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, January 4, 2021

Chat with Susan Berkley: The Billion Dollar Voiceover Industry

Susan Berkley                                                       Judy Rodman

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 iTunesGoogle PlayTuneIn RadioStitcherSpotifyAmazon, Android apps
PLEASE REVIEW at ratethispodcast.com/atv

Did you notice the 'B' word in the title? Billions of dollars are now being made in the multi-niche field of voiceover. Even when the wounded music industry gets going full steam again, professional singers of all stripes (recording artists, backing vocalists, session singers, club singers, jingle singers, etc) are always going to have to deal with potential financial insecurity. There's a reason Tammy Wynette famously kept her hairdressing license renewed!

This interview I did with veteran voiceover talent and coach Susan Berkley offers you a glimpse into the real possibilities of a successful vocal career where it doesn't matter what you look like, what you're wearing, how old you are or where you live. (Except as Susan says, you need broadband, baby:) I think you'll enjoy it, and you might want to sit with the idea of at least a side alternate income stream using your voice. 

Some topics of our conversation:

  • Susan takes us into her own ongoing voiceover career
  • How the requirement to have 'the voice of God' for success as a voice talent has morphed into the preference for more diverse, normal every-day, authentic voice.
  • Susan takes us int o many of the 14-plus niche markets she's identified as now actively seeking voiceover talent... including broadcast and non-broadcast roles. For instance:
    • commercials
    • political ads
    • cartoons
    • terrestrial and satellite radio
    • store P.O.P. (point of purchase) radio 
    •  E-learning (teaching anyone how to do anything) - now a $150 billion niche!
    • computer telephony
    • traffic/weather/siri, etc
    • medical professional training narrations (a huge field)
    • audio books (last year alone 40,000 were recorded, now raking in $1 billion with a skyrocketing demand for more)
    • video gaming character voices ($250 billion niche market with as many as 90 voices per game, all ages.)
    • Simulation narration for projects including military fighter pilots.
  • We talk about the skills needed (and not needed) for a successful career in voiceover
  • We discuss ways of deeply connecting to the person you're talking to, and delivering the script
  • Susan gives examples of how to make small and sometimes very weird stories important with empathy for the person you're talking to.
  • Susan shares some tips for actually marketing and promoting your voiceover career like a business. We chat about the entrepreneurial spirit, empathy that makes selling a 'holy art', and 
  • We also talk about gear, plugins, iso booths, and how singers can be especially good candidates for voiceover.
  • Susan shared some links to her training.

About Susan Berkley

Susan Berkley is a veteran voice talent, radio personality, author of β€˜Speak To Influence: How To Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice” (avail on Amazon) and creator of her β€˜Mic to Money – voiceover training system. Her credits include being the signature voice of AT&T and the branded telephone voice of Citibank. She is the founder of The Great Voice Company, which today is a full-service audio production company providing voice talent for projects including large, complex multi-language, mission critical applications. Her clients include Citibank, AT&T, Google, Home Depot, Principle Financial Group, Express Scripts and tons more.

Susan is also a renown teacher for voiceover talent. 

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Thursday, December 31, 2020

12 Vocal Resolutions To Rock the New Year -updated 2021

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

Update for starting the year of 2021:

What a wild year 2020 was! For serious health, economic and social fabric reasons, most people are very glad to see the end of it. But as we celebrate 2020 being over, I suggest you take a moment to think about how to make 2021 rock! Here is a post from a previous year, which I think you'll find freshly relevant today. I hope it gives you some good food for thought, and I do hope your 2021 brings streams out of the desert, with new energy for the opportunities to come for you and the people you can touch:

Tiz the season to be thinkin' about resolutions... commitments to changes you want to make in the new year. I know a lot of folks are down on the idea of resolutions, saying they don't work. In my experience, it's all in the way you resolve yourself! Consider the word 'resolute'. If you are resolute, then you absolutely intend and expect to do something... you don't just muse about attempting it someday! Among the many things you might want to make new year resolutions about, please include your voice! Here are my 12 suggestions:

1. Resolve to assess the state of your voice. 

All change starts with awareness. On a previous post, I suggested that you figure out your next most important thing for your voice, and start working on that. You can do this many ways... record and assess your voice yourself, ask friends with ears you trust what they hear in your performance, ask yourself how your voice feels when you sing (and right afterwards), attend a workshop or other event where you can showcase your voice and get an informed opinion, or in vocal lessons. If you think you might have vocal damage, go to an ENT fellowship trained specializing in voice. However you do it... get a baseline of the current condition of your voice. And while you're at it, assess the state of your overall health because your body IS your instrument!

2. Resolve to do something about your weakest vocal area.

Becoming aware is only the first step. Now you have to do something about what you've discovered. If your pitch sucks, do pitch practice. If your feel for rhythm is lacking, take drum or dance lessons. If your voice gets tired or strained, find out the fixes for the causes of your vocal cord abuse. If you have breath, tight throat or communication issues, find out what to practice, and then... get on a practice schedule!

3. Resolve to warm up and warm down your voice

OK can I tell you how nuts it is to perform on a cold voice? Try running an engine without oil. That's how nuts. Make a decision to warm up correctly, even if it's for 5 or 10 minutes, and that goes for in-between sets, too! Then do cool down exercises (light, shorter versions of warm ups) after long performances. Just as with muscle effort in athletics, your vocal apparatus needs the cool down to recover more quickly from strenuous use.

4. Resolve to address your speaking voice.

Frequently when a trashed voice comes in to train with me, I find that one of the core causes of the strain is from talking! You use the same little cords to speak that you sing with. Let that sink in. If talking tires you, change your technique. Yes, it will take concentration at first to correct life-long habits, but every speaking voice I've worked with will tell you it's worth it. And if you really want to go the distance, investigate voiceover careers! (I just did an interview I'll be posting soon with VO expert Susan Berkley- look for it!).

5. Resolve to get out of your comfort zone.

Your voice needs fresh fire to stay alive, present and growing. Even if you never do the song in public, learn something with lower or higher range (don't push, just pull strongly to challenge your voice without strain), learn a cover song in another genre, or write a song with a new co-writer!

6. Resolve to improve something you already do well.

No matter where you are in the vocal ability continuum, you can improve. Ask yourself deeply: what would you like to be able to do that you can't do now? Could you be less numb and more authentic when you sing or speak? Could your pitch accuracy be even better? Want even more control for vocal licks, volume, tone, whatever? Do you want to sing as well in the studio as you do live, or vice versa? Want to try another musical genre? Oh yes, you can.

7. Resolve to study some masters of your genre.

You may even be a master of your genre, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from other voices. Immerse yourself to study the vocal nuances of some singer or speaker you highly respect. Stick your headphones on and listen deeply. Practice to add what you hear and like to your own artistic vocabulary.

8. Resolve to set goals for your vocal performances.

What would you like to do with your voice? Where would you like to sing next year? What protocols would you need to follow for the pandemic era? Would you like to record something? Would you like to give a speech at some event? (Yes, the era of venue closings WILL end!) Would you like to sing to a loved one or at someone's wedding? Do better at songwriter rounds? Would you like to pursue a serious vocal career? or be more successful at growing the one you have? Write it down. You won't necessarily know the final outcome of your efforts, but your focused intentions can create attitudes which cause actions that lead to results... and sometimes create surprises you never would have imagined!

9. Resolve to have and nourish a small circle of trusted friends.

An artistic temperament is often rather reclusive, shy or lone-wolf-ish. But even the most creative spirit needs community. Each of us need a small circle of positivity, wisdom, encouragement and mutual accountability. It can keep us safe in times of failure AND success, growing and creating, and making a difference out there. A prosperous journey only takes place fully in connection with others. If you don't have this inner circle... resolve to find one! If you do... call, message, go see them or kiss them good morning regularly this year! And yes, you can have great brainstorming chats online... I do every week!

