income Strategies by Artist Mentors Bree Noble & Katie Zaccardi


Interviewing Bree and Katie was a brainstorming party for you!

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Have you ever thought about teaching what you know? If you make a living singing, creating music, or speaking, your financial situation is on roller skates. It's wise to develop alternative streams of income, and teaching your skills to others could be a win-win stream of good. For this episode, I interviewed artist mentors Bree Noble and Katie Zaccardi about their upcoming event to help artists do just that. First, they offer a quiz to help you narrow down what kind of skills you could best teach. Then they will hold a free workshop/challenge for launching your new income stream. Here are the links:

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