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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Vagal - Vocal Connection Part 2... by Functional Medicine Practitioner Jackie Warner

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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

NOTE: This is part 2 of a series... Find Vagus-Vocal Connection part 1 at this link.
Do you know the difference between a little adreneline rush before you step on stage and a state of chronic anxiety and stress? You can bet your voice does. And so does Jackie Warner!
Part 2 of the Vagal-Vocal Connection is a post generously written for All Things Vocal by Jackie Warner, who is a certified practitioner of the Institute for Functional Medicine. She founded the Thrive Health & Wellness Clinic in Nolensville, Tennessee. I became aware of her through the health building experiences Leah Grams Johnson (who wrote our Part 1) had at her clinic. My thanks to Leah and to Jackie Warner for sharing this in-depth look at a subject important to all voices: how to deal with stress - and of course our Vagus nerve plays an important part!  
Please note:
The information provided on this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new routine of diet, exercise or supplementation or medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.
Here now, is Jackie’s post:

Stress and its impact on your body!

Let’s start off with the nervous system in our body. The autonomic nervous system (ANS)  is divided into two subsystems: the sympathetic nervous system (aka-fight or flight) and the PNS, parasympathetic nervous system (aka-the brakes).  The role of the ANS is to constantly balance the functions of the organ systems according to both internal and external stimuli. It does this through coordination of various activities such as hormone secretion, respiration, digestion and excretion and circulation. The ANS is always ‘on’; we are unaware of the tasks it is performing every minute of the day. However, when things become unbalanced, we need to become more aware of what is happening. Both of these systems are divided by the all and powerful Vagus nerve. The goal is to balance both sides and improve the Vagal tone. If that all sounds mumbo jumbo to you, don’t worry, I’ll explain:

Let’s go back…way back to our ancestral times: The lion sees us making fire, we turn and catch a glimpse of this impending threat; Within split seconds of perceiving a threat, this primitive part of your brain sounds the alarm, sending a chemical distress signal to the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis – your Hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, a tiny gland in the front center of your brain, serves as a rapid relay station. The Stress Response signals, once registered, then get passed onto the pituitary gland, another major hormonal regulatory center quite close by in your brain, and from there, all the way down to your adrenal glands, where your body translates these signals into action, providing the fuel you need to escape or fight the danger (thus this is called the fight or flight response).

The adrenal glands initially respond by pumping out a chemical called adrenaline. Under adrenaline’s influence, your heart rate quickens and your breathing changes to get more oxygen to the reaction centers in your brain and to your muscles, your pupils dilate to take in more peripheral vision and help you see, and blood is shunted away from your colon, gut and extremities to pump more blood to your brain and heart so you can run faster, think clearer and see farther. Your mind becomes hypervigilant (also called hyperarousal) – you become keenly aware of and sensitive to every possible threat or hint of danger in your environment. In the short run, some people actually love the feel of adrenaline. It gives us a rush. Some even get addicted to it. Think rollercoasters, horror movies, and bungee jumping. But when this rush becomes chronic, it’s not fun anymore.

When Stress Becomes Distress

Your Stress Response is only meant to be activated in times of danger, and only supposed to last for a few minutes, long enough to get us out of harm’s way and let your brain do the work of cataloging the danger so you recognize it even faster next time.
So, we are not actually running away from the lion, nor do we need to constantly lift the car off our child. We are, however, living in a world full of stressors. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot differentiate our body sitting at a computer feeling stressed vs running away from a threat – our stress response rarely ever “turns off” unless we practice doing it intentionally..
The dark side of chronic hypervigilance is anxiety! Your brain and body get stuck in survival mode and you end up with:
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Overwhelming feeling of fatigue
  • Sleep Problems
  • Brain Fog
Over time you can also end up with a host of other problems including exhaustion, depression, cognitive problems, sugar cravings, weight gain, or Hashimoto’s, and an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Does this sound like you?
If you’re struggling with chronic anxiety, or other symptoms of Adrenal Overdrive or Adrenal Depletion, your stress response or sympathetic system might be the cause. Being “ON” all the time is exhausting and so many of us are experiencing burnout and serious health symptoms as a result. You remain in overdrive, “all systems go.” Your body tries to adapt, until it can’t anymore. You end up feeling like you just want to scream or hibernate in the bed. It’s a problem millions of people are facing, and unfortunately a common prescription is to add medication that can only mask the underlying cause.