10. Resolve to take better care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually

Yep. All this has to do with your voice. Do take care of your vocal health (signup for my free vocal health report if you haven't yet). If you haven't yet... STOP SMOKING! Eat healthier (a whole new set of resolutions, eh?), commit to more physical exercise, back off sources of stress, connect spiritually in more regular devotional times. Your life, your voice and your messages will show it.

11. Resolve to sing fearlessly.

No matter how 'good' or 'bad' you think your voice is, your voice is valid and your messages matter. Sing. Speak. Use your voice fearlessly to make the world a better place! And when you start to do well out there, read over my post on Responsibilities of Successful Voices.

12. Resolve to be a better listener.

Don't forget that your ears are as important as your vocal cords. Empowering other voices truly can change the world. Make a point to listen more closely to someone else. Right now ask yourself: who is the quietest voice that you know? Perhaps start there ... make time and lend them your ear like it means something to you. It will.

Need help?

If you want some professional help with your singing &/or speaking voice... contact me for vocal lessons, or invest in a PPP course to study on your own. 
Happy New Year! COME ON 2021!!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Using Toys To Teach The Lizard Brain In Vocal Lessons


Today's post is a video in which I take a deep dive into some toys I use in vocal training. I introduce several things that can help you stop thinking so hard and just memorize sensations to put your body/mind/voice together in more efficient ways. These toys are not only instructive; they are FUN!

I find that different people respond better to different toys. If you'd like to train with me, I would love to help you figure out what works best for you and your voice! Just contact me at my website to book a lesson. 

Meanwhile, I do hope you enjoy this free lesson... please let me know what you think in the comments!  

Also... Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and All Things Vocal!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Responsibilities of Successful Voices

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 iTunesGoogle PlayTuneIn RadioStitcherSpotifyAmazon, Android apps

ou would have to have been living under a rock for quite a while not to notice the strident cacophony of discordant voices shredding the air these days. It makes us sad, angry, confused, worried, unsure of things we once took for granted. Best friends, close family members see reality through radically different lenses and source facts from different universes. This cognitive dissonance can feed a sense of insanity and hopelessness, but as I said in my prior post, it can also move us forward and shake things up for the good. 

I want to help by addressing the elephant in the room. I want to talk about the voices driving the conversation and the responsibilities of successful voices... including yours and mine.

What is a successful voice? 

It is simply a voice that is listened to. This can be the voice of someone who is ...
  • singing in front of thousands of audience members in an amphitheater,
  • talking on camera to all those watching their TV show or YouTube channel,
  • writing a song that will be heard publicly,
  • speaking in front of a boardroom, congregation or classroom,
  • singing or talking to a friend or a child,
  • posting on social media.
So if someone is listening to you, your voice is successful. How do you know someone's listening? They will respond or react (overtly, silently, psychologically, verbally, or with non-verbal body language) to your message. This makes you an influencer. I want to give you what I hope is a sobering thought: 

An influencer bears responsibility for the responses to their messages.  
In other words, what your voice sets in motion is something you started. For this post, I'm going to get quite real with a deep concern I have for vocal responsibility (or the lack thereof). I suggest we think twice (or maybe 100 times)

... before we speak, sing, or write 
... before believing or buying into what others speak, sing, or write 

The voice's WHY

The voice can be very, very powerful. It can heal, destroy, inspire, shut down, mislead, correct, change one mind, or redirect the trajectory of the whole world in tremendous ways, for better or worse. It's a slippery slope to unintended harm when we don't realize what is really driving us and our messages. If we want to be on the side of the angels, our voice's core 'why' needs to be consciously and intentionally about far more than money, fame, or power.

Geez, this sounds so enlightened, ethical, and logical, right? So why is the world full of voices with messages of hate, meanness, deception, gender bashing, cluelessness, and other-directed harm? I mean, have you heard certain songs that encourage murder? Rape? Suicide? Watched any polarizing political speeches spouting lies? Seen any senseless rioting and violence sabotage peaceful protests? Read any hateful social media comments and responses? Ever been the victim of an internet troll? Perhaps it would help to consider what's driving these voices of darkness and damage. 

