All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Metamorphosis of Runaway Home - a New Musical

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On Sept 21 and 22, 2023 a star-studded cast will present (or has already presented) a staged reading of Runaway Home, a musical I co-wrote with Darren J. Butler, to an audience of theater, tv and film professionals and investors who can move it forward to full production. This musical's journey has been a many-year, multi-workshopped, re-worked odyssy - but it's finally ready for prime time. In this interview with Darren, we talk about how this musical has metamorphosized from a couple of monologues he wrote on a plane to a staged reading by headliners for heads of the entertainment industry in the middle of New York.
  • Darren J. Butler's website:
  • Judy Rodman's website:
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Our story:

  • The initial seeds of our collaboration are planted by my sister Beki Ferguson.
  • Darren writes the first monologues are on a plane.
  • With a DVD for Rent and his first song lyrics, Darren talks me into writing for musical theater.
  • Our creation process, writing and getting feedback into the wee hours.
  • Our initial workshops in Decatur, Al and Bristol Connecticut,, what a workshop is and should accomplish.
  • Why we stopped, put the play on hold as years and life went by.
  • Darren emails me out of the blue - "it's time for Runaway Home".
  • New script needed new songs; after initial experimentation, we discover we're back!
  • Previously disaffected by musical theater, Darren discovers Dear Evan Hansen and falls back in love with the artform.
  • Emma Denson is chosen as our director for the reading.
  • We enlist and gather responses from a focus group.
  • Legendary NY talent agent Nancy Carson gives her thumbs up and helps us find our lead actor.
  • The incredible synchronicity of getting Todd Bartos comes onboard to lead the company, and his son to play a part he understands from his own trauma.
  • My friend, business mentor and vocal client Jack Dell decides to back us as sole investor, and help with deal structure - just in time for September!
  • Still sitting on go: Waiting on letters of intent so we can tell people about our stunning cast.
  • Drum roll: We name our staged reading cast!
  • We enlist Sean Pallatroni to do scores as music director for the reading.
  • Next steps for Runaway Home. 
  • What's next for Darren and me. 

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Tuesday, August 1, 2023

A New Approach To Manual Therapy for Voice: Walt Fritz Interview


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Join us for a fascinating discussion with Walt Fritz, a leading physical therapist who uses a unique, patient-involved approach in manual therapy. With his groundbreaking new book 'Manual Therapy for Voices... a Person-Centered Approach,' Walt emphasizes the importance of active patient participation in the healing process. 

More about Walt: 

US-based physical therapist Walt Fritz teaches a unique interpretation of manual therapy for speech-language pathologists, registered dental hygienists, voice professionals, massage, physio, and occupational therapists, osteopaths, and related communities. His gentle, non-manipulative, and interactive approach advances views of causation and impact from historical tissue-specific models into a multifactorial narrative, leaning heavily on biopsychosocial influences. His principles apply to a broad spectrum of intervention models using a model of evaluation and intervention that encourages equality between patient and clinician, utilizing shared decision-making rather than the biomedical clinician-as-expert approach. 

Unlike traditional laryngeal and soft tissue manipulation, Walt offers the clinician and patient a more subtle approach that gives the receiver more time to assess its influence and relevance. This approach is often better tolerated than aggressive, manipulative forms of treatment and aligns well with newer research findings, allowing the patient to frame the intervention from their preferences and values. Seeing the utility of manual therapy not as a standalone treatment but as an integral part of clinicians' more extensive work, Walt assimilates his approach into a wide range of treatment protocols. His work is equally appropriate for dysphagia, dysphonia, voice performance limitations, oral motor dysfunction, tongue-related concerns, breathing difficulties, and related disorders.

Walt presents his live, in-person workshops internationally through his Foundations in Manual Therapy Seminars,, offers of range of online learning opportunities, and his book is scheduled for release in March 2023 titled "Manual Therapy in Voice and Swallowing: A Person-Centered Approach," and maintains a physical therapy practice in Upstate, NY, USA.


* Walt Fritz website * "Manual Therapy for Voice and Swallowing" book (please note this is my affiliate link): (#ad)


Have you ever been treated by a manual therapist? What do you think about being more actively involved in your healing journey?

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Vocal Strain: 18 Causes and Fixes for Your Tired Voice



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Vocal strain, also known as vocal fatigue, is the leading cause of vocal problems, limitations and vocal damage for both singers and speakers. In this post, I'm going to give you the top 18 causes of vocal strain that I see, and tell you how to fix what's making your voice so tired. I'm also going to share a short vocal lesson I did where vocal fatigue was eliminated within minutes, so be sure and stick around for all that.