Here are the common symptoms of living in a sympathetic or imbalanced cortisol pattern:
  • Afternoon fatigue, caffeine, or sugar cravings, usually around 3 to 4 pm
  • Allergies, food reactions, hives
  • Anxiety, irritability, or depression
  • Being in constant overdrive or overly driven, taking on too much, finding yourself unable to stop and relax
  • Cravings for sugary, salty or fatty foods, or carbs (starches, baked goods)
  • Difficulty sticking with a diet or exercise plan, trouble with “willpower”
  • Difficulty with focus or memory (“brain fog”)
  • Digestive problems
  • Eczema or hives
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed
  • Hashimoto’s or autoimmune disorders show up
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Insulin resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, or Diabetes
  • Low sex drive
  • Extra belly fat
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • PCOS, endometriosis, and infertility
  • Perfectionism, feeling that you’re never doing enough, or never doing things well enough
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up still tired
Ughhhhh, what to do?? There is a way out: Reset Your Stress Response to Heal Anxiety
The good news is that our bodies do have other ways of responding to stress triggers than with anxiety – ones that allow us to move out of a state of alarm, into feeling calm and safe. Here are my top 5 top tips:

STEP #1 Recognize the Feeling

The first step to overcoming anxiety is to recognize it for what it is – a set of feelings that are the result of a series of biological responses to a perceived threat. Pay attention to what happens when you become anxious. Find your stress response (For me, it’s the tension in my jaw-I tend to clench my teeth); yours may be shoulder/neck pain/strain-everyone is different. Notice your heart rate increases, your breathing accelerates, you may start to sweat, and your mouth might get dry. You may feel that you are going to pass out. Or you may have an urge to run, flee. You may have difficulty concentrating or experience memory lapses. You may experience nausea, chest pressure or pain. At bed time you may be unable to fall asleep. You may feel a sense of impending doom – even that you are going to die. But you are not. These are the signs of anxiety. It is your body’s flight-or-fight response kicking in.

STEP #2: Breathe…………just breathe…………….

I want to introduce you to my good friend the Vagus Nerve. I joke with patients that the Vagus nerve is the new “black”. It is the master of calm. Here’s why: When you stimulate your vagus nerve, it releases an array of anti-stress enzymes and hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin. Vagus nerve stimulation is associated with benefits such as improved memory, immune function, sleep, and higher levels of growth hormone. It also may help tame inflammation, allergic responses, and tension headaches.

Unless you’re a yoga master, you cannot directly and consciously stimulate your vagus nerve. But you can indirectly stimulate your vagus nerve to relieve anxiety and depression.
“Deep breathing is a great example of that,” says Dr. Golubic. We have a certain space where we can control breathing. We can extend the inhalation and the exhalation. So by those practices we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system.”

Other ways to stimulate your vagus nerve include cold-water facial immersion after exercise and submerging the tongue or by gargling excessively, even singing loudly. I don’t know about you, but I prefer deep breathing, well and the singing - my family may not though. [Judy interrupts... I can help you with that!] In times of crisis, whatever works is the answer!

I teach my patients the 5/5/5 paced breathing technique. We start with an abdominal inhalation in for a count of 5; hold for a count of 5 while pushing your shoulders back, relaxing your arms/hands and then fully exhaling, through pursed lips for a count of 5. To get into a vagus-nerve stimulation mode, it’s best to reduce the number of breaths from a typical 10-14 per minute to 5-7 per minute. Check out the Heart Math emWave, an affordable and effective biofeedback device that you can easily use at home. We also have sessions available at Thrive Health and Wellness.

