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!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Michael Arterberry Interview - Got Dirt? Use it!

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Voices are fragile. When we are emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually challenged, our voices reflect that state of being. In 2020, we may feel like we are being buried under a load of care, worry for ourselves and others. So I thought you might enjoy, as I did, my chat with a man who has not only overcome all kinds of adversity but learned to powerfully use it. Please meet my guest, Michael Arterberry.

Topics include:

  • Michael’s backstory.
  • Michael’s parable of the Donkey in the Hole.
  • We dive into Michael’s tagline ‘be encouraged!’ 
  • His life-bringing challenge to ‘shake the dirt’.
  • Michael’s understanding of faith and how it affects his life and work.
  • How Michael works to encourage and empower kids.
  • The importance of changing the systems around dysfunction.
  • The power of reflection to go forward in times of frightening change (like this Covid era).
  • Mentors & teachers that helped Michael; the importance of being one.
  • How side interests & diversity help create a well-rounded life.
  • Funny stories, serious success stories.
  • How Michael uses mind & body to be in good voice.

About Michael Arterberry:

Michael is a public speaker, author, and mentor with a non-profit devoted to working with youth. Childhood dysfuntion and spinal surgery have only served to inform and shape his life's work... successfully and deeply motivating and encouraging others. As he states in his website, 
As a Motivational Speaker, my life is dedicated to moving people from an uneasy time in their lives to a place of peace. I don’t change their circumstances, but I help change their perspective. - Michael Arterberry 
His many career achievements include:
  • 2010 USA Network’s Characters Unite Award for exceptional commitment to combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance within the community, 
  • 2014 100 Men of Color Award for leadership in education, government, mentorship, entrepreneurial success and community service,
  • 2016 Educator of the year award from Y-Cop in Mount Vernon, NY. as well as a proclamation from the Mayor, Certificate of Merit from the Board of Legislators, and a Citation from the Mount Vernon City Council.
Find him on the web:

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How To Have Unforgettable Songwriter Rounds


Me, Randy C Moore, Bobby Keel, Jim Parker in the round at Huntsville Civic Center

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 A songwriter round can be a yawning spectacle for an audience who is just there to support a family member or friend and can't wait to exit the venue. Or it can be a magical night the audience will never forget and that can significantly benefit your career. I've done a ton of both types, and here are some things I've learned. Even if you're a round veteran, I hope you catch a new thing or two!

What is a 'songwriter round'?

For the as-yet uninitiated, this term is short for 'songwriters in the round'. This kind of event originated in Nashville, where it has become a hallmark tradition. The classic version is 4 songwriters in a circle, taking turns to sing their songs, with the audience seated all around outside the circle. Sometimes the songwriter performers are in a row if the stage is not conducive to the circular arrangement, like the round I did in the photo above. The songwriters typically accompany themselves on keyboard or guitar, but sometimes are accompanied by another musician. And often, the songwriters chime in with instruments and/or background vocals on each other's songs. When done well, these are really great shows.

Know what you want to accomplish.

Before hosting or performing in a songwriter round, it's important to be clear about your goals for the show. Typical goals for these shows include...
  • Number one: Demonstrate your songs to get your songs cut by a recording artist, or to move your career forward as a recording artist who writes. For these goals, choose a venue where industry people like to go, and a time they'll probably be available. Invite specific people to your show who you think might be looking for songs, including publishers, managers, A&R people, producers, label people, and the artists themselves. 
  • Feed and express your performing and creative spirit. Singers and songwriters deeply need to sing and have their songs heard. It's fuel for our music-making hearts, and it's important.
  • Practice performing! There's nothing like a songwriter round to get you doing your vocal exercises and raising your vocal stamina. It's also a great way to get used to playing in front of an audience, or get back to it if it's been a while.
  • Get some audience reaction to your songs. Listeners' feedback is an awesome way to know what is working and what isn't. A songwriter round audience is an intimate one, so it's pretty easy to read their interest - or the lack thereof - in your songs. You might be moved to re-write something, drop a song entirely, or to record the especially favored ones on your next album.
  • Make a little money. (And I mean a little!) Cover charges and tips won't make your house payment. But your music should be good enough to be worth paying for.
  • My three goals for my current songwriter rounds are: to express my own voice again, to showcase some great singer/songwriter artists I'm working with to increase everyone's visibility, and to create magic... true value... for our audience. My goal is a triple win!