But let's start with the signs of vocal strain: You may experience it in different degrees, from your voice just getting tired after you use it, to your voice hurting when you use it. Sometimes you temporarily lose your voice. The bad news is it gets worse over time unless you do something to stop it. The good news is... you CAN stop it. 

NOTE OF CAUTION: Symptoms of vocal strain and fatigue can also be symptoms of more serious conditions of vocal damage or other underlying medical condition. If your vocal strain persists, consult your doctor - if possible, a fellowship-trained laryngologist who specializes in voice. 

If you've gotten used to having a strained or tired voice, you may think these signs are normal... until you wake up without a voice on a day you desperately need to use it!

Here are some of the signs of vocal strain

...even if you have just one of these, your voice gets tired when it doesn't have to:

  • It doesn't feel very good to use it. It may just be vaguely uncomfortable, or it may really hurt to speak or sing.

  • Your voice doesn't sound very good when it's not feeling good. Your tone may be tight, weak or harsh; you may fall on vocal fry a lot. This happens because your strained voice triggers (and comes from) a lack of breath control.

  • Your voice gives out quickly, both talking and singing. 

  • Your throat and ribcage may be tight because of the guarded posture stance you take, which compounds your vocal strain as that posture causes you to push your voice to try to get it to work.

  • Your voice cracks at your passagio, or where your chest and head registers meet, instead of blending in an ever-changing mix. You can have strange glitches here and there through your vocal range.

  • You lose some of your vocal range, your high notes and low notes may suffer. 

  • Your performance focus (your communication skill) is distracted because you worrying about how your voice is going to work, or if you're going to lose it. 

  • In general, your usual level of vocal ability and control is limited. It's hard to do what used to be easy. Using your voice may be something you now dread.

So, is vocal strain inevitable? ABSOLUTELY NOT! 

Can it be conquered? In my experience as singer and coach... ABSOLUTELY YES! 

Vocal strain & fatigue is a condition I love to work with, because by changing vocal techniques and strategies, you can experience relief from vocal strain immediately! Check out this video of a short lesson I did with a very busy singer in Peru named Silvana Del Campo who had vocal fatigue from overuse, and see how fast her vocal strain disappears when we change her posture at the wall...

It's one of my favorite moments in vocal lessons, when a student experiences that quick relief from vocal fatigue! Then, of course, you have to practice what worked!

Now let's get down into the weeds: 

Here are the top 17 causes of vocal strain I see in singers and speakers, and some strategies for turning the tide back towards vocal health:

1. Bad Breathing Technique:
...this can include a habit of gasping noisy little inhales too high in chest. But the exhale is usually the biggest problem: you're pushing too much breath through your vocal cords and you have no idea how to control that breath. 

THE FIX: learn to inhale deeply, as if your air tank sits in your pelvic floor. Then power your voice with a controlled compression breath from your pelvic floor or your heels if standing, instead of pushing breath from your ribcage. 

2. Posture issues
... slumping even just a bit causes the pushed, uncontrolled breath, a tightness of throat channel and is a very common common cause vocal strain. 

THE FIX: You can’t change anything you’re not aware of so… check to see where your head is balanced when you talk or sing. A simple fix for vocal strain can be to balance your head back over your tailbone or heels when sitting, standing or walking instead of hanging forward over your desk, thighs or the balls of your feet. Watch that video I just showed you again, and try doing your own wall work!

3. Tight Throat Channel:
... it's 
tight where your nose, throat and mouth meet at the "post-nasal drip zone". 

THE FIX: Loosen the stricture by learning to balance your head over your tailbone and to engage more active facial language (eyes, jaw, mouth)  to communicate more clearly - which also helps relieve vocal strain.

4. Yelling:
... 20 minutes of yelling, screaming or "shooting your voice from your throat" can result in blood blisters, the beginnings of vocal nodules or nodes, appearing on the vocal cords. Keep it up and you'll harden those blisters into callouses (which are vocal nodes), or you'll grow polyps or even cause vocal cord paralysis or vocal cord hemorrhage. I

THE FIX: Never ever push excess air through your vocal cords to create volume. Instead, your vocal volume should come from pulling with passionate articulation and accessing resonance zones in your head, mask, mouth and chest, which will increase your vocal resonance and power - WITHOUT causing vocal strain.