STEP #3 Create Safe Space for Your Brain

Getting and staying out of 'SOS' is a lifestyle commitment that feels good and can transform your health, life, and even relationships and business success. I recommend creating a nightly “practice” or routine that helps you consciously downshift out of stress; this helps guarantee that your body has a chance to get out of flight or flight each day, letting your nervous system reset from survival mode to safe space. Here’s a suggested practice:
  • Take a hot bath or shower 30 minutes before bed; I prefer using an Epsom salt bath with 10-15 drops of a good quality Lavender essential oil.
  • After your bath or shower, grab a notebook and pen, and jot down one thing you’re proud of from your day, one thing you’re grateful for, and one thing you’re looking forward to the next day.
  • Hop into bed and click on the Headspace app (free if you have an Andr­oid or Iphone). Then do a series of 5-7 paced breaths while you listen to a guided meditation. I love this app. For ‘retraining the brain’. It works!

STEP #4 Nourish your body from the inside/out

Herbs and nutritional supplements are a beautiful complement to support you in healing the impact of the stress of modern living, and even the impact of past trauma, on your Survival Response System. They can help you heal from anxiety and allow you to live freely again. First, try to identify your triggers; this can be done with journaling and through an elimination diet plan. Here is a list of foods that nourish your adrenals and foods that harm:

The 11 best foods for Adrenal Fatigue are:
  • Organ meats (e.g. liver)
  • Fish
  • Organic meats (e.g. beef, chicken) wild better, no GMO or grain fed ideal.
  • Eggs (if not sensitive)
  • Low sugar fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans (If no SIBO or yeast issues)
  • Avocado, Nuts and seeds
The 7 worst foods for Adrenal Fatigue are:
  • High sugar fruits
  • Sugary snacks
  • Fast food
  • Processed foods
  • Refined grains (e.g. white bread)
  • Dried fruits
  • Coffee
Support your adrenal glands by adding adaptogenic herbs that work as adrenal fatigue supplements. Adaptogen herbs include ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, licorice root and ginseng. They’re titled adaptogens because they help your body adapt and deal with stress, and these have big benefits.
  • The No. 1 adaptogen specifically for your adrenals is called ashwagandha. Ashwagandha benefits adrenals because it lowers cortisol levels and maintains healthy adrenal function.  The same is true of the other adaptogen herbs, including ashwagandha, holy basil and licorice root (caution with high blood pressure here), which are the most beneficial for supporting your adrenal glands.
  • Also, getting B (methylated) vitamins is very important for your adrenal glands, especially Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to adrenal cortex stress, so supplementing with vitamin B12 can be a beneficial addition to your adrenal fatigue diet.
  • Last but not least, magnesium as well as vitamin D can also support your adrenals, along with selenium. Magnesium plays a vital role in combatting adrenal insufficiency and is an important cofactor for almost every bodily function. I love Magnesium!
  • Selenium benefits adrenals because it’s a mineral that works as an antioxidant that also supports the adrenal glands. That’s why selenium deficiency can lead to adrenal issues.

More about Jackie Warner: 
Jackie Warner, FNP-BC, IFMCP

Jackie Warner is a board-certified nurse practitioner in family practice and functional medicine. With 20 years of extensive nursing experience including trauma, ICU, cardiac and wellness, Jackie experienced the frustrating “revolving door" care model offered by traditional approaches to treatment of disease. After completing a health coaching program through the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine certification, she found her true calling in the field of functional medicine.
Jackie next went on to obtain her certification through the Institute for Functional Medicine, and as of 2018 is one of only three practitioners in the state of Tennessee to have completed this extensive training and examination process. Combining her diagnosis and treatment-based experience in hospital care with a functional medicine approach to identifying and eliminating the underlying causes of disease and dysfunction is Jackie’s passion, and her Thrive Health & Wellness Clinic, located in Nolensville, Tennessee, is its expression.
My thanks once again to Jackie Warner for so generously sharing this information with us! If your near the Nashville area, look into the wellness services she offers at her clinic.
Have you enjoyed this series about the Vagus nerve? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!
And again... here's the link to part 1.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Vagal - Vocal Connection Part 1... by Leah Grams Johnson

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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps
This is Judy: As a vocal coach, I have become intrigued by the vagus nerve and its connection to the voice. It affects not only laryngeal functions, but the diaphragm, and thus vocal cord and breathing operations. Actually an extensive array of all sorts of bodily functions rely on its nuanced direction. We can help it work better ('increase vagal tone') with certain strategies. I asked my brilliant student/ assistant/ indie artist Leah Grams Johnson, who has been researching and working with a functional medicine physician for her own wellness, to write Part 1 of this series on the voice and the vagus nerve. Her doctor will be writing Part 2.  

