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!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Interview With Briana Domenica - Singer/Speaker/Warrior

Briana                                                    Judy
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My guest today is Briana Domenica, who came from a family trauma of triple suicide, moved into her own serious depression and self-sabotaging actions, and finally had a paradigm shift of faith and music that led her not only to her own joy and healing, but also to a music and speaking career that may literally save some of the lives in her audience. In this interview, we talk about her creative journey, and her 'why'. I hope it inspires your own as it does mine.

About Briana:

Born in Massachusetts and raised in South Florida, Briana Domenica is a classically trained singer that found her calling in non-classical, contemporary Christian music. To find her voice in that genre, I’m honored to say became my student. A performer from a young age, Briana has sung at Carnegie Hall, in Disney’s Epcot Candlelight Processional, and toured internationally for the Make a Wish Foundation. But Briana has experienced heartbreak and tragedy, too. She was badly bullied in high school and lost three family members to suicide, and after some very serious bouts of depression herself, she decided she was going to take all that horrible experience and with God’s help, make a difference. So she started her own non-profit, ‘Angel In The Sky’, to raise awareness and save lives through suicide prevention, education and the power of music. She started writing and recording and eventually relocated to Nashville, where she has a team that is helping her turn her dreams into reality. Her new album 'Warrior In Me' was released last September, and she's planning on a unique presentation tour for it this year. 

Links:

Website... https://www.brianadomenica.com
Book her... info@brianadomenica.com
Facebook... https://www.facebook.com/BrianaDomenicaMusic
Instagram... brianadomenicamusic

Here's her sizzle reel, where she talks about her mission and shares snippets of songs and speeches...

Here's the video to her powerful song 'Warrior in Me'


What about YOUR voice?

If you need vocal help transitioning from classical to contemporary music, would like to improve your speaking voice, or have any other vocal matter, I'd love to work with you. You can read more about my lessons and contact me at my website.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Child Stars: Are We Mentoring Heroes or Narcissists? [Updated 2021]


 

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It takes a wise village of parents, extended family, teachers, directors, counselors, and others to grow a young artist into their full potential. I believe this 'village' should not only develop talent but also mentor the child's maturation into a hero: a person who will make the world a better place. Because that's how that child ends up with a truly prosperous and fulfilling journey. Let's start by talking about...

CHILD STARS IN TROUBLE 

There is a 2013 NPR program in which "Matilda" star Mara Wilson talked about why child stars go crazy. The program aired a couple of months before former Disney star Miley Cyrus's shock value performance on the VMA's. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) has spoken publically about his heavy drinking to deal with fame. Sophie Turner (Sensa Stark in Game of Thrones) was so criticized about her personal appearance and acting ability by internet trolls,  she considered suicide.

There are reams of tabloid stories of young stars who developed drug and alcohol addictions and other self-sabotaging behaviours such as Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato, and Drew Barrymore. Those tabloids make a lot of money on child stars gone bad in public. Hear Justin Bieber voice the pain he experienced from childhood 'success' in his 2020 lament 'Lonely'

Besides all the in-person worship, just social media fame can be dangerous. Here's a quote in a great article from Insider magazine:
Adapting to life in the spotlight is hard enough for grownups. For young influencers, that is compounded with incessant social media attention.

4 QUESTIONS I WANT TO RAISE:

  • Does the successful acquisition of fame and/or money justify the isolation and emptiness that sabotages a child's life? 
  • Does his/her musical artistry illuminate the darkness, somehow moving it to the light, in some way making the world better, or does it magnify dysfunction and negativity of all kinds, attracting young fans into those voids?
  • Does the famous child have a sense of human connection, self-worth and purpose or is that child vulnerable to addictions, eating disorders, depression, and an inability to live without being the center of the spotlight?  
  • What template defines a successful life as a human being... that of hero or narcissist? Because the answer will determine the kind of mentoring the child should have.
No matter how gifted or smart they are, children are not little adults... physically, mentally, emotionally. We who are their mentors need to educate ourselves in child development, and we need to get real about our own true motivations that may be self-serving. A self-driven child who loves participating in performance arts will absolutely need support as they reach for their goals from loving adults who care, but we should be very careful to draw the line between supporting what the child can become and what we all recognize as 'stage parenting'. Direction and control must always for the child's well-being, not for primarily parental or instructor aspirations.  Yes, we all win when they win, but we need to keep in mind how they really win.