OK we just covered vocal technique you need to change so that you pull, not push, your voice to eliminate vocal strain and fatigue. Here's something cool to know: the techniques that conquer vocal strain also increase vocal impact. As I said earlier, when your voice feels better it sounds better! Now let’s go on with some other causes of vocal strain:  

5. Acute Viral Laryngitis:
... you'll definitely experience vocal strain trying to use your voice with this. Viral laryngitis can be part of an upper respiratory illness, but sometimes appears without other signs of sickness. 

THE FIX: Rest your voice completely til the infection subsides. Don’t whisper, just talk in a bell-like tone mid-range if you must. Mostly mime and write to communicate. If you don't rest your voice, your vocal strain can turn into a persistent case of Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD), or a nasty case of vocal damage.

6. Acid Reflux (GERD)
... or its more vocally problematic form known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). 

THE FIX: Instead of living with this, get to the bottom of what's causing your reflux. Consult your doctor, and if you have a mild case, you might try (with your doctor's ok) taking food enzymes with your meals. The ones that work for me are called Digestzymes (Amazon pd link)

7. Smoking
... causes irritation, swelling and dehydration of the vocal folds. Not to mention COPD and lung cancer. You may not even realize your voice is fatigued or strained because the feeling is so normal for you.  

THE FIX: Stop smoking. You can do it... I did! You may find help with the classic book 'TheEasy Way To Stop Smoking' (Amazon pd link). 

8. Talking too loud, too long, without good vocal technique

... can cause not only vocal fatigue but serious vocal damage. 

THE FIX: learn healthy speaking techniques. Many times, even with my singers the first thing I address to correct vocal strain is the person's speaking voice. If you really want to dig into this, check out my specialized online training course

9. Chronic or Strong Coughing

... the constant hitting of your vocal cords together is as bad as yelling. 

THE FIX: You must get to the bottom of the cause of the cough and cure it. Sometimes it's GERD or LPR, sometimes a short term virus, post nasal drip, allergen or other air-born irritant, sometimes it's throat cancer. See your doctor if your cough lingers or brings up blood. When you do cough, do it as lightly as you can. I like to say ‘cough backwards’. Minimize clearing your voice... sometimes it's just a bad habit. When you do, clear as lightly as you can. Again... pull that clearing.

10. Bone and joint problems
... You might not think of this as a source of vocal problems but a lack of strength and flexibility in the spine dcan significantly affect the voice; and pain in your spine or between your ribs can indeed cause vocal strain from breath and tight throat issues. 

THE FIX: Go on an intentional journey to investigate the causes and solutions to your bone and joint problems... from medical professionals and alternative practitioners. Do your stretches… take your supplements, stop drinking those colas! Your body AND your voice will thank you!

11. Muscle tension problems
... These, too, can trigger a tight chest and/or throat channel and a "freezing" of anatomy... this is always detrimental to healthy vocal technique. 

THE FIX: Get to the bottom of the causes of your physical tension issues. Again, get medical advice and/or alternative practitioners such as chiropracters, physical therapists that work with the larynx such as Gina Thurston, and therapeutic masseuses. One of the best things you can do before stage or studio performance is to get a pre-show chiropractic adjustment and/or shoulder massage.

12. Physical fatigue problems

Great singing without vocal strain really takes a lot of physical energy. Physical fatigue, whether short term or chronic, can cause slumping of the body with concurrent high, pushed breathing and throat tightness. 

THE FIX: If you're too tired to support your voice, consider canceling a show. Find and correct the source of your physical fatigue. Explore dietary changes, food supplements, check your hormones... consult your doctor … just don't stop till you know! 

13. Emotional problems
... nervousness, lack of confidence, depression, numbness, eating disorders, addictions, chronic resentments, inability to focus on communicating. These emotions affect anatomy in ways that can cause vocal strain. 

THE FIX: Use your desire for a strain-free voice as strong incentive to get to the bottom of your mental and emotional imbalances. This is another way that taking care of your voice can add value to your whole life and relationships.

14. Lack of Sleep
... causing once again, slumping of body and breathing/throat issues. This is a very common hidden source of vocal fatigue.

THE FIX: Figure out what's keeping you from getting a good night's sleep. This definitely goes for those of you on the road... if you want to avoid vocal strain, you simply must make time and space for quality sleep. Have a talk with whoever puts your schedule together!

15. Dehydration
... the vocal cords need a thin layer of mucus lubricating them to move most efficiently. Not enough water intake results in a thickening of this lining... imagine your boat running aground and you'll have an idea of what your dehydrated voice experiences.