Here now is Leah:

As vocalists, our bodies are our instruments. It follows that for the health and longevity of our voices, it is imperative we care for our bodies to the best of our ability.  At an intuitive level, I believe we can be our own healers for certain aspects of our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Vocalists even more so. Here’s why:

At the base of our skull exists the longest and most complex cranial nerve, called the vagus nerve. Picture this nerve like a beautiful climbing rose bush on a fragile bone trellis. It first reaches its delicate tendrils around the face, throat, vocal chords, and neck, then extends down to the heart, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, and intestines. For those of you with more sensitive stomachs, the vagus nerve is like a highway of communication sending signals from the brain, to the gut, and back to the brain— the cause of what we call “gut feelings.” A healthy functioning vagus nerve is said to have a strong “vagal tone.” 

Through indirect stimulation of the nerve, vagal tone can be increased by: 

  • singing or humming, 
  • slow deep diaphragmatic breathing, 
  • meditation, 
  • cold showers or splashing the face with ice water, 
  • and soothing connection (long hugs are like kale for the nervous system). 

How the Vagus rules

This far-reaching nerve plays a lead role in the autonomic nervous system, which consists of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It is
...the prime component of the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates the ‘rest-and-digest’ or ‘tend-and-befriend’ responses (while) the sympathetic nervous system drives the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. - Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today 
When our vagus nerve is functioning properly, these two contrasting systems... 
...work in a rhythmic alternation that supports healthy digestion, sleep, and immune system functioning. - Dr. Arielle Shwartz. 
Additionally, the vagus nerve decreases inflammation and lowers blood pressure. A special note on inflammation: many scientists are beginning to consider conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD as forms and byproducts of inflammation. Other inflammatory diseases and conditions that could benefit from stimulation of the vagus nerve include: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson's, and epilepsy. 
In 2005, the FDA approved the use of vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for depression. It has also been found to help with the following conditions: rapid cycling bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and Alzheimers Disease” - Stacy Sampson, DO, Medical News Today 

The Vagus nerve's impact on the Voice

The voice is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. I like to think of the voice as a wild animal— separate from the rational mind. It needs to feel safe and un-threatened in order to become muscularly relaxed and vulnerable through expression. Much like a horse, the total voice system (vocal chords, throat, diaphragm, lungs) is subject to the physical “fight-or-flight” effects of the sympathetic nervous system, and benefits from the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Remembering this primal function helps me during times of performance anxiety. 
By focusing on what my body needs physiologically to calm its “wild animal” and shift from the sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system, I am more able to remove myself from the emotional storm caused by anxiety, and tame the physical manifestations of fear that inhibit my ability to simply sing. - Leah Grams Johnson

Bottom line: 

Not only does the vagus nerve affect the voice by physically touching the vocal chords, throat, lungs, and diaphragm, it also has a heavy hand in directing the autonomic nervous system. Conversely, the vibration of the vocal chords through singing greatly nourishes this wandering nerve and strengthens vagal tone. 

Within our own bodies, this beautiful symbiotic relationship exists as the vagal-vocal connection, making vocalists all the more adept at becoming our own healers! 

Judy again... Many thanks to my guest poster Leah Grams Johnson for researching and writing this Part 1. 

Leah is a singer-songwriter hailing from the coast of Northern California. Her unique take on Country and Contemporary Folk music has resonated with fans of all musical backgrounds nationwide. She is also an accomplished horsewoman and loves to do yoga!

Stay tuned for PART TWO of the Vagal-Vocal Connection, which will be an in-depth post by Functional Medicine Practitioner, Jackie Warner, regarding ways to reduce chronic stress, balance and nurture the body, and strengthen vagal tone. 