Reasons for vocal malpractice:

  • Fear
When fear is the driver, the voice chooses messages that are self-serving, vengeful, depressing, even violent. Any of us can slip into this almost unaware. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the 'other'. Fear of not having enough. Fear of being hurt, of not being safe. Fear of not being loved, of not being considered valid or significant.
  • Greed
A healthy dose of competitiveness can make one strive to be and do better, but taken to the extreme can lead to a narcissistic self-serving life devoid of empathy for others. When the goal of what we do is to make as much money, gain as much fame or lord as much power over others as we can, our voices will be willing to deliver any kind of message it takes to accomplish that, no matter who or what it hurts. Turning people against each other is a time-honored strategy of the power-hungry demagogue who seeks to divide and conquer in a transactional end game of winner-take-all.
  • Misinformation
In the world of sound bytes and viral social media, it's incredibly easy to anchor our opinions on misinformation, and then to use our voices to unknowingly spread half-truths, hoaxes and lies. I am sorry to say that I've shared stories that I later found were totally fabricated. When we realize our mistake, we can try to send corrections (and we should), but just putting the false material out there can allow it to spread like a garden weed given sunlight and water.

Pros and cons of ways to try to be vocally responsible:

  • Research and sharing 
We need to be very careful to do our due diligence when it comes to sources we research for facts, and things we share AS facts. Some sources of information are toxic wells of lies, such as the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. For fame, he spread the lie that the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary children was a hoax, and their parents were in on it. How cruel can a human being get? For me, that has poisoned the podcast/voice of Joe Rogan, who chose to illuminate Jone's voice by having him on as a guest. Rogan has tons of listeners. Rogan is responsible for airing the voices of his guests. This one permanently lost him my listening ear. I put Q-Anon conspiracists in the same toxic category. 

That said, we all need to look deeper than sources that just reinforce what we want to believe is true. The larger and more accurate truth is often found in the middle of several sources. Listening with an open mind to the 'other side' of a viewpoint can reinforce or change our views for the better. And as any good detective series will show, it's never a bad idea to change your mind when it's based on new evidence!
  • Ranting 
This is often a narcissistic sounding of a not-so-humble opinion. It might make one feel good to get it out, but if it does nothing to change anyone's mind it's best to write it down to get it out of your heart and then burn it. 

That said, sometimes a rant is just the thing to call attention to truly bad situations and behavior in a way that can change them.
  • Shaming 
Calling people out rarely does anything but drive them away from your viewpoint. Here's a great article about professor Loretta J Ross, who suggests calling people IN instead of OUT. I've always said the magnet is more powerful than the blowhard. 

That said, shaming corporations and politicians sometimes does create enough bad publicity for them that they correct what they are doing out of self-interest. 
  • Giving up
If we just stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything's fine when it's not instead of summoning the courage to speak when we need to, we lose our chance to make a difference. 

That said, silence can sometimes be a healing balm when the fire of conversation is too hot.

Getting back to WHY

I believe the answer abides in the 'why' that motivates us to send our messages. Do I need to rant my truth to satisfy my ego and need for control, no matter what the result? Or do I want to influence thought and actions to make the world a better place? If your 'why' makes you want to be an influencer for the good, engaged in ethical messaging, I invite you to consider the following 4 things you'll need to be successful:

1. TRUTH - Find out what is true. Don't just research the like-minded material you want to be true. Check out what the 'other side' is saying, and why they are saying it. Don't listen to morons or crooks, but do listen to people who see things differently.

2. COURAGE - Choose to be courageous. I believe we all know when we should speak truth, even and especially when it can cost us. Be willing to lose. You'll be in good company... Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. You probably won't be risking nearly that much.