THE FIX: drink enough water to pee pale. Don't wait to start the day of your performance... your voice needs the water you drank yesterday. You might try sipping diluted pineapple juice when you need to speak or sing a lot. For a lot more suggestions, be sure to signup for my 9-page ebook 'Vocal Health'.

16. Flabby Core (from insufficient physical exercise)
... causing slumped posture, unsupported and under-controlled breath and tight throat... you know by now that this is the recipe for vocal fatigue and strain. 

THE FIX: Work it out! Especially do core-strengthening exercises. Your voice needs your abs, your back, your thighs to be toned. For best results, look into a personal trainer at least for a few sessions. A great source of information on physical exercise for musicians is Angela McCuiston, founder of Music Strong.

17. Singing Loud Before Building Stamina

OK this is a big one... no matter how well you do your vocal exercises and use good vocal technique, you still can strain your voice if you sing significantly loud and/or long before you've practiced full voice long enough to develop the stamina your performance will need. In other words, you can't go from zero to 90 with vocal performance without incurring vocal strain and fatigue. And possibly damage.

THE FIX: Start singing your set at least 4 days, preferably a week or two before your performance or tour, singing a little longer and stronger every day. Gradually increase your vocal stamina - if you're doing it right, your voice will feel BETTER, not WORSE the next day. If you experience strain, back off your rehearsal time and volume and go slower - always using great technique, pulling instead of pushing for volume. If you're using great vocal technique on tour you will notice your voice getting STRONGER, not tireder, as your series of performances go on.

18. Here's an less common but still significant cause of vocal strain: Endo-tracheal damage from being on a ventilator.
... if you must undergo surgery, watch for this one. 

THE FIX: if elective surgery, make sure you tell your anesthesiologist that you are a singer or speaker whose vocal health is vital, and to use extreme care if and when you must be intubated. You might even tell your family to have this conversation in case you are incapacitated. Here's my story of recovering from vocal damage sustained from being on a ventilator.

Bottom line: If you need help with vocal strain, please do reach out and do something about it! If you suspect vocal damage or illness, please consult a medical professional first to rule out anything that requires medical intervention.

So what about you: 

What is your experience with vocal strain? Did any of this information surprise you? Do you have a cause of vocal fatigue you'd like to add? I'd love to know!

DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Singers & Musicians: Get Fit, Not Hurt! (Angela McCuiston Interview)


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Getting physically injured can temporarily stop or permanently end a music career. My guest Angela McCuiston, founder of 'Music Strong', has developed a specialty career in fitness training and rehabilitation exercises for music makers of all kinds. Listen to this interview to hear Angela and I discuss some vital fitness strategies that can improve muscle balance, endurance and strength. A musician herself, Angela understands the stresses of our vocations and the stakes involved! - LINKS - Find Angela at: Find me at:

Topics we discussed:

  • Angela's own playing-related injury episodes that eventually led through frustration to creating 'Music Strong', where she helps musicians get fit for more strength and endurance, and get targeted remedial exercises for muscle imbalances and injuries.
  • My vocal cord injury leading to my work with injured voices.
  • Angela's integration of multiple protocols of healing, including Alexander Technique, Barbara Conable's body mapping, Eva Amsler's dynamic integration
  • Some key physical issues of guitarists and pianists that she works with.
  • The importance of muscle balance - including the muscles working the singer's chest and head registers.
  • What older music makers should look for in a personal trainer.
  • Angela tells us about the programs she offers through 'Music Strong', such as her personal workout sessions, instrument-specific fitness training, her 'Covid Comeback' program, and her proposed 'Music Strong Wellness Center.
  • The highly effective free exercises Angela offers on her Youtube channel
  • And more!

More About Angela:

Angela McCuiston is a NASM-CPT, CES, SFS and CETI-CES (Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Senior Fitness Specialist and Cancer Exercise Specialist). She is the owner of Music Strong, a business that specializes in personal fitness training for musicians.

Her studies include Alexander Technique, Barbara Conable's Body Mapping, and Eva Amsler's Dynamic Integration as well as Neurokinetic Therapy.  