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Heal Your Spirit, Find Your Voice - Interview with Life Coach Terry Smith

Dr. Terry Sanford Smith chilling out (probably humming a tune, too!)
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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

Have you ever wondered how to wade through all the voices out there to find your own? Terry Smith found his voice and became a healer. In this interview, he told me how he did it. Be prepared for a deep dive!

Founder & president of Coaching Life Matters based in Nashville, Terry Sanford Smith has a masters in counselling, masters of theology and a doctorate in personality, religion and culture from Boston University. His decades of service include years of teaching & counselling on the university campus in metropolitan Boston, and directing a counselling center and working at Harding University and the University of Memphis. 

As life coach, he worked people in India including people in alcoholic rehab and victims of the sex trade. He is slated to work with trauma victims in Israel this year. He and his wife Charlotte are special friends, and I’m proud to say he is also my vocal student. He truly believes, and has lived, ‘the impossible dream’. 

You can contact Terry for help and donate to his nonprofit at  www.coachinglifematters.com

Snippets from the interview:

  • Terry’s dysfunctional childhood & adolescence, deep questions, spiritual quest.
  • How he used singing to find joy, connect to his inner being, question what is real.
  • The power of gratitude.
  • This amazing man's experience with vocal lessons.
  • How Terry helps people learn to listen to their own voice and questions.
  • Terry's insight of three core beliefs that determine our actions: security & survival, protection & esteem (love), power & control. 
  • How finding the true voice (artistic definition) can help successful entertainers can avoid life sabotage.
  • Terry’s core method of life coaching is mapping people’s stories. His coaching initiates the healing power of understanding your own story.
  • The parts that education, process, discipline and decision play in healing and finding the true self and voice.
  •  How we act from the 12 year old inside who was wounded. How children are the best recorders and worst interpreters.
  •  95% of people’s counterproductive behavior comes from believing the lie that they are not worthy of love.
  • Be careful what you’re looking for (you’ll find it). Look for truth with an open mind. Look in your history for those who validated and affirmed you.
  • Authenticity draws the listener to songs and speeches.
  •  An illuminating conversation between Peter and Jesus.
  • The power of living out of knowing you are loved.
  • The impact of enlightened voices on others.

What about you? 

Terry and I would both love to hear your thoughts and experiences in finding your most authentic voice, and the part any aspect of your healing had to play. Please leave us a comment! 

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Career Saving Tips To Protect Your Voice From A Hit Song - Part 2

Your voice's success doesn't have to be it's undoing!

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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

NOTE: This is part 2 of a 2-part series. If you haven't read part 1, find it here.
One of the saddest things to me is to see an artist who has worked so hard finally taste success… only to lose their voice from having to use it so much! Here’s part 2 on how to protect your voice from a hit song.

6. Nourish your body like your voice is attached

The way some singer and speakers neglect the care of their physical bodies, you'd think the vocal cords aren't attached. Newsflash... they are!

Your body can't create good energy for singing out of donuts and m&ms. Eat clean, simple, healthy foods that you digest well. This means menu planning should be part of road or pre-show preparation. Good food won't necessarily be easily accessable everywhere, and inevitable 'stuff that happens' can create sudden schedule cram, with little time to sound check and no time to hunt for food. Bring protein snacks and water everywhere, and stock your room or bus fridge with fruits and veggies. If you take nutritional supplements that you've found work for you, don't forget to pack them!

Avoid acid reflux... bring digestive enzymes or whatever meds your doc has prescribed, and eat only what doesn't cause you heartburn. Even good stress can mess with your digestive system, so treat it with respect. Your voice will thank you.

7. Work your body out like a pre-game athlete

Your muscle tone, flexibility and core strength can really affect your vocal ability and your voice's succeptability to strain and damage. Use wisdom... to reserve your energy for performance, save your strenuous workouts for between tours. Before a show do gentle stretches and light physical workouts, being especially careful with free weights so as not to strain your neck and shoulder muscles. Your voice will be much more ready for performance demands if your body is, too.