Tips for hosting a great round:

  • Choose the right songwriters!
    • Try to choose performers whose audiences are compatible... so anyone who loves listening to one would also enjoy the songs of the others you book for that show.
    • Songwriter round chaos is almost always totally preventable stress if you clearly communicate the show agenda to all involved. Make sure your venue will be available and the soundperson will be present for soundcheck. Give performers plenty of notice about the venue location, times for soundcheck, when doors open, and when the show should start, the length of the show (number of songs they'll do), and where they can find ticket purchasing information they can share. Ask for any photos, videos, and/or bios you need for promotion prior to show. From my experience, add a deadline to that request!  
  • Promote the show!
    • It's hard to draw an audience that doesn't know you're having this songwriter round! There are lots of free and paid ways to advertise, including online social networking, email blasts and local flyers. 
    • Make eye-catching banners with photos and info on the gig. I personally use Canva to create my graphics. You can customize and size the banners for social networking as well as posters and email news blasts.
    • Promote multiple times. Announce the show a couple of weeks out, then again and again as you get closer to the date. Share reminders on social media the morning of the gig.
    • Get others to help promote! Ask your songwriters to promote the show, and share your show banner graphics with them. Don't forget your family, friends, and fans you can enlist to help spread the word.
  • Either have a cover charge or a tip jar. 
    • Find out what your venue usually suggests as a cover charge, and who collects it.
    • Consider using 'Square' or 'Paypal Here' for credit cards.
    • Designate someone to be in charge of passing the tip jar during the show. 
    • They can also sell any merch or recordings that performers have.

Tips for performing songwriters...

  • Choose the right songs. 
    • Avoid most depressing, sad, cry in your beer songs... at least don't do a whole show of them. If you have them, include a funny and lighthearted song. A lot of round veterans write special songs just for these shows.
    • Create your intended set list, but prepare more songs than you'll need, in case you feel the sudden need to change one to better follow a song someone else just did. On the show, read your audience... what do you think they'd like to hear next?
    • By definition, songwriter rounds are for original music; not cover songs. But every rule can be broken. For instance, I often sing a song that was a hit for me as an artist but written by someone else. Just be sure you are clear about what is expected of you by the person who books you. 
    • You might be bored with them, but do sing hit songs if you have written them; audiences love hearing songs they know. Add brand new ones...  A really good mix is hits and new songs that might be next hits! 
  • In all ways, be prepared!
    • Bring water or diluted pineapple juice to sip between songs. Eat a simple meal with protein before your show. You'll need not only physical but also mental energy.
    • Make sure your instrument is prepared - check batteries, cords, strings, capos, picks, stools & stands if not provided - anything else you use when you play. 
    • Make sure your voice is prepared - A songwriter round can be as important a career mover as any gig. If you haven't been singing much lately, get your vocal stamina up by singing full voice for days before the round. Definitely warm your voice up like you're about to do a live Grammy performance. A rule for you that I learned from the late Sarah Cannon (Minnie Pearl): make every gig special, no matter who is there.
    • (Dear round playing veterans... pay attention to this one...) Know how to sing well sitting down. Slumping over your guitar or keyboard into a mic will cause a lack of vocal control and thin sound. (Can you feel me poke you in the middle of your shoulder blades?) My point is that if you will be sitting, as in most rounds, then practice that way.
    • Know your songs! Memorize lyrics, chords, and arrangements! Yes, it is common and acceptable to bring lyric sheets to songwriter rounds, but only use them as prompts if you need to. 
    • Know how to enter and draw the audience into the scene of each song; how to differentiate what you do between songs and what you do as you begin them. Take a lesson so I can show you how a bit of acting technique can raise the bar on your performance.
    • Either bring your own microphone (if they'll let you use it) or bring alcohol wipes! In most songwriter round venues, the mics are not in pristine sanitary condition. Use an alcohol wipe on mic and anywhere you'll touch the mic stand. If there's a show after you, wipe it down again. For these pandemic times, it matters more than ever.
  • Be considerate!
    • Show up early for the gig. If there's a soundcheck, (even online) make sure you're there for it. 
    • Make sure your participation adds to the magic instead of subtracts or distracts from it! Don't chime in on another songwriter's performance unless 1. you know they will appreciate your contribution and 2. you're confident you can play or sing well on that song. If these two boxes are checked, please DO add your voice and/or instrument - everyone will be grateful!
    • Support your fellow performers... interact with them as friends would in a casual jam session. When they are performing, actively listen as you'd like them to listen to you. The more fun, friendship and comradery the performers have, the more magic the audience experiences.
    • Interact with the audience. Include them naturally in the conversations. Make them laugh. Get them wrapt in attention as you tell the stories behind your songs. Ask them things, find out where they are from; let them know that you see them. It's the least you can do for their support! Creating this sense of relationship - this instant 'village' is a vital component for truly magical songwriter rounds, and a good way to expand your fanbase!
    • Watch your language. Be courteous, common sense, and read your audience for cues.  A great round often includes some mature song material, but dropping a curse word in the wrong crowd is a great way to ruin a moment, and decrease your fanbase. 
    • Complimenting and thanking your venue, audience, and host, reminding people to tip waiters, and maybe even tipping the soundperson are great ways to get invited back!

Three songwriter round fails to avoid...