CREATIVE CHILD ISSUES AND HOW THE VILLAGE CAN HELP:

  • The issue: Self-absorption.
A child is by nature self-absorbed. It's not evil... it's natural... part of human child development.   
  • What the village can do: 
Young natural self-centeredness must be tempered by developing empathy with others. For instance, we can help mold a child's thought processes at talent contests. While doing their best to claim whatever prize, the child can be encouraged to care about and befriend other contestants, and to even redefine how to truly 'win' a contest.  And when they do attain some influence,  we can encourage the child to use it for the good in some way. For instance, TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D'Amelio did a UNICEF video about anti-bullying. American teenager Feroza Aziz, famous for makeup tutorials, calls out China's inhumane treatment of the Uighurs right on her TikTok videos.
  • The issue:  Self-doubt.
If given a chance for self-expression, ALL children are creative! But for many different reasons, a child can come to believe they are not very good at things, unworthy, different. Especially creative children can feel like fish-out-of-water, are often introverts and have trouble forming friendships and feeling accepted. 
  • What the village can do:  
First of all, encourage every child to express themselves creatively. It is vital to human growth and wellness that they do this, no matter what their natural giftings are or are not. Secondly, very creative children may need different environments in which to learn. Encourage them to be their unique selves;  what is different about them can be their power to make a difference in the world! Investigate options for where they could to school, and what extra-curricular activities might put them in with kids who also don't fit the usual boxes. Give them places to fit in, and make sure they know they are deeply loved just as they are.
  • The issue: Rebellion.
As part of the human maturation process, children become teens and push their boundaries to become more independent. When they push too hard, we call this rebellion. Three big problems of the child star are 
    • that their rebellion or 'acting out' is on full view in public (and on social media, usually!) 
    • that some in the village are making big bucks on the child or teen's careers and news stories. 
    • the child can come to believe they're too valuable to have to be accountable to anyone
  • What the village can do:
A rebellious young person sometimes needs the opposite of 'friendship' from the village... they need to be held accountable by loving adults who are willing to speak truth and apply tough-love. If that doesn't work, get the child/teen professional counseling. If that distances the kid for a while, or even a few years, do it anyway for long-run success. All children - even uber-smart-creative ones - need safe boundaries to push against. BUT THAT SAID, be careful not to draw the child's boundaries too tightly. Many times, creative children are gifted differently, have personalities difficult for you to relate to and need the freedom to express themselves and reach for other goals and careers than you may want for them. Ask yourself, are you drawing their boundaries for THEIR protection or for YOUR need to control? Keep them safe, but encourage them towards their own uniqueness, independence and ultimate inter-dependence of adulthood. Gradually open up their boundaries and let them fly!
  • The issue: Fame/Failure.
Fame is a dangerous blessing, especially when it comes early. Without staying close to a small trustable circle of accountability to whom an artist will listen, there is danger that phenomenal success and fan worship status can lead them into adult narcissism, personal emptiness and artistic uselessness. Loretta Lynn once said 'you're in trouble when you start believing your own press'. In this artist-worshiping culture, a talented young person is often lifted up to great heights, and then dropped like a sack of unwanted garbage for no logical reason. Tabloids sell the perverse pleasure of watching the fall... and witnessing the train-wreck spectacle the young person becomes.
  • What the village can do:
Failure can teach a growing soul the most important things -often better than success can. But a young person needs to be taught how to gracefully and safely fail. We can be the safety net... with the message that a person's worth is not in what they 'do' but in who they  'are'. They need to know that when they 'act out', they will be held accountable with correction and discipline, but also that without a doubt they are unconditionally loved by their close village. I would suggest that even with some bullying, failures, mistakes and public derision, young Taylor Swift and her village have turned her into a hero - a positive young role model - for her demographics. May she stay safe from her own success.
  • The issue: Exploitation.
 Children are easy prey. They cannot be expected to have the skills to protect themselves financially, sexually, emotionally. Especially with 'perfectionist' children who want to please, there is terrible opportunity for exploitation of the young in the performance arts.
  • What the village can do:
We must watch over and train our charges. We must talk among ourselves, reporting any abuse we think we see, no matter what it might cost the child's career. A beautiful photoshoot is one thing, but when a child's album cover approaches soft porn, why are we surprised at the kind of 'attention' it elicits?
  • The issue: Overprotection.
Truly gifted and self-driven children NEED to be able to express themselves creatively. Overprotecting and overcontrolling them can hurt their development and trying to discourage them from following their dreams and their heart and their callings can cause depression and dangerous self-sabotaging behaviors to set in. 
  • What the village can do:  
Listen deeply and observe the child. What do they really need to be able to do to fully develop into the person they were born to be? Nurture their gifts; teach them how to persist and practice for something they've chosen to do or audition for (always watching your own motivations). Help them balance their responsibilities, study and aspirations with playtime, daydream-time and laughter. Remember that even if they DO become doctors, lawyers or CEOs, they still need to create in the giftings they have to be fulfilled and happy in life. Music does all kinds of things for the mind and spirit. The arts are not 'extra' .. they are of primary importance to humanity, and definitely to our young humans. 