Winner of the 2007 NFA Piccolo Master class, Angela received her Master of Music in Flute Performance from Florida State University and her Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Tennessee Technological University. Angela is Assistant Principal/Piccolo of Sinfonia Gulf Coast of Destin, Nashville Philharmonic, Columbus Symphony and Nashville Flute Choir. Joining the military soon after 9/11 she recently recently transferred to the 313th Army Band in Huntsville, AL, after
completing a 16-year tenure in the 129th Army Band in Nashville, TN. In addition to her solo performances, she has performed with such celebrities as Kristen Chenowith, Pink Martini, Jamie Bernstein, Morgan James, Chris Mann, Nancy Griffith and Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

Recently she was sought out by the Old Guard, Army Fife and Drum Corps as a special consultant to prevent playing related injuries. She has been sought out for numerous other positions including becoming a provider for MusiCares (A musician’s wellness division of The Recording Academy: the Grammy’s) and completing her 4-year appointment as Chair of the National Flute Association Performance Health Committee.  In August 2020, Angela also joined the faculty at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN as professor of flute.

In February 2019 she published her first book: The Musician’s Essential Exercises, and recorded over 20 instrument specific workouts available for download. She also offers a comprehensive workout program she calls 'The Covid Comeback' for musicians coming off a long hiatus from playing.

Most recently, she has transitioned her focus into building a musician’s wellness center in Nashville, TN. The center seeks to be the first of its kind, bridging the gap between traditional and holistic medicine, offering comprehensive and concierge wellness care for musicians.

What About YOU?

What experience do you have with playing- or singing- related injuries? What helped you? What mysteries remain?

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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Singing On The Road? 12 Tips For The Voice On Tour

The road can be a dream come true, or a vocal nightmare!

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Singing on the road can be one of the greatest joys of having a voice. It can also be filled with unexpected events which you have to learn to roll with. However… vocal issues can mostly be avoided if you know how. In fact, when you consistently use good technique and strategy, you can end up with your voice stronger and less fatigued as the tour goes on! Many of the artists I’m working with, including the stunning Hall Sisters are gearing up for big summer tour season. Lots of consecutive day shows, some long ones. They know that taking care of the voice for the Olympic event-level vocal performance needed for every show is crucial. Here’s some advice I give for protecting and growing your vocal stamina on the road:

1. Bring Food 

...with you when you travel that gives you energy and doesn't exacerbate phlegm or acid reflux, just in case the backstage fare is not good. Especially if you travel by bus, bring salads, fruit, protein snacks. hummus, whatever works for you. Eat what gives you stamina but not heartburn and doesn't bog your digestion down before performance. Here's more about what to eat before you sing.

2. Bring Extra Water 

Be sure to drink enough water on non-performance days, too. Consider bringing little cans of pineapple juice in your luggage to you always have some on hand to dilute with water and bring onstage. Another remedy you might try is cayenne pepper on anything you eat or drink. I have several more solutions in my 9-page ebook ‘Vocal Health Tips’ – get that free download from my website if you haven’t yet. Herbal teas can be soothing, but steer clear of dehydrating drinks like black tea. If you drink alcohol, do it after your performance, not before, and for best vocal results, limit it altogether while on tour. 

Stop smoking. Yep. That means you. Yer welcome. Here's a book that helped me do it years ago: The Easy Way To Stop Smoking (Amazon - paid link) 

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

3. Steam Your Throat 

...with showers or hot baths as you get ready for your gigs, and also when you get into your hotel room from the dry-air vehicle or drive or flight. Consider bringing portable humidifiers, especially in super-dry climates you’re not acclimated to. That includes Las Vegas!

4. Get Quality Sleep

Sleep is as important as food and hydration for the voice. When singing on the road, sometimes it's difficult to get the zzz's in: you sleep on the bus, arrive at the hotel in the middle of the night, have to get to soundcheck... but talk this out with your road manager before you leave and plan the time to get quality sleep. You may need a sleep aid like melatonin, Sleepytime Tea or whatever healthy thing works for you. Talk to your doctor about a non-habit forming, safe sleep remedy recommendation.

5. Do Physical Workouts

15 – 30 min short workouts on gig days to warm and limber you up for performance and keep your core toned for singing. Do physical stretches to ease tension, and when short on time, try Tabata high intensity workouts. You can put a Tabata Timer app on your phone. Consider bringing workout DVDs and any physical workout bands, ropes, etc you could use in your hotel room or on a bus. If your budget allows, consider taking a personal trainer on the road with you.

6. Do Not Neglect To Do Vocal Warmups ! 

Also, after your longer gigs especially, take 10 min to cool down after your gig. This can make all the difference in how your voice feels the next day! What’s the difference in a vocal warmup and a cool down? A cool down is generally a shorter vocal exercise routine and incorporates more of your head voice register to ‘re-lift’ your voice, which in non-formal genre performance has been using more of your chest register.

7. Limit Talking

...and when you DO talk, pull your words. When with the public and signing autographs, do more listening and smiling than talking. If at all possible, try to schedule media interviews for AFTER your shows instead of before. Discuss this with your management or whoever schedules these things in advance.

