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, June 14, 2021

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

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

Quietest solution:

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

Cheapest audible solution:

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

Good will/kindness solution:

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

Location solutions:

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

High end solutions

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

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Monday, June 7, 2021

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

 

                                Diane Foy                                                             Judy Rodman

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

Some of the Rabbit Trails We Explored: 

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

About Diane Foy

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

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

Diane's Links

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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

Yours truly adding a little rasp at BB Kings, Nashville

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

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

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

Your Vocal Health 

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

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

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

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

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

Your Vocal Stamina

- the conditioned strength of your vocal apparatus.

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

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

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

Your Vocal Technique

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

Bottom line:

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

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

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Public Speaking Tips - Dave Bricker On 'Story Sailing'

Judy Rodman                                              Dave Bricker

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

Some questions we explored:

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

About Dave Bricker:

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

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

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

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

Find Dave:

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

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Monday, May 10, 2021

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

 

Interviewing Bree and Katie was a brainstorming party for you!

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


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Monday, May 3, 2021

Want More Vocal Control? 4 Critical Factors


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How important is vocal control? It affects everything your voice does. The better your vocal control, the healthier and more successful your voice is going to be at singing and speaking. Today I'm going to give you 4 things to improve if you want more vocal control: Inhale, Breath Support, Breath Control and Mental Focus. 

I was called to go on the road with an artist who was having some seriously career-threatening vocal problems. He had trouble hitting his high notes, had pitch issues and chronic vocal strain, his dynamic expression included wild volume swings, and his vocal licks were forced. His vocal sound was thin and strained, and listening to him felt like being yelled at. As is usual when a career vocalist runs into vocal trouble, the harder he tried, the worse it got! Thankfully, being the great artist he was, yet receptive to learning something new, he responded really quickly to corrective training. After three days of tweaking his vocal technique for each of his acoustic and full-band performances, all of his vocal problems disappeared and he told me this had changed his life! His label president was thrilled. What changed? He gained vocal control.

So how do you get it?

The most important factor for creating vocal control is the way you apply breath! Breath for the voice is not the same as breath for life, which is just inhaling and exhaling. For the voice, breath consists of three areas we need to master… 
  • inhalation, 
...and a balance of two opposing forces of exhalation known as
  • breath support and 
  • breath control.

1. Inhalation

Your posture is all-important here. try inhaling as you stand or sit flexibly tall, chin level, head balanced over your tailbone instead of forward. This should cause the upper curve of your spine to be straighter, which will open the ribcage wide. Your low abdominal wall should easily expand as you breathe in, allowing your diaphragm to flatten out and lower the floor for your lungs. This kind of inhale feels like a quiet, quality breath falling into the pelvic floor (which is really into the lower lungs) ... no gulping or gasping sensation needed! You don’t need a huge inhale… just breath enough to accomplish the phrase you intend to sing.

2. Breath Support 

Let's define breath support as that which moves air up and out, passing through and vibrating your vocal cords. To get it, you’ll need to contract those low abdominal muscles you just relaxed for the inhale.... This will support the dome of the diaphragm moving up and pressing air from the floor of the lungs - but keep the squeeze below the navel. In fact, the safest way to engage breath support is to focus on tensing your gluteus maximus (butt) muscles, which will naturally cause your low abs to also contract. We’ll talk about why next:

3. Breath Control

Let's define this as that which holds air back as it's coming up. To control your exhale, keep the bottom of your ribcage wide! This keeps the diaphragm, which is connected at its edges to the bottom of the ribcage, stretched taut like a trampoline or drumhead. The stretched diaphragm can then control itself and the air it allows upwards. In fact, the biggest saboteur of breath control (and the voice in general) is a dropped or tight ribcage!

I call the delicate and vital balance of breath support and control ‘pulling’ instead of ‘pushing’ air. It is a compression source of air power, centered and sensed in the pelvic floor or saddle area – NOT in the lower rib area that comes from a wrong understanding of breathing from the diaphragm. You back off the air pressure to the minimum needed to make the sound you want. The sensation of pulling instead of pushing breath is, in my experience, the best way possible to have optimum vocal control.

4. Mental Focus

Another key to vocal control is what your mind focuses on. In other words, your vocal control is affected by your intentions to...
  • to hit a particular pitch a particular way - such as using a particular tone, volume, degree of shimmer or vibrato or straight tone, phrasing and other nuances of the human voice;
  • to communicate a specific message and get a specific response. 
When you fully intend these two things, it affects your body and facial language which affects your breath and then wait for it... your vocal control!