8. Avoid voice saboteurs

Steer clear of the following like the voice destroyers they are:
  • Avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating, interferes with vocal control including pitch, and can allow you to punish your vocal cords without realizing it. Also it can make you be stupid in sundry career damaging ways. At least before and between shows, abstain. 
  • Avoid smoke, whether from cigarettes, wood burning fires or wildfires. The fine particles you breathe in will of course irritate and interfere with the workings of your lungs, but also will irritate the lining of your throat, including your larynx and vocal cords. If possible, don't let yourself be booked in smoky places.
  • Avoid ticks! The Shania Twain story about losing her voice because of Lyme disease from a tick bite really is a thing. She did fully recover is now back with her first album in 15 years. Most artists don't recover from such a loss of momentum.  Don't take chances with your voice or the rest of your health... use bug spray if you explore tick infested areas.
  • Don't avoid your fans, just wash your hands a lot, and keep them away from your face! The blessing of lots of hands to shake means lots of opportunities to catch something your voice doesn't want. Keep your immune system rocking with your chosen supplements.

9. Use in-ear monitors you've rehearsed with.

During most of my former MTM Records career I used wedge monitors, and I got used to hearing my voice that way. But it's very tricky to learn to 'feel' where pitch is when you can't hear it. Now in large venues I use in-ear monitors. There are lots of different kinds ... the cheaper ones come with standard ear tips, then you go up a level and get ear impressions made for a custom fit. Quite a bit more expensive are the ear monitors that give you the ability to dial in some ambient sound from the room. Whatever type you use, be sure to practice with your in-ears and your sound person to get used to how they sound to you. Oh... and protect your ears as well as your voice... never use just one. Stick them in both your ears.

10. Stay in touch with your vocal coach

Even if you start your busy hit career with naturally good instincts for singing correctly, you can become stressed, tired and worried, all of which undermine good vocal technique. If your voice is important to you... when you finally experience career success and the performance load that comes with it, you need a vocal coach to keep your technique at its peak and correct sneaky saboteurs that can snuff out the career you've worked so hard to build.

I suggest the following habits:
  • Warm up with vocal exercises before every show... and make sure you've been trained in the correct form for your exercises. Most people don't know that doing vocal exercises wrong is just like doing physical exercises wrong... it won't help you; it can hurt your voice!
  • Cool down after the show with light vocal exercises.
  • Take a snapshot check of the condition of your voice after every show.  Check in with your coach for an online lesson if you experience any sign of vocal strain - don't let it build! If you're singing correctly, you should never get vocally tired... only physically tired and hungry!

2 Bonus Tips 

When writing this 2 part series, I initially had 10 tips for you, but then thought of a couple more that are too important not to add:

11. Be Prepared for the emotional ride

The inevitable place after you reach a mountaintop is the valley. Be prepared for the roller coaster ride of album completion, performance success and industry kudos interspersed with a feeling that nothing is going on. You may experience boredom, dissatisfaction or fear. As a woman, I equate this with post-partum depression. Knowing there will be valleys after the peaks can really protect you from depression and the anxiety that goes along with fame and the lack thereof. Creative people can tend to have larger mood swings anyway. If you need to, don't hesitate to get help. Even a talk with a trusted friend or adviser can help, but sometimes you need to seek a professional therapist to get everything in perspective.

12. Know what to do about laryngitis

Learn your response to strategies you take when coming down with something. If your career has any degree of longevity you will probably experience a loss of voice for one reason or another. Keep my blogpost on Laryngitis bookmarked, and if you haven't already, sign up for my 5 pages of tips on Vocal Health.

Not There Yet?

If you haven't yet gotten there to hit-land, but you're successful enough to be doing lots of performances or public speeches, or you are just doing more performances than normal, pay attention to these tips I just gave you. If you want to gain more ability for career purposes, consider professional vocal training. If you're interested, I can work with you in person, by phone and webcam. You can contact me at www.judyrodman.com.

And do check out part 1 of this series with tips 1 through 5 if you missed it.
Did I leave something out? Join the conversation - your comments are most welcome!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Career Saving Tips To Protect Your Voice From A Hit Song - Part 1

When the crowds are rocking... make sure your voice is, too!
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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

Having a hit song can be a double-edged sword for your voice. When you catch that career-moving wave you can get very, very busy and your voice gets pushed to the limit. But if you're armed with good information and consistently use great vocal technique, you need never cancel a show due to vocal strain or damage. You might cancel due to an upper respiratory illness - but not from vocal abuse!