8. Center Yourself 

10 minutes before your gig, try to find a quiet corner and don’t interact with anyone. Just center yourself, mentally send your presence out to occupy the venue. Prepare yourself by imagining the first verse you’re about to sing on your first song. Ignore distractions like an Olympic athlete preparing to ‘bring it’.

9. Get Monitors Right

Make sure you have enough vocal level so you don't have to push those strong notes during performance.

10. Wear Both In-Ears

If you wear in-ear monitors (iem’s), wear BOTH, not just one, to save your hearing! Before performing with in-ears, try to schedule time to work with a sound engineer to get used to wearing them, and to know what to ask for in your monitor mix.

11. Do After-Show Snapshots

As you warm down, take a quick inventory... how does your voice feel? It should feel better than when you began the show. If not, try to figure out why. Remember that no matter where you are, can always schedule a vocal lesson or consultation with me on Zoom or in a phonecall. You can even warm up with me backstage or in your dressing room.

12. Have a BLAST! 

You're taking care of your voice so you can ditch the worry!

Have other tips or strategies from your road singing experiences? Please share in the comments! 

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Thursday, April 13, 2023

Successful Music Career Secrets - Vinnie Potestivo Interview

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For this post, I interviewed Vinnie Potestivo - a man who has guided successful careeer strategies of not just stars of the music universe but also TV shows and major corporations. He himself has won an Emmy. He is extremely generous in sharing advice, behind-the-scenes stories and just general wisdom for creatives who want to grow (and protect) careers.  

Video Timestamps:

  • 00:00 Introduction to Vinnie Postivo
  • 04:05 Vinnie takes us into his first stint at MTV... asking Whitney Houston a question.
  • 04:39 Vinnie explains the mistake of saying 'let me know how I can help you' and what he said instead that started his successful career at MTV, as well as opening doors for others.
  • 08:51 What used to be successful that's no longer working for music careers: Waiting. Why you shouldn't.
  • 11:18 The bottleneck of music industry past that's been broken.
  • 12:52 The importance of user experience now. Beyonce's career-making collaboration deals.
  • 14:07 The importance of owning and combining your audience.
  • 15:20 How Mandy Moore stepped into her own authority, and why that's important to be successful now.
  • 16:44 How audio capability is changing things
  • 18:56 AI and the ChatGPT factor.
  • 20:25 An acting exercise I give my vocal students.
  • 21:09 Why a music label deal now could be best negotiated as a joint venture.
  • 23:07 The Presence factor's impact on an artist's career.
  • 24:03 Stories from Vinnie's talent development work.
  • 27:01 The SNL performance mistake that sabotaged Ashley Simpson's career.
  • 30:21 The need for crisis training. Some funny examples from musical theater gone wrong.
  • 39:50 How Vinnie is turning podcasting into shows.
  • 40:08 How SMS marketing works for music careers, and the importance of fragmenting your email list.
  • 44:30 Seth Godin insights we both find valuable for music artists.
  • 45:57 Where to find Vinnie, his podcast and his service

More about Vinnie:

Vinnie Potestivo is an industry-leading talent and media development strategist widely known for launching celebrity brands & media properties that continue to influence modern pop culture. He is Founder of VPE, VPEtalent, the Verified Podcast Eschange and the Discovery to Downloads Mastermind.

With over 25 yrs experience, Vinnie and his teams have become well-trusted connectors who sell, develop, produce, launch, distribute and amplify talent brands such Mandy Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Simpson, Tyrese Gibson, Lauren Conrad, Diane von Furstenberg, , Danielle Fishel, Kristin Cavallari, Kelly Osbourne, TJ Lavin, journalists including SuChin Pak and the list goes on and on.

Formerly cofounder of MTV’s Talent Development & Original programming department, he has gone on to cast or produce original television series including reality TV shows like Punk’d, the Osbournes, The Challenge, Wild n Out, Real Housewives of New Jersey and many more. He’s worked with brands including Macy’s, Samsung, Nikon, MajorLeagueBaseball.


If you enjoyed this interview, check out another post I did on this subject:

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Monday, March 27, 2023

Choose Your Vocal Genre Strategically! (Vocal Style for Your Goals)

???Don't even let me get started on sub- and combined genres!!

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Prefer Video? Watch on Youtube:

Prefer to read? Here's the article:

Choosing the vocal style you should sing can be difficult if you are a new singer and have no idea what genre you should try. It's also difficult if you're a veteran singer who can sing just about any style you want, and are confused about what style is best for you. In this blogpost, I'm going to give you some help to make that choice strategically. 