I have witnessed all these mistakes, and they really steal the magic out of a songwriter show.
  • Performing internally
Not articulating lyrics clearly enough to be understood. If I'm listening in the audience, I'm thinking 'beautiful melody, sounds interesting, wonder what it's about? Hmm. Next." That's not the response you want!
  • Talking too long 
Yes, everyone expects stories at songwriter rounds, but READ YOUR AUDIENCE... and shorten your story if it seems they are bored, or you are taking too much time from the next person's performance.
  • Arrogance 
I find that arrogance is usually the opposite of confidence. Acting uninterested in the other performers, or over-interested in one while dismissive of others goes over like a thud. Even if you've never met before, a songwriter round is best when it looks like everyone is enjoying and supporting everyone else. Friendly, equal relationships between performers and the audience really sets the show up for magic. All you need to add is great songs! (And sing them well:)

Tips for creating virtual shows...

Please note: I am not a tech guru. I can only share info on the limited things I've experimented with. If you do a virtual show, I highly recommend you do your own research and scope out the increasing options available for live streaming... and I'd like to know what you find out! That said, here are some thoughts.
  • Why do a show online? As I write, we are in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, it is dangerous to fill a small room with people like the songwriter rounds we've known before. However, there are creative ways to bring people together through the internet. The tricky issues include...
    •  the technical difficulty of having multiple people simultaneously connected online,
    • and the latency effect if they try to play together while truly live.
  • To have a true 'songwriter in the round' experience, 
    • Performers need to be able to interact with each other and...
    • the watching audience needs to be able to interact with performers, as well.
    • The performances should not be full band, but more 'unplugged' or stripped-down versions, with acoustic instruments, electronic keyboards, and even simple percussion instruments as appropriate accompaniment.
  • Choose your software: 
    • Be.Live Broadcasting. This is the option I chose for my show I've named 'Cloud Rounds'. You can use this software to stream live to Facebook or Youtube. I went live on Facebook and was able to engage live audience comments, and respond to them as the show progressed.
    • OBS - Open Broadcaster Software. This is a free and open-source application for video recording as well as live streaming. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
    • XSplit Broadcaster - another live streaming option.
    • Restream which enables streaming to 30+ social networks at once.
    • Zoom - a limited option as to participants and viewers. I don't recommend it for songwriter rounds.
    • Please let me know if YOU have used any streaming service, and whether or not you think it would work for songwriter rounds.
  • Try to ensure the best quality audio and streaming video possible
    • Streaming video can be glitchy. Be sure that all performers know to turn off any other internet-using device anywhere near them during the show. Exception: Someone in the house could use their phone to watch the show in another room, as long as the phone is using cellular data instead of your WIFI.
    • Audio can really be a problem when streaming live. It's best for performers to wear earbuds or headphones to limit excessive, echo-ey room sound.
    • For my virtual show I called Cloud Rounds, I had all songwriters pre-tape our performances to prevent the typical live instrument digital glitches. Then with Be.Live software, I inserted the videos into our live show. I was transparent about it, and the audience didn't seem to mind at all. We chatted live between the pre-recorded videos and it really gave the audience a much better audio experience.
  • Setup and promote a virtual tip jar
    • My choice for Cloud Rounds... an app called 'Buy Me A Coffee'. I like this because it takes anyone's credit cards, which go directly to my PayPal account. Also, people can leave comments which I can respond to there.
    • Other options... Venmo or your direct Paypal link. These might be simpler, but with Venmo your tipper would need to have a Venmo account. I also use Square to take credit cards. 
    • Remember to tell people you have a tip jar several times during the show.
    • Make sure to mention your website, merch and music store you have online!
  • Take advantage of 2 things virtual rounds have over physical venue rounds: bigger audience potential, and the replay factor. 
    • Consider paying for a small 'boost' promotion for the show replay on Facebook. Between the organic reach and $20 boosted replay, my first Cloud Round has so far landed over 6 thousand views, about 1 thousand of them full thru plays of the 1.5-hour show! Tons of likes, comments, and connections, too. This is a much bigger reach than a physical songwriter round venue like Nashville's iconic Bluebird Cafe.
    • Consider editing the show (I use Cyberlink Power Director for this) to remove any really distracting speedbumps such as long silences while getting the tech right, freezing or out of sync video performances, and such. Then multipurpose the video to Youtube and other video platforms. It will live there for virtually ever:) Speaking of which...
Check out our "Cloud Rounds" show
my first experience creating/hosting a virtual songwriter round!

Look for future Cloud Rounds hosted by me and my co-sponsor for this event series, Mark Thress, with whom I brainstormed this virtual songwriter event concept. 

What about you?

What do you think about listening to or performing song rounds? What do you think about virtual rounds? I'd love your comments! And hit me up if you'd like to catch a vocal lesson before your next show. Let's make it rock!