3. UNDERSTANDING - Understand those to whom you are communicating. How can you craft your words or lyrics so your audience can best hear it and possibly be swayed by it? How can you be an example and encourage others to be both brave and wise?

4. LISTENING - After you share your view, really listen to the responses and replies. In Native American culture, there is a tradition called the Talking Circle. A 'talking stick' is passed to whoever wishes to talk; everyone else looks down and listens in silence. This creates the opportunity to discuss, challenge a viewpoint, learn new information and come to a much wiser consensus than voices yelling over each other to prove their point or blindly accepting the views of someone that demands total control and obedience. I'd love to see this concept take hold in more face-to-face meetings between people. It can be chats over webcam, sure, but unfortunately social media is too often where we speak without listening, and where we listen without verifying what is true. 

Thoughts for influencers with large platforms

When you have a lot of listeners, you have a lot of responsibility. Take it seriously. Whether you're an artist, a songwriter, public speaker, podcaster, minister, teacher, or business person, look closer at what you're sending out. Does it really match your value system? What does it illuminate or encourage? When you address dark issues or subjects, do you try to bring them into the light or some resolution? Again, ask yourself what you want your influence to do.  What kind of response do you want to get?

There are voices out there that are truly making a difference on a grand scale. One example I'm enthralled with today is Dolly Parton. She could just sing her country standards before her worshipping fans and enjoy her legendary career success. But instead, she courageously and empathetically decided to use her influence to champion causes, create charitable foundations and donate millions to worthy charities, including many that benefit the people of her beloved Appalachia. Dolly Parton's singing, speaking and songwriting voice has made a huge difference in so many lives for years. If you want to be inspired, check out Billboard magazine's timeline of Dolly's good deeds

Doing an internet search for celebrities who support charities will bring up long lists. But the world needs us all. Using our voices and platforms to make the world a better place is the only way our voices are truly and eternally valuable. 

Questions for YOU

Has this post challenged you or turned a lightbulb on about why and how you use your singing, speaking, and writing voice? How can we help each other? I believe, as the title of my friend Mark Elliott's single says, that as a community of good hearts 'we need to have a long talk'. If you'd like to comment, I hereby pass you the Talking Stick. I'll be listening.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

Gift Suggestions for Singers, Songwriters, Speakers and Musicians UPDATED 2020

...whatever it is, wrap it with love

Do you have singers, speakers and/or musicians on your gift list? Here are some suggestions, updated for 2020:

$25 or less...

$26 - 65

  • Posture trainer - a hunched back is terrible for health and for the voice! This looks like a great little product that gently prods you when you slouch.
  • Microphome foam microphone cleaner All of us should have a bottle of this.
  • A limited subscription to Netflix or boxed set of a TV series (for idle hours on the tour bus)
  • A music "fake book" or sheet music
  • Stands - music stand, mic stand, guitar stand
  • iPad stand holder
  • Tickets to a live concert event
  • mini-trampoline for core and wellness physical workouts all voices need.
  • A pair of HearFones for vocal practice and rehearsals.
  • 1/2 hour vocal lesson with me in-person, online or phone (I'll provide gift certificate)
  • A thumb drive for music tracks and vocal exercises
  • Mp3 speakers (some of the cheap ones sound fine and work with not only iPhones but also Android phones, tablets, laptops, etc.)
  • iPhone adapter (for newer iPhones that don't have a phone jack)