Remember: Vocal control is vital for singing AND speaking.

Without control, your voice is going to be wobbly and inaccurate. This is bad not only for singers but for speakers, too. Whether singing or speaking, our voices deliver messages and if uncontrolled, our messages will sound insecure, inauthentic, and ineffective at communicating. It's worth digging into gaining more control over that instrument in your throat!

Want more help to improve your vocal control? 

Get my vocal training course or a vocal lesson. And don't miss my free training: subscribe to get 5 pages of vocal health tips and also updates on new posts on this blog. Any questions? Just ask.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

7 Wrong Ideas About Singing - updated

Let's turn the wrong lightbulbs off!  

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If you'd prefer to watch video version, scroll to the bottom of this post.
So you have a vocal issue... if you google it long enough, chances are good that you'll find vocal coaches that offer the total opposite advice for dealing with your issue. What's right? Well, there are two questions to ask to get to the best answer: 
  • Which one works? 
  • Which one works the best? 
There is lively controversy in what is deemed good vocal training, and different teachers embrace differing viewpoints and pedagogic philosophies. There is more than one effective way to accomplish training a voice. However, there are some ideas and techniques taught that actually limit and sabotage vocal ability... and that can even create damage in the voice. An idea is only wrong when it doesn't work!! From my practical experience, I give you...

7 wrong ideas:

    1. When phonating (making a vocal sound) the belly should go out.

Not in my experience! Your breath support and control are enabled and balanced by the low belly coming in when sounding the voice. Belly out, your voice will feel less controlled, and then your voice strains trying to make it right. Try it... see? Note that I'm talking about the LOW belly, below the belt line.

    2. A singer should inhale from the nose only.

Aaahh... I have to come down on the side of NOPE. I have gotten a lot of work from singers in all kinds of vocal trouble from the chest breathing that comes from inhaling through the nose only. This notion comes from sports training where you inhale from the nose to moisten the breath, and from doctors who tell us it creates more nitric oxide which is good for the whole body. However, inhaling from both nose and mouth will result in much better results for singing and speaking. And it's not a good idea to sing anyway when you jog or lift weights. 

    3. You should never drink coffee if you want to sing.

Uhhh... if this were true, I would not be able to sing. Is coffee dehydrating? Yes. Is it debilitating to all singers? In moderation (one morning cup), far enough away from performance time -- and if the singer is not overly sensitive to caffeine -- it's not a problem I've run into. NOTE: If you ARE sensitive to caffeine, stay completely away from it. In all cases don't drink it close to, or during, performance. That goes for alcohol, too. Alcohol in performance may mask anxiety but it will dehydrate your voice and unbeknownst to you, it will play havoc with your control and intonation.

    4. It takes at least a month of breath training to prepare a vocal student to sing a song.

Nope. When I can correct a singer's posture, breathing problems can instantly disappear. Do breathing exercises help? Sure, especially with certain singers, but in my experience, even simple rib stretching and flexing can help instantly improve the singing breath. Vocal exercises can and should be used to memorize better posture sensations and breath strategies so you don't have to think about them. But when they are employed, vocal improvement should be immediate.

    5. Singers should sing with arms hanging limp and still at the sides.

NO. Sadly, this is a common belief of choir directors, musical theater directors and recording artists that gets me a lot of work. Turning the arms into what I call 'rib anchors" is one of the worst things you can do to a singer or speaker, because it drops the ribcage and gives the diaphragm too much slack to work the inhale and control the exhale well. That sabotages everything the voice does. Instead, if arms are to be positioned at your sides for visual reasons, try hanging your arms down with your elbows a little farther back than usual. That should help stretch the ribcage. 

    6. The face should be quiet and still... too much facial expression detracts from the performance.

Nada. I've actually heard this from misinformed engineers, performance coaches and choir directors. Without an active face, you will never sing as well as you could with communicative facial movement... especially the eyes and eyebrows. Try freezing your face and singing a short phrase. Then use over-active facial language and sing it again. The difference in both vocal sound and feel will be profound.

    7. You can't learn to sing unless you were born a singer (aka 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks').

Au contraire mon cheri... If you can talk, you can learn to sing. In every instance of "tone deafness" I've encountered, all it took was some consistent target practice to train the ear-challenged singer to aim at pitch. The question isn't 'can you learn to sing?'... it's 'how bad do you want to?"

Want more bad vocal ideas to avoid?

Think you might be suffering from wrong thinking about your voice?

  • Get a course or a lesson that can turn voice-sabotaging beliefs into voice-enabling ones.

Want to watch this lesson? Here you go...


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