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Monday, June 15, 2020

The Multi-Creative Soul - Interview with Mark Elliott

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I first met Mark Elliott in his studio back in the woods outside Nashville, where I had been asked to do vocal production on a mutual client of ours. His control room window contained clouds of (real) butterflies. The plaques on the wall and the instruments around suggested he knew something about bluegrass. Next time I saw him was at the symphony. Then at a vocal lesson, where he revealed one of the best voices I've ever worked with. I also learned he is a hit songwriter and tours with a band named after a musical I worked on (he would say it was the reverse:) And he's a poet and novelist! We traded books and I found out what a treat for the senses his writing is. We began following each other on social networks and I found him a fascinating study in NEVER getting bored!! So I asked him for an interview to share his multi-creative soul with us. If you're in need of some inspiration to move forward, come with us down the rabbit trails we traveled. If you like it... please let us know!

Some quotes from the interview:

Discipline is connected to inspiration
Protecting forward momentum energizes the next thing
The legs of your forward momentum are upon content’

Some of our discussion trails:

  • Integrating multiple creative and technical sides of oneself.
  • How you can start out in classical voice and end up in bluegrass - loving them both!
  • The value of both nature and nurture, parents and environment, to Mark's journey.
  • Brick walls and turning points
  • The difference between writing songs and writing novels.
  • Mark recites his latest poem ‘Where Did You Go’ 
  • Thinking outside the box for the promotional video series to launch his single 'Craziest Thing'. We play a snippet!
  • Mark's experience with a vocal polyp.
  • Guitar strings and microphones... including how he cleans his mics.
  • Mark's future gazing; encouragement for others to move forward, too.

About Mark Elliott:

To quote Devon O'Day;
As a singer-songwriter, Mark Elliott is a ‘lifer.’ He lives and breathes the poetry of existence.
Mark started his singer-songwriter career in Washington, DC. Tom Paxton discovered him and led him to Nashville. He has won songwriting awards including the Kerrville New Folk Award, has written for publishing houses including Bluewater Music, Maypop Music group, and Sony Music/ATV, and has had his songs cut by indie and major-label artists. Billboard Magazine called Mark’s Neal McCoy hit, Every Man for Himself, “a song with rare lyrical and musical edge and the best cut on the album.” Other publications have praised his work including Martin Guitar Company’s Sounding Board Magazine, UK’s Maverick Magazine and Music Row Magazine which said Mark was "Almost too good”.  

He tours live with his band, Runaway Home, and has a new solo EP due out summer 2020, with the first single called "Craziest Thing". Mark writes books, blogs, and essays. Kirkus Reviews said of Mark’s first full-length book, The Sons of Starmount: Memoir of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, “Cheerful, more thoughtful than most reminiscences, and quite enjoyable.” Mark is a regular contributor to Songbones Magazine. 

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Everything Affects Your Voice... Including 11 That Might Surprise You

What sets your voice off in the wrong direction? 

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How does your voice feel today? Great? Not so? Well, there might be a hidden reason for that. Of course the health of your vocal cords matter. You probably know that what you eat and how much water you've had matters. But everything else does, too! For instance, here are 11 factors that might surprise you:

1. Your clothes

My student came to her first studio vocal session dressed to the nines. Her tight dress had a waist cinched up like an old fashioned barbie doll, making opening the bottom of her ribcage, and breath inhale/support/control, all difficult. She learned fast... for her next vocal session she arrived in sweat pants!

How you look and feel in the studio and on stage is important. Yes, it can help your voice if you feel confident about the way you look in the studio or on stage, because if you aren't confident you will tend to tighten or slump around your core, and numb your body/facial language. And then there are those outfits that help define your artistic persona. But you need to balance feeling pretty with feeling physically unobstructed. And guess what? For singing and speaking, how you sound matters more than how you look.

Workarounds:
Choices to make: Wool jacket or soft cotton? Figure flattering or loose & flowing? Waist or hip belt? As you pick out what you're going to wear, remember that for best results in performance, ask your voice what it wants.

2. Your shoes

If your shoes don't fit well, you will be distracted by how your feet feel. Your boots need to fit your feet like a soft but sturdy glove. The front of your footwear shouldn't cramp your toes when you move your feet. The heels of your shoes matter a ton... if they are too high, low or the slant is wrong for your feet, they will create breathing problems, pain, and distraction. If like Tina Turner or Dolly you are used to wearing high heels all day, then your Achilles tendon may be short and flat shoes may cause pain. If like me you don't wear stilettos much, then your Achilles is longer and wearing those heels for long will cause pain and fatigue in your feet and legs. Any shoe that causes you to have an increased swayback will be a problem for your breath, and therefore for your voice.

Workarounds:
In the studio, if I come in shoes that don't feel that great, I make sure I'm wearing or taking socks and just take those shoes off. I've done that on stage, too, but be careful. I remember when I took my shoes off halfway through my Austin City Limits show and had to do my last songs with a big splinter in my foot! For stage, I have boots and high heels which are a bit of an illusion... the soles are thick for height and the heel is thick also, for ankle safety. Voices do NOT like twisted ankles😩! For studio, I like brands like Sketchers footwear because they simulate feeling barefoot, which my voice has always liked best. When trying on potential performance shoes, walk around and be sure they make your spine, your legs and your voice feel great.