$65 - 250

  • A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) such as ProTools, Studio One, Logic, Reaper.
  • My full UPDATED 6-disc Power, Path and Performance vocal training course - plus bonus 30 minute vocal lesson if ordered during December 2020 (email me for gift certificate). Please specify if you want the course on disc, or prefer the files on thumb drive.
  • Singing In The Studio course (the ultimate professional level course for any singer who will be recording vocals.) Note, the digital version is only $49.
  • Vocal Production Workshop (for engineers/producers who want to get the best vocals possible out of their singers)
  • A course by Bree Noble in music business such as "Profitable House Concerts" (she has several more)
  • Music marketing/promotion training by Rick Barker
  • backup hard drive for recording projects
  • A Cajon, Djembe or frame drum 
  • A new smartphone and/or data package
  • Membership(s) in NSAI (for songwriters), AFM (Musician's Union) or SAG/AFTRA (singer/actor union)
  • Photoshop Elements (An affordable version to create web banners, flyers, edit photos, all kinds of photo uses)
  • Masterwriter software 
  • Gym membership and/or personal trainer (for health, looks AND vocal stamina!)
  • Acting or dance lessons... Google classes and prices in your area, get recommendations.
  • Live performance coaching
  • A microphone - spend some time finding out what is needed. Will it be for stage performance or recording? For a speaker, say a lavalier mic? A podcast? You can get as expensive you want but a time-tested stage or rehearsal workhorse is the Shure SM58 (yes, an old standby but hey, I've use mine for decades!) or Sennheiser 835.
  • Mp3 player or speaker (and if you're dealing with the newer iPhone, you'll need wireless)
  • A small mixing board
  • A quality pair of headphones  
  • turntable (LP vinyl player - and hey, discriminating ears love vinyl!) 
  • An instrument case with wheels, or lightweight gig bag
  • One or two hours of vocal lessons with me in office or online (I'll provide gift certificate)
  • Portable CD player
  • Digital recorder 
  • Surprise your performer at a show with flowers!

$250 and up...

  • Mixing board
  • A camera, GoPro or camcorder
  • The Shure SM7B cardiod dynamic vocal microphone (I am now recording bgvs on this). 
  • An audio interface - simple, or complex like the Apollo (mine is the PC version) which comes with console and plugins.
  • A web or Facebook designer
  • DragonSpeak - Voice Recognition Software  (for songwriters and speech writers)
  • In-ear monitors
  • Stage clothes and/or bling
  • Wireless mic system
  • A photo session
  • CD graphics design
  • A music marketing seminar or bootcamp
  • Portable CD player
  • Funding for my vocal production and/or bgvs (contact me if you'd like to discuss)
  • Funding for video shoot
  • An instrument.. guitar, keyboard, mandolin, violin, etc
  • New road cases
  • A series of instrumental or vocal lessons (I'll be happy to provide a gift certificate)
  • Home studio recording gear
  • A live PA system
Gifts of Your time/expertise -
  • Host an outdoor socially distanced karaoke party or guitar pull!
  • Write song charts for your loved one.
  • Set them up on a social network they are new to.
  • Teach them to use some software you know they need.
  • Videotape them for TikTok, Instagram, Youtube Live or Facebook Live.
  • Do or better yet, teach them how to do some video or audio editing, such as with Audacity (free software).
  • Type up and organize their worktapes and lyrics, or convert them digitally and save.
  • Write a song in honor of them them (priceless!)
  • Commit to a number of hours of computer work... updating databases, uploading videos and pictures, social network friending, researching, etc. 
  • If you have a home studio, record a song demo or worktape on them.
  • Carve out special time to listen and critique their song, performance, speech.
  • Give them a day of complete voice rest! Do the talking for them.
  • Babysit or dog sit while they perform, record or attend someone else's show.
  • Attend their online show and invite friends!
  • Recommend their music or show on your social network sites

 Or...get creative. Give to a charity in your loved one's name, buy them a star, make a memory spending some time together in a group Zoom, Google Hangout or Skype meeting, or volunteering, helping safely deliver food or other goods to doorsteps of those in need!

Now: What do YOU want for Christmas? You can leave a hint here in the comments and then send a link to the post:) I intend to update this list every year... so bookmark this post and check back whenever it's gift giving time for you again!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Music & Wellness In Anxious Times - Interview With Katie Zaccardi

Katie Zaccardi                                                       Judy Rodman

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 iTunesGoogle PlayTuneIn RadioStitcher, Spotify, Amazon, Android apps

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...
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'?

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 iTunesGoogle PlayTuneIn RadioStitcher, Spotify, Amazon, Android apps

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!


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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