CHILD STARS WHO MADE IT

All the issues I've mentioned are waiting like time bombs for our children. But some have definitely made it. And some young stars have incredibly deep wisdom. Leonardo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake have managed to come into adulthood fine. I can think of several others right now in their teens and 20's who are already influencing the world for the better. 

But some never do learn to have healthy relationships, be unafraid to fail, be capable of empathy and altruistic concern for others. At the core, they are often motivated by fear. And no matter how much fame they have, it's never enough. In the end, that's not a life I'd wish on anyone. 

So let us protect these precious budding humans, and help them grow into what they are truly born to be... healers, poets, public speakers, music artists, inspirers, world changers... yes, Heroes!  

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Do you have a child that has had trouble with any of these issues? If you were a child who performed publically, what helped or hurt you? How do you think we can help mentor heroes instead of narcissists? Hit 'comment' and give us your thoughts!

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

3 Signs Your Vocal Technique Needs Help

What's your sign?
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To make good music, you need more than a well-made instrument; you actually need to operate it well. Otherwise, we could all pick up a Stradivarius violin and begin to bow like Itzhak Perlman! So it is with the voice. Sometimes your technique is naturally good; sometimes it could be a lot better with some tweaking. How do you know if you're using good vocal technique? When singing and/or speaking, check for these three signs:

Sign #1: Your voice doesn't feel good

Many people think that it's normal and inevitable for the voice to feel tired or strained after using it a lot. Well, I've come to firmly believe that is not true. In fact, one of my favorite things to do in lessons is to have a student come in with a voice that is feeling strained, and watch their reaction when their vocal strain disappears with a change of technique. 

If you use healthy technique, strong singing and loud speaking can be a kind of magic trick. This is how even rock and classical singers can have career longevity... they do what they do without trashing their vocal folds. The only exception to the rule that you should use healthy technique is if you're a voiceover artist who needs to create an abusive sound. In that case, it's even more important to learn healthy warm-up and cool-down vocal exercises. And make sure your technique is perfect when doing those exercises!

How to tweak technique for vocal health:

  • Stop pushing too much breath... learn to pull your voice out for vocal strength!
  • Learn to do vocal exercises with proper form to change bad habits into protective vocal technique.
  • Make sure your overall health is good, because your voice is part of your body and mind. Signup for my 5 page document with vocal health tips
  • Consider having diluted pineapple drink to sip on when you are using your voice a lot.

Sign #2: Your voice doesn't sound good

Many singers and speakers think their voices are just naturally the wrong shape or size to sound good. In truth, the size and shape of your larynx and your resonating spaces and surfaces ARE important to how you can sound, but like the brain, most people don't know how to access what they've got! You can change bad tone to amazing degrees by accessing your resonance spaces differently. 

As a session singer singing background vocals on other artists' recordings, I've had to learn to thin, thicken, brighten and darken my tone, speed or slow my vibrato, match foreign language dialect, and sing smoothly around and over my natural vocal passagio area in order to blend my voice with others or 'step out' on a line as the producer desired. Voiceover artists have to take on all kinds of different vocal tones. We humans can make an amazing array of sounds!

How to tweak technique for vocal sound:

  • Stretch your throat channel or 'voice cave' up, down and back when warming up. Lift your eyebrows, drop & circle your jaw, move your head back over your heels or tailbone and do some crazy berserk bird or karate-kiya yell exercises.
  • To access more resonance, use more facial language when singing or speaking. Especially activate your eyes and move your jaw.
  • Change your posture. Balance your head farther back on your spine than usual to allow the vibration from your vocal cords a wider channel through which to reach various resonating spaces. Learn how you can use your hands to make this happen.
  • Try miming a voice that you think 'sounds good'. Often, just intending that sound can tell your vocal apparatus what it needs to do to get it. After all, that's how you learned to sound like your family, for better or worse!

Sign #3: Your voice doesn't communicate well

The only reason that voice box is in your throat is to deliver messages. If you want to create a 'good vocal sound', remember that the real measure of success for the voice is whether or not it gets the response it wants from the heart to whom it's communicating! 

How to tweak technique for better communication:

  • After warming up and practicing technical aspects of the song or speech, go into what I call 'lights, camera, action mode'. Use acting technique: What is your message? To whom are you communicating? What would the response be if you got your message through?
  • Use your imagination to focus on your intended listener and to eliminate distracting stimuli that your senses may be bombarded with.
  • In the recording studio, make sure only you and your intended listener are present in the vocal booth. Don't sing to the producer or the pop filter! 
  • Use more communicative articulation: practice singing or speaking as if your intended target is partially or selectively deaf.