3. If, when and how you do physical exercise

Your voice needs your body to be in shape. Aerobic exercise, core exercise, stretching and weight lifting can all help your voice if you do them at the right time and with good form. Exercising too long and hard before significant vocal practice or performance will be counterproductive because of tension and physical fatigue reduces your ability to control and support your voice. How you lift free weights can affect your neck and shoulders. If you've even tried to sing with a crick in your neck, you'll realize how tension and pain in those muscles can sabotage your voice by affecting your throat channel among other things.

Workarounds:
Strengthen your neck and shoulders with exercise but avoid excessive weight lifting that over-tightens those muscles and restricts your larynx. Also, don't grunt (do glottal stops) when lifting those weights. Don't make your vocal cords do that work!

4. Pain in your big toe and anything else that hurts

Gout, stumping your toe, menstrual cramps, a headache... pain anywhere will cause compensatory muscular tension and mental distraction. Your voice will not be at it's best when the focus of your brain is otherwise occupied.

Workarounds:
Get to the bottom of the pain issue. For headaches, if you'd like to avoid taking too many NSAIDs, you might try putting peppermint or Eucalyptus oil on your temples, occipital bone, forehead and upper lip. This will often take the headache away and also deliver a boost of energy. Your voice doesn't mind that you smell like a Peppermint Patty. Just be careful not to rub your eyes after you do! (Ask me how I know😱.)

5. Your emotional state

When you are sad, depressed, angry or anxious, your voice won't work as well as when you are centered, confident and positive. This is because your emotional state will be somehow reflected in your body language. Fight or flight brain will create protect mode that closes in your ribcage and throat, and moves your power center up too high in your body. Your expectation of how your performance will go, how well you'll hit a high or low note, how you might hurt your voice, will negatively impact your vocal ability.

Fear is a particular saboteur... it caused partial vocal cord paralysis in one woman I worked with. It can cause tension in your throat, and even in your diaphragm, which will affect your breath/vocal control. I can't promise this result for everybody, but three weeks after we started working to relax her mind and connect it properly to her body and voice, she went back to the doc that diagnosed her and found that the paralysis disappeared!

Workarounds:
Act as if and you shall be. You can use this wisdom to change your state of mind, and then your refocused mind/body/voice connection can improve your performance dramatically, immediately. A good therapist or intuitive vocal coach can help you defeat your invisible foes, too. It's important to work with someone you trust to have good information.

6. Your hormones

According to Sameep Kadakia, Dave Carlson, and Robert T. Sataloff in an article on hormones for the Journal of Singing,
The voice is exquisitely sensitive to changes in the hormonal milieu.
Androgens, progesterone, and estrogen cause changes in the larynx as females and males go through puberty, along with degrees of muscle and ligament bulk and resulting vocal range extension into adulthood. We recognize the somewhat clumsy adjustments males go through resulting in voice cracking and the need for careful training through the voice change. For females, cyclical changes in hormones cause fluctuations in all kinds of areas such as edema and blood flow in laryngeal structures, acid reflux, and mental anxiety. Higher levels of androgens can cause a drop in the female voice after menopause.

[NOTE: I am in my  6th decade, and have a wider vocal range than ever in my life... including extension at the top of my head voice (from C3 to E6). So don't use this as an excuse for settling for limited voice, ladies!] 

Thyroid hormones can also affect the vocal apparatus. Both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism can cause hoarseness. Several other hormones influence your voice, which you can read about in the article just mentioned.

Workarounds:
If you have mysterious vocal limitations, you might want to have a doctor do a thorough check of your hormone levels. Some are and should be cyclical, some may warrant medication to correct. The other thing you can do is to train and use your voice. Your fluctuating hormones may limit your outer edges, but your practical vocal range should be just fine. Sing and speak to your heart's content; just be careful to habitually use healthy vocal technique whenever you make a sound.

7. What someone just said to you

OK we creatives tend to pay attention to things we should ignore. Here are some saboteuring words others can throw our way:
  • "are you nervous" ... right before you go onstage (a personal peeve).
  • "don't mind me I just want to watch" ... by a distracting control room visitor as you head back to the vocal booth.
  • "I'm not sure what to tell you but can you try another pass" by an audio engineer who doesn't know what to tell you when you're flat, sharp, numb, or for whatever reason, you need another pass.
  • "Why can't you pay attention to me instead of your stupid music" or any other stressful phone call.
  • "-silence-" after you just performed your best song brilliantly before the wrong audience.
Workarounds:
Avoid these voices at least during these situations. In the studio, make sure someone in your audio production team knows how to help you get your vocals right... or better yet, get my book and be prepared to give yourself advice.