First, consider your vocal goals - what do you want to do with your voice?

1. Do you want to gain vocal skill, or to snap out of vocal boredom? Try singing songs in genres that are new to you.

  • When you get out of the comfort zone of singing styles you're familiar with, you can expand your voice's skill set in several ways, such as wider vocal range, new vocal licks and embellishments, more precision and control, different tone colors, phrasing choices and rhythmic feel. 
  • Exploring styles you've never sung can help you see if you're missing another type of music you would love and could do well. Or you may find some new vocal stying you could integrate into the genre you normally sing, breathing more life, nuance and uniqueness into your singing.

2. Do you want to perform in situations that require you sing multiple genres well? Choose to get very good at singing all of the ones you'll need.

  • If you want to get work as a studio session or road tour singer, you don't want to limit yourself to one choice of genre. A nickname for this type of vocal career is 'stunt singer'. You could be hired to sing on many different styles of music, and with radically different kinds of singers. If this is your goal, the more genres you can sing well, the better. You might want to get some training and/or spend quality time listening to the masters of each genre you want to ace.
  • It can help to be able to cross genres if you want to compete in talent awards shows. They want you to show extreme vocal ability, often requiring a lot more showy technique than would be authentic for the normal genre of the song. Or a contestant could excel by beginning their performance in one genre and ending in quite another, such as when Christina Ramos began a stunning performance of a classical song and suddenly morphed into the rock classic 'Highway to Hell', getting her awarded the golden buzzer on Spain's Got Talent.
  • You might want to be known for extreme, genre-crossing vocal ability, such as the artist Pia Toscano who placed 10th in 2011 American idol. I saw her being featured in an Andrea Bocelli concert where she began with a stunning performance of the soulful 'I'm Feelin Good', then joined Bocelli for a beautiful classical duet. 
  • You might want to be able to sing formal genres such as choir music or classical art songs, then be able to change musical languages and do popular genre songs.
  • You might just want to sing some great karaoke, where you can jump styles of songs and have a lot of fun impressing your audience! 
I'd still recommend you learn to sing each genre skillfully, authentically and without strain.

3. Do you need to zero in on your artistic definition?

For the best chance of success, a music artist should launch their public career with a clearly defined  musical style. This is a major part of what's known as artist branding. So if you're an artist, choosing a genre that best defines you becomes vitally important. Yes, an established artist can change or explore other genres and reinvent themselves successfully, but for new artists it's best to choose one main genre in which to create, perform, market and promote music. 

Though music is not sold in nearly as many brick and morter physical stores, the digital stores and awards shows are sorted into separate categories of music. So in a practical sense, settling on one genre helps you find and develop a fanbase that will discover and support you with tickets, streams and votes!

When you're ready to drill down:

Again, don't rush the process. It may not take you long, or you could experiment with singing several styles of music for a couple of years. Then when you feel ready, sit in a quiet space where you can focus and ask yourself these questions. You might consider running these questions by a trusted advisor or coach who knows you well:
  1. What does my voice love?
  2. What does my heart love?
  3. What do I want to learn?
  4. What's commercial?
Let's dig into each one:
  • What does my voice love? 
What style of music does your voice feel best singing? This includes such style factors as vocal licks, runs, scoops, rhythmic phrasing pocket, typical melodic complexity and vocal ranges of songs in the genre. Consider what is the most natural for your vocal ability, which includes "nature" (the size, density and other characteristics of your physical instrument) and "nurture" (the current level of vocal technique and stamina that you've developed).
  •  What does my heart love? 
When you sing or hear music that moves you, what genre or style is it? When something genuinely moves you, you can make a safe bet it will have a passionate audience who it would also move, and who could comprise your fanbase.
  • What do I want to learn?
What do I want to do with my voice that I don't know how to do now? Do I want to learn to sing classical music, authentically deliver folk or country, develop some r&b riffs, find the vocal control to sing jazz or bluegrass, learn to articulate differently for or from musical theater or gospel? Do I want to power my voice for rock or wide-range pop country songs, or experiment with the rhythmic pocket and rhymes of hip-hop?
  • What's commercial?
What kinds of music are selling? What is successful on radio and in venues I'd like to play? Where can music purchasing and ticket-buying audiences for a particular style be found? What groups of people am I already engaged with? What interests, sports or hobbies do I have that connect me with people who might be interested in my music or with organizations that hold events or sponsor entertainment?