I have a lot to tell you so I'm splitting this into a 2-part series. Here now is Part 1.
You can continue with Part 2 at this link.

1. PULL - don't PUSH for excellent breath control

This is my number one for a reason. Barring an organic disease such as laryngopharyngeal reflux, throat cancer, a nervous system disorder such as Spasmodic Dysphonia or receiving a traumatic injury to the throat, it's going to be excessive breath pressure that causes vocal fatigue, strain or damage. With the pressure of maintaining career success, your performances need to be high octane, but your power of delivery should be more of a magic trick. Get your volume from well-adducted (closed) vocal cords and your tonal richness by allowing laryngeal vibration to have free access to all your resonation surfaces and cavities. Not only will this protect your voice from injury, you will sound better and get the response you want!

If you use my pulling technique, your cords can adduct (compress) with ease and consistency, generating a laser beam rather than a flashlight beam of breath and sound. Your throat channel will also morph, or shape shift, to allow each pitch and vowel to find their most favored places to resonate the best. You don't have to fear singing loud and passionately when you do it this way. You will also have more vocal control in general... helping you with range, pitch, vocal licks; really everything you want to do with your voice. Think of it this way: Vocal cords love to be vibrated but hate to be blown. So pull... don't push... for power!

2. Sing every time like it's the first time

I could have said 'support your voice' and it would mean the same thing... because performing with fresh fire activates your core, your face and body language, which moves breath from your pelvic floor through your open throat to create an emotionally powerful delivery.

If you have to sing the same song(s) over and over again, it can be easy to get complacent and numb with your performance.  What a crazy thing to do... you got a hit and now you steal it from the audience responsible for your success! Use your prime directive... to make your listener (who you can imagine is always at least selectively deaf) respond to your message. This should to re-energize your delivery. James Taylor once said he and his band make light and fun of 'Fire And Rain' during rehearsals, but when he's in front of an audience every time feels like the first time he ever sang that classic smash of his. Maybe that's part of why his career has lasted a lifetime.

3. Limit and control your speaking voice

Remember when you said something as a child and were told to 'watch your mouth'? Truth! Many times, it's an artist's speaking more than singing that gets them into vocal trouble. When you're doing pre-show interviews, meet & greets, post show autograph signings and schmooze parties, remember NEVER for any reason push too much breath while you're talking. If someone can't hear you, lean in, talk with your hands or silently mouth words with facial language. Whatever you do, don't yell or whisper (both are like the Sahara Desert winds blowing through your cords). 20 minutes of screaming can cause the first sign of blood blisters on your vocal cords, a precursor to nodules. Learn to pull your listener in... you'll find the magnet more powerful than the blowhard.

When touring or otherwise doing back-to-back shows or sets, limit the words you speak in general, especially if you don't know how to pull your words. When you do talk, use pingy, bell-like quality of tone instead of breathiness.  And be careful not to push a laugh, either! I teach my students to scream, yell and laugh with a backwards sensation! Prone to longwindedness? Change your habits of protracted gab. Protect your vocal cords... they are your career's most important asset.

4. Rest wisely

There is no substitute for sleep. None. Yes, you may have to sleep on the bus, but factor quality sleep hours in your travel plans, and try to get to sleep before midnight if possible. If you have a road manager or other travel planner, make sure they get the message that sleep time is a priority that must be scheduled in.

During a busy tour, you will get tired. Be smart. Don't talk when you're tired; if you're speaking with proper support it will take a lot of your precious energy which you probably won't expend. Speaking without adequate breath support/control balance and with crunched posture will result in avoidable vocal fatigue... just what you don't need.

When your voice matters, the voice rest of silence is golden. Treat vocal sound like money in the bank... don't make unnecessary withdrawals.

5. Stay hydrated

There is also no substitute for adequate hydration of your voice. Did you know that vocal sound is literally set up in the mucous membranes covering your vocal cords?It's called the mucosal wave. If anything interrupts the free flowing of this wave - like an unhappy vocal cord surface - you're in for vocal trouble. It takes enough water to keep the mucous the right consistency.