8. Humidity or the lack thereof

I've done some of my best singing in the rain (under a tarp) and choke on dry midwest air. But others are bothered by humidity and do better in Pheonix in the summer. Where you grew up can acclimate your voice to certain weather. Of course, your personal allergy susceptibilities can, too.

Workarounds:
Know yourself, and be prepared. If your voice is a humidity lover and you have to perform in Tahoe, be sure you have a humidifier in your room and diluted pineapple juice on stage. If your voice gets gunked up with too much humidity, stay inside as much as possible and raise the level of your internal hydration (drink water) to thin out the phlegm.

9. Congested lymph nodes

When a good warmup and correct technique is no longer working, it could be unusually congested lymph nodes. When excessive lymph fluid builds up, it can cause problems in the neck, throat, larynx, and sinuses.

Workarounds:
A student of mine recently asked me to suggest something for her mysterious vocal limitations, and I asked her to try the self lymph drainage massage by Heather Wibbles, LMT. Her video is embedded in my blog post on getting mucus off vocal cords.

10. Back problems

Your spinal curve affects your breathing. If you have scoliosis, pronounced swayback, bent-over or humped upper back or problems with pinched discs, all of this can limit your breathing, your open throat, and your performance focus.

Workarounds:
First, get to the bottom of your spinal dysfunction or misalignment. It's so important to get your spine in great shape that I always make a point to get a chiropractic adjustment the morning before any important vocal I do. Secondly, if your habit is to slump, become aware and change that habit! You may need to strengthen your back muscles and your core abdominal muscles. Try wall work when you sing... put your back against the wall, head and heels touching it.

11. Face and heart are missing

If your face is habitually in ventriloquist mode (still eyes, frozen jaw), and you aren't communicating to one heart, your voice will be weak and/or tight and your range will be limited. In one of my most recent and rewarding cases, a teenage boy asked me to teach him how to talk with a louder voice. He didn't feel like he was being heard by those around him. He explained this rather frozen-faced and the issue was clear.

Workarounds:
I introduced his voice to his face. After doing some bio-feedback work, he activated his eyes and opened his jaw more freely. Then I introduced him to the main thing...focusing a message to a specific heart. His voice responded immediately, and when he contacted me about another lesson, he was just thrilled... his mama in fact had asked him why he was talking so loud! He is doing videos to encourage others, and I am thrilled to have provided some wind beneath his wings because I think Ryan Stewart aka 'RyRobio' will go on to change the world for the better!

Got More?

OK there are tons more factors that affect the voice. Please share and add to this collection if you've noticed odd factors that matter for your singing or speaking. And hit me up for a lesson if you want help with your own vocally limiting mystery!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Rehearsal Voice vs Performance Voice - Why The Difference Matters

Ironically yes, you can practice performance voice in rehearsal... just add the heart you're singing to!

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We humans have a lot of different singing and speaking voices. Some are just practice voices, some are message delivery. Let's talk about why we need both of them, and also why it's vital to choose the right one for the right situation. First, let's define these different voices:

REHEARSAL VOICE

OK, let's define Rehearsal Voice as the practice one, your internal voice. It can be a lot of things, such as:

- silent. The forming of intention. You're thinking your message up and imagining yourself delivering it, all of which you can do without making a sound.

- soft, breathy, mumbly, inarticulate. This is an appropriate choice when you're just thinking about saying or singing something, because you don't want anyone to actually understand you ... at least not yet! It works for compiling thoughts and experimenting with verbiage... and drumming up courage!

- or it can be plenty loud, full of experimentation and stop/start repetition of phrases we're trying to 'get right'. We tend to focus on technique, but not quite on the 'big picture' of communication. This is an appropriate choice when learning a song or speech, creating and practicing the 'dance of the melody' to commit technique choices to muscle memory. It is something we actually need to do a lot when getting ready for the main event:

PERFORMANCE VOICE

Let's define Performance Voice as the sound that delivers the message. It is by that very definition, your external voice. To make the successful transition to this voice, a different goal must be aimed at and hit squarely. The goal of performance voice is not compilation and distillation of thought, word and lyric. It is also not perfection of technique. It is this and only this: to get the specific response you want from the heart to whom you are communicating. It matters more than technique, or even vocal health, though of course if one wishes to be in performance voice for long, technique and health are important.

Here's the thing to remember:
Rehearsal voice in all it's components should be in the service of the voice's true reason for existing... delivering the message with Performance Voice!

WHEN YOU GET THEM MIXED UP

If you need to figure out what you're going to say or how you're going to say/sing it, then prematurely going straight to performance voice can get you in trouble these ways:

1. Your voice won't have the confidence or clarity it needs to successfully deliver its message. You may even be confused as to whom you're supposed to be directing your voice. So it won't quite know how to choose the authentic tone, phrasing, volume or articulation necessary to get the desired response.