How it Feels + How it Sounds + What it Accomplishes = Vocal Synergy!

To be in best voice for singing or speaking, you need your voice to feel good, sound good, and communicate well. These three things affect each other synergistically. When your voice feels bad, it generally sounds bad and your communication will be distracted, producing a weak connection. When your voice feels good, it opens up to more resonation and more interesting sound, and you can much more effectively make somebody hear and respond to you! 

Need help? 

Get some vocal training! I'm available for online lessons these days; just contact me at this link to book. My lesson rate is $125 an hour or $65 for 1/2 hr. Or purchase a packaged course on my website. No matter what your budget or time constraints, where there is a will, there is a way to get all these signs pointing in the right direction!  

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Chat with Artist Mentor Laura Monaco-Martino

    Laura Monaco-Martino                                               Judy Rodman

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In my interviews for you here on All Things Vocal, I try to brainstorm with other professional-level music mentors who have proven the value of their advice from actual success in the music industry.  And so it is with my guest today, Laura Monaco-Martino. She is a creative entrepreneur, a veteran singer, empathic teacher and producer, successful songwriter AND... she is a new mom! She and I had a delightful chat about our work with our clients as well as our amazingly parallel journeys through this crazy business of music. Click the audio or find the podcast on your app to listen in!

Discussion points:       

  • Laura shares factors that contributed to her multifaceted, successful life and career.
  • We go into the value of experiential learning, entrepreneurship, and the value of what we’ve gained along the way.
  • We discuss how experiencing our own career struggles and personal anxiety help us help our students and recording clients, and how one must be willing to gather the courage to show vulnerability to be a great performer.
  • Laura and I talk about being an empath and how empathy factors in our teaching and making. We also talk about empath overwhelm (both teaching and performing) and the need for mentors to have mentors. Laura gives us a little of her emotional journey getting pregnant.     
  • We agreed on the importance of authenticity in the world where a career making music is uber competitive and perfection can result in sterile art.
  • We share stories about meeting husbands in music, and of creating our own music projects. 
  • Laura takes us into her three companies: ET Studio Productions (‘Emerging Talent’), ET Labz, with teachers Laura has trained to teach multiple creative fields with special needs kids, and TE music group (publishing, managing, etc)
  • Laura shares two big mistakes she sees young artists make.
  • Laura generously shares two of her songwriting exercises she gives her clients.

About Laura

Laura Monaco-Martino is an entrepreneur, music creator and mentor of singers and other creative people. With her career experience, her skills in writing, intuitive business acumen and understanding of creative psychology, Laura has developed three companies with her husband. Here again are the links:
In her early career, Laura shared the stage with artists such as Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, and more. Her songs have had lots of media placement including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “America’s Got Talent,” the “Hallmark Channel,” and Oxygen Network. She is certified from Berklee as a music business professional and vocal styles specialist. Laura’s clients have appeared on American Idol, The Voice, X Factor and America’s Got Talent, have toured the world and landed on major playlists (including getting millions of Spotify plays). She and her husband live and work in their studios in New York City (Staten Island) with their baby son. You can contact her at her websites listed above.

How You Can Support All Things Vocal

If you enjoy these interviews and vocal lessons on All Things Vocal, please help spread the love by commenting here on the blog, or rating/reviewing the podcast on your podcast app. I could especially use some new reviews on iTunes right now. Here's how (THANK YOU):

On an iPhone or iPad:

1. Look for or install the purple iTunes podcast player app.
2. Tap the search tab in lower right-hand corner
3. Enter the name of the podcast - All Things Vocal
4. Tap the blue search key at bottom right
5. Tap the icon for my podcast (it's blue & white)
6. Scroll down, tap purple words 'Write a Review'
7. Type headline, stars, and your review!

On Windows/Mac computer:

1. Open iTunes (install it if you need to)
2. From the dropdown box, select 'Podcasts'
3. Use the top right search box to find 'All Things Vocal'
4. Look down past 'Episodes' and see the blue All Things Vocal icon; click that.
5. Click on "Ratings and Reviews" tab. If you choose 5 stars I won't hold it against you:) To leave a review, be sure and title it, then leave your feedback.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Help for thin, weak, hooty, lifeless, nasal and edgy voices - updated 2021

Let's get some color in there!
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Vocal tone communicates the meaning of words carried on that tone. Having problems with the way the voice sounds is a frequent reason singers and speakers contact me for vocal lessons because the wrong tone is not going to get the right response to what is being sung or said. Let's start with what causes your vocal sound to be limited.