A great friend of mine, Jennifer O'Brien, is a top studio and road tour singer. When her voice starts feeling stressed, the first thing she does is to increase the water she's drinking. On the road you may find yourself in dryer areas than you're used to, and of course planes, trains and buses (and cars) are like dehydration chambers. Drink like a fish, take a long shower and breath steam in deeply before your shows, and when going to dry areas, consider bringing an inexpensive humidifier with you.

Find a throat soothing remedy that works for you onstage, pack it and use it. My remedy of choice is diluted pineapple juice (3 or 4 parts water to 1 part juice). Others like honey/cayenne/lemon juice in water; ginger or throat coat tea, some have herbal throat sprays that work and some chew gum right before going on stage. Do NOT sing with a lozenge in your mouth. You could end up inhaling it.

OK that's it for part 1. For seven more tips on protecting your voice from its success, go to part 2 here.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Tips For Stage Performers From A Sound Girl ... Interview With Fela Davis

Pro audio engineer Fela Davis 

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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

In the quest to become better performers, all singers and speakers would do well to learn more about audio engineering, and how to communicate with sound experts. 

So... for this episode of the All Things Vocal podcast, I interviewed Fela Davis, an audio engineer entrepreneur based in New York City. This amazing woman graduated from Full Sail University and now has over 15 years of audio engineering experience, including working for industry powerhouses Clair Global and House of Blues. You’ll hear the names of several legendary artists she’s worked with as you listen to our audio chat. 

Fela specializes in wireless mics and in ear monitors, has prepped gear for network and cable TV shows including Good Morning America Summer Series, The Colbert Report and The Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. She and her partner Denis Orynbekov combined their expertise to create 23dB Productions, located in New York City. Besides in-studio work, they offer a mobile one-stop shop for live projects: They film videos, do multitrack recording, mix and master for concerts and live events.
When Fela's not creating content for her company she’s on international road tours… currently working as mixing-front-of-house engineer for 5-time Grammy award winning jazz artist Christian McBride, and does some shows with 5-time Grammy award nominee Ottmar Liebert.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tis The Season To Be Singing!

My family's gingerbread creation

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 PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

Singing is always in season, but December provides very special opportunities. I want to take this time to wish you readers and listeners in our All Things Vocal village a very happy, joyful holiday season. I hope that music-making... particularly singing... is part of this time for you and your loved ones. Never has there been a more perfect time for 'making a joyful noise' ... whether that sound is professional or a family jam session where no voice is judged less important than another.

Here are some gentle reminders if you're going to be singing:
  • Getting ready for a road trip? Don't forget to take and pack your immune system herbs and supplements that work for you. If you're going somewhere dry, you might even pack a portable warm air humidifier.
  • Getting ready for a holiday parties and family reunions? Getting ready for outside games or events? Don't forget to wear something which will protect your ears and your neck. Also... don't forget to bring water and stay well-hydrated. Also... when you laugh, squeal or scream for joy, be sure and pull that vocal sound.. don't push it! I know... it's the last thing you'd be thinking about, so you better practice pulling now!
  • Getting ready for holiday feasts? Don't forget to limit mucous-enhancing foods like rich cream-based sauces, heavy casseroles, fatty meat portions, excessive deserts, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. You CAN have some of these things, after all, even YOU can celebrate, but if you limit these heavy and toxic substances, you will be able to be in better voice. (Also better health). I say this as I wolf down a slice of my mother's traditional homemade pecan pie:)
  • Getting ready for a holiday performance? Don't forget to warm up your voice with your vocal exercises! Even if it's just 5 or 10 minutes... warmup and remember to pull, not to push, your voice.
My New Year's wish is that your gratitude list, like mine, keeps expanding. So raise a glass of something or other with me to toast the coming year. No matter what direction the economy and music business goes, no matter what life thing blindsides us, there will also be diamonds... blessings and sweet surprises ... embedded in every day. I find it so important, for so many reasons, to look for, notice and focus our spirits on those diamonds.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I can almost hear you singing! God bless you and your precious voices... love, Judy

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