2. If you try to use Performance Voice power before you're focused on-message and ready, you may end up with vocal strain or damage. That's because when you have the ultimate goal of getting a specific response in mind, it puts your mind, body and voice together to accomplish that goal. In other words, if you have been in rehearsal voice enough, your voice has access to a big box of crayons. Your performance voice then picks from the available options the right colors to paint the sonic picture that successfully delivers the message. I know, it sounds complicated, and it is... because human communication is chock full of subtle nuances!

WHEN SHOULD YOU DO WHAT?

Ironically, even though Performance Voice is our ultimate mode, we should practice many more times in rehearsal mode than performance. You can indeed practice performance voice... but not but a couple of times in a row, because your automatic nervous system will go 'why are we doing this? we already did it!'. Like the Olympic-level events of athletics, you should actually practice rehearsal voice with more technique and crazier options than you plan to use in performance. That way, your voice KNOWS it can do what it chooses when communicating for real. Sometimes it will even get cocky and do things you didn't even know it could do... but that comes from all that time in rehearsal mode.

Be careful about what I call 'singer/songwriter syndrome'. It's one of the biggest mistakes I see in Nashville songwriter rounds. This is when the singer is unknowingly still using internal voice. Often you can see that the singer feels the song, but not communicating it outwardly. Even a very intimate song, like a movie scene, should be delivered to the intended heart in such a way that the listening audience can understand it.

EXPERIENCE THE DIFFERENCES 

[for the podcast you'll find my own demonstrations of these differences]

Pick a song you know, and sing it in both voices.
  • Rehearsal voice: Don't use communicative body language. How does that change your sound and delivery?
  • Performance voice: Communicate with your eyes, hands, stance. Hear the difference?
Now try speaking these phrases in rehearsal voice, and then in performance voice. What do you have to do differently to change voices?
  • As keynote speaker at a business seminar, say: "Today I'm going to show you how to successfully get your list from 'to do' to 'done.'
  • As a narrator of an audio book: 'When Jim saw Jane, he totally forgot his grocery list.'
  • As a reporter for a TV news segment: 'the police have the highway and the off-ramps shut down, so if you're driving, you'll want to avoid that area until later this evening; Back to you, Sally.'
  • As a history teacher: OK people, let's talk about how the Middle Ages moved forward to the Renaissance Period.
  • As a voiceover for a documentary: The elephants form a circle to defend their calves against the lion pack. But the lions have cubs to feed, too.
In true performance mode, you may be amazed at what subtle, authentic to the message options your laser beam focus can bring out of your voice! Performance is the Olympic event. Go for the gold, and you'll deliver the magic.

I'd love to help you make this lesson personal. Inquire about an online lesson today!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Audio Branding - Interview With Jodi Krangle

            Jodi Krangle                                              Judy Rodman

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Jodi Krangle's backstory up to the present moment is fascinating. She has been a voice actor since 2007 with clients from major global brands in a multitude of industries. But on her road uniquely traveled she has done everything from selling computers before computers were cool, diving into the internet and internet marketing very early on, becoming a singer/songwriter/performing/recording artist, developing an award-winning songwriter resource website called 'The Muse's Muse', and now has her own fascinating podcast called 'Audio Branding'. I asked her about all of this and more...

QUESTIONS I ASKED HER:

  • Did you set out to become a renaissance woman?  
  • Let's get right into the power of sound. You've really been researching and talking to thought leaders about this on your podcast. Take us into some of the ways sound vibrations work.
  • Some of our listeners may be interested in music therapy occupations. What have you learned about the power of sound for health, pain relief and healing?
  • Give us some examples of the power of sound to influence behavior, Why do you say it's the 'hidden gem of marketing'?
  • Take us into the world of voiceover. What do you like about it? What have been some challenges? What would you say to someone wanting to look into that career?
  • As we speak, the world has changed. Are you seeing vocal career opportunities change in the age of COVID-19? 
  • Besides a voice actor, you are also an accomplished singer and it looks like you've been working on your artistic definition! OK what is the Filk scene? That's a new one on me!
  • What do you do when your internet is down?
  • How important do you feel it is for career vocalists to have a community around them? 
  • Where can we find you, your podcast and your work?

JODI'S LINKS:

WHAT ABOUT YOU?


Has this triggered some ideas about audio branding for you? Please comment... we'd love to know!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Thoughts For Voices in the COVID-19 Crisis


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Canceled gigs, tours, presentations and recording sessions... counting toilet paper rolls, chicken breasts and cans of tuna, not to mention getting an illness that has heavy coughing and compromised breathing as main symptoms. Around the globe, everyone in the world is facing physical, emotional and financial stress from this pandemic, including those who depend on their voices and voice work. The worst part of it is the feeling of helplessness that leads to hopelessness. This perfect storm is unprecedented in modern history.

BUT if we take a closer, deeper look around, and brainstorm possibilities, there are things we can do to help ourselves and others not only get safely through this global pandemic but come out better for the battle. I'm going to share some thoughts and hopefully turn a light or two on for you in whatever your unique situation is.