What causes unwanted vocal tone?

Thin, weak, hooty, lifeless, nasal, edgy and other limited vocal tones have one thing in common- the "resonance cave" of the voice is not completely open. These vocal sounds are not nearly as "listenable" as rich, clear, bell-like, multi-textured musical sounds of voice when the throat is open. If you want to have a weird character or cartoonish sound for some reason, you can limit your tone on purpose, but for normal speaking and singing purposes, you want all the rich colors and musicality of tone that your voice can produce.

Sometimes a person is so used to speaking or singing with a compromised voice they don't even know it's possible to change it. But with vocal training to open the throat, you will be amazed at how great you can sound. 

How vocal resonance is created:

The "resonance cave" of the voice involves a forked channel. The channel goes from the larynx in the throat upwards where it forks into the mouth and the nasal and sinus passages. The nose is actually huge inside. The top of the nasal membrane goes all the way up to the eyes. Resonance is created and modified by the state of the channel. This is the way it works:
  • The vocal cords vibrate the larynx.
  • Sound waves coming off the larynx go through the channel to bounce against other tissue surfaces and cavities in the throat, mouth, nose and some sources say even down the trachea.
  • These alternative resonation zones add their own character to the sound waves.
  • If the channel is open, more vibrations can reach more surfaces, and the resulting sound gathers and comes out the mouth much richer than when the channel is constricted anywhere.
Another very important point is that different pitches need to vibrate through different resonation zones. If your throat is tight anywhere, that will keep vibration from freely traveling and you will experience limited range (for both singing and speaking) - and vocal strain if you try to hit notes that you are making inaccessible.

Tips to open your throat and gain resonance you never thought possible:

  • Record yourself 
First of all.. record yourself speaking or singing something so you have a baseline from which to assess your progress.
  • Open your nose
If you have what is commonly known as a "nasal" sound, the nose is actually constricted - like when you have a cold. Paradoxically, to get away from the nasal sound, you need to sing through an open nose - not just your mouth! Try singing or speaking with a flared nose to see the difference.
  • Activate your eyes
Another thing that can help open the nasal portion of the throat channel: Use your eyes!! Try counting to five LOUD with your eyes small and frozen. Then count again with your eyes wide moving like you're communicating to a baby.
  • Articulate in front, not back, of mouth
To open the throat channel where it forks into the mouth... Articulate your words in the front of your mouth... not at the jaw hinge! You may not realize you're speaking from the jaw so try this... put your knuckle in your mouth and try to speak. Then take your knuckle out but try to speak like it's still there.
  • Make chewing circles
It can help tremendously to circle the jaw with a slight chewing motion to keep from locking it on a note or passage. 
  • Morph vowels
Morph, or shape-shift your vowels instead of freezing them!  For instance, try sustaining the vowel 'ee' as in 'me', or  'oo' as in 'you'. First, freeze the shape of the vowel, then morph the shape by doing that slight chew and move your face expressively. 
  • Imagine ping pong ball
Try speaking or singing while imagining a ping pong ball is on the back of your tongue and you don't want to crush it.
  • Keep head over tailbone
Another thing that affects the channel at the top of the throat and back of the mouth: Don't hold your head forward! Try doing wall work: Stand against a wall (head and heel against the wall, flexible spine, chin level and floating) and speak or sing. Notice and/or hear a difference?
  • Pull with mic
When using a mike, pull your mouth back from the mic like you're playing tug of war. Don't go too far, just a little stretch. Your head should go back and to the side a bit, and keep your chin flexibly level.
  • 6 way inside stretch from Power, Path & Performance training
If you have my 6-disc vocal training course, study the section on the "6-way inside stretch" to learn more about expanding your channel. It's important to make the stretch equidistant so as to keep the larynx from lifting or dropping, and instead allow it to float in place so it can rock back and forth slightly as it adjust vocal cord length and width. 
  • Control breath
And one last point... sometimes the throat tightens to try to defend the vocal cords from too much breath pressure. That's why I emphasize the three cornerstones of Power, Path & Performance vocal training - studying breath technique along with open throat and performance communication. Put them all together and you have your best, most expressive, healthy voice! 
  • Let me know how you do with these suggestions by clicking the comment link.

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Monday, January 4, 2021

Chat with Susan Berkley: The Billion Dollar Voiceover Industry

Susan Berkley                                                       Judy Rodman

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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 ‘Speak To Influence: How To Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice” (avail on Amazon) and creator of her ‘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


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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. 
Meanwhile...
Happy New Year! COME ON 2021!!

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