Then combine these questions: 
  1. What genre is selling and has good fanbases that...
  2. my voice can confidently sing or that I want to learn to confidently sing and... 
  3. that satisfies and moves my heart and delivers the messages I want to share.
This is the best way to pursue the business of music. Your priority is on the music, not the business; you let the music drive the business. To do this, don't over-think it. But don't limit yourself if all it would take to have the vocal ability for what your heart wants to sing and that people want to hear would be some training and experimentation. Take the time to do that!

Case Studies of genre-choice outliers:

  • Rejecting Genre Limitation: Eva Cassidy Story: 
For a great example of music driving the business, discover the amazing story of Eva Cassidy. She chose not to limit the genres she sang; instead to perform the music that satisfied her own heart. In her case, no label would sign her because they couldn't define her. However, Eva had dedicated and passionate fans and the way she sang every song- her voice itself - became her artist brand. By all accounts from those who knew her, she was more than satisfied during her lifetime with her choice to keep her voice aligned with her heart. Then after cancer took her life, she became a music legend. Her music lives on in demo and live performances that have been sold in over 4 million albums and have been placed in many movie soundtracks. I would say she chose well!

  • Combining Genres: Julia Loewen Story: 
If you look at the Wikapedia page for music genres, you'll see a virtual TON of catagories and subcatagories, and you'll notice that many are genre combinations. Julia Loewen's story illustrates this. Julia is a classical music teacher and vocalist in Eastern Canada whose CDs have been distributed in over 120 countries.. She shares a dramatic personal story of trauma and healing, and many years ago, she felt the need to expand her reach. She enlisted Kayla Morrison to help her with her dream, and Kayla contacted me. I suggested a cross-genre approach, combining her vocal skill, heart and messaging into a style we termed 'Celtic Christian Rock'. I cowrote the songs with Julia and Kayla and was honored to produce the album, using top session players in Nashville including Sam Levine who played authentic Celtic instruments. This inter-genre project, titled "Into The Light" successfully extended her audience for the messages she wanted to share, now including her ministry to prison inmates.

  • Crossing Genres: Songs that jump styles:
If you’re a songwriter, your dream scenario is for one of your songs to be successful in wildly different genres. For instance, the song “I Swear”, written by Frank Myers and Gary Baker, was a hit country single for John Michael Montgomery and also a hit pop/r&b single for the band ‘All-4-One’. The song written by Dolly Parton ,‘I Will Always Love You’, was a hit country single for Dolly and an R&B hit by Whitney Houston. The genre is determined by the singer’s vocal style and recording production choices. If you’re a singer, it can be a successful strategy to take a hit song and change its genre to fit your voice and your audience!

  • Shifting Genres: My Story: 
Mastering genres and changing them drove the music business for me. As a child I learned to sing country, folk, and gospel with my amateur family band. As a teenager I added a love of rock and pop. At 17, I started session work at a local studio in Jacksonville, Florida. I also took a course in classical music in Jacksonville University, learning some Italian Art songs which became instrumental in recovering my voice from endotracheal tube damage. Continuing my studio singing in Memphis, Tennessee I found myself immersed in R&B music, which to this day is one of biggest influences on my voice. I also joined a top-40 cover band, singing songs of such diverse artists as Carol King, Karen Carpenter, Chaka Khan, Grace Slick, Tina Turner, the 5th Dimension and Brazil 66 singers. I also sang backgrounds for R&B artists at Hi Records, country artists at Lyn Lou Studio, and on black gospel music recorded in many small studios. Then I moved to Nashville, continued my session singing on records which included many traditional country stars, a few rock sessions and even some international pop sessions. It was important that I could sing just about any genre you put before me.

But then came the record deal and I had to drill down. My country artist career covered some songs that were considered progressive country at the time, flavored by all those other genres of my early career. After that season ended, I did another record, this time with my husband, that we catagorized as Americana. Full circle... that catagory allowed us to combine genres for the music that our hearts wanted to make!

Bottom line:

So as you see, strategically choosing your vocal genre to sing is both important and also something that may change over time. My advice is to start by deciding what you want and need to do with your voice. Once you zero in on that, then you can choose the musical genre or style that will help you reach your artistic goals. When your vocal goals change, your vocal genre choice can, too!

Need Help?

If you'd like some help getting your voice to do what your heart loves, hit me up for a vocal lesson or get a Power, Path & Performance vocal training course. I'd love to help you do it! Please leave me a comment... I'd love to know your thoughts!

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