OK, FIRST THE BAD NEWS

We need to understand and acknowledge the reality to successfully do something about it. The truth is that we are universally experiencing a dangerous pandemic... a new world-wide flu that is wreaking havoc with physical health and economic systems and can no longer be ignored. The pathogen is called the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The disease it causes is called COVID19. 

There are valid reasons why public events are canceling, cities, states, and whole countries are locking down, schools are closing and lessons (including mine) are going online only. The recommended practice of 'social distancing' and the resulting gig economy cancellations are devastating to scores of businesses including the entertainment and public speaking industries. It's also true that most people can get this virus, get over it without medical intervention and come out just fine. So...

WHY IS THIS FLU SUCH A CRISIS?

  • It's super contagious.
This particular virus is extremely contagious because it's so new the human race has not developed any immunity to it. Young, healthy people, including children, may carry the virus with no symptoms at all. You could be carrying it with no symptoms, unknowingly passing it around to others, including people most likely to get the sickest. But even young people are sometimes being hospitalized with it. This isn't the time to rebel and join friends for spring break, possibly coming in contact with and transporting this back to your families.
  • Those who do get diagnosed with COVID-19 disease will be asked to quarantine themselves. 
Talk about cabin fever! You can't even grocery shop; you have to rely on people bringing food to your doorstep.
  • The biggest reason: It can overwhelm our health care system
A March 20th article from NPR estimates that 20% of COVID-19 patients end up in the hospital, 10 times that of the common flu. Though difficult to figure out right now because most cases are mild and go unreported, many experts estimate the death rate from this virus could also be 10 times that of the common flu, with a higher mortality rate for those over 60 and those with underlying health issues. As this virus spreads like wildfire there will be increasing numbers of people requiring hospitalization, stretching doctors, health care staff, beds and ventilators way past capacity. When health care workers are exposed (and they are lacking enough protective gear right now), they will need to self-quarantine, further exacerbating the shortage of medical help. 

Now for some good news:

THIS CRISIS WILL END!

As in the poem classical vocalist Katherine Jenkins shared on Instagram that was written by her sister Laura, '...soon just like other crisis before, this will all be a distant memory'. However, it may last as much as a year or more, so we need to accept our new reality of pandemic plus job losses and figure out what each of us must do until we see this in the rearview. 

I have been earnestly and prayerfully searching for what I can offer at a time like this. Three suggestions have come to mind:

1. STAY ALIVE AND BECOME STRONGER

Don't just barely make it out alive... use this challenge to become even healthier! 
  • Shelter in place when the local authorities call for it. This could keep numbers of hospitalizations at a manageable level, saving a bed or a ventilator for a time of your or someone else's desperate need.
  • If you DO get sick with this flu...
    • try to minimize hard coughing as much as possible. Try to 'pull' your coughs to lessen the stress on your vocal cords
    • if you need to be intubated on a ventilator, tell your anesthesiologist or doctor that you are a professional singer (or speaker) and to please use extra care inserting the tube.
    • I have some vocal recovery information at this blogpost, including some exercises to help you get your voice back from any illness.
  • Raise the bar on all your health practices including physical exercise; research some new ones (online yoga, dance, deep breathing, healthy cooking classes), stop smoking, adopt better eating habits (paleo anyone?), drink more water, walk outside (even if just on the balcony), get more quality sleep. I'm trying a phone app for binaural beat therapy to get to sleep because my brain is on overdrive right now!
  • Adopt protective habits:
    • Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Stop touching your face. Stay 6 feet away from sick people. Avoid crowds and don't fly unless you absolutely have to.
    • Bring alcohol wipes to any studio or gig you do.
    • When you can get back in the public, interacting with others (including fans), use the forearm bump instead of a handshake, or better yet, just wave and smile. 
  • Guard your mind. Watch your time surfing the internet... lots of bad news and false stories abound. No, there are no dolphins in the canals of Venice, but there ARE wild animals venturing more boldly into city streets. Look for helpful, positive stories to balance what you need to know to deal with the real situation.
  • Take time to be still. Pray, meditate, breathe and be in the present. 
  • Ask for help when you need it. Give help when you can... it's the fastest way out of your own fearful mindset!
2. CREATE AND TRAIN

You know those hours you wish you had more of every day? They're here - use them!
  • Create material! Write songs, scripts, books!
  • Create more ability! Study your craft, research, explore, experiment, go deeper, take some online training so that at the end of this crisis, you're better than ever at what you do. 
  • Do something you've never done - learn to play piano, guitar, study music theory, sing harmony (or lead!), public speaking. There are tons of free and paid courses online. Read more books!
  • Work on your artistic definition. What is in your heart to sing or speak? Who do you want for your audience? What are you missing in your body of work?
  • Study music business, marketing and promotion. Gain skills that will help you move your career forward like a rocket when this crisis is over. Create a detailed plan for launching a new project or tour.
  • Large groups of people are asked NOT to gather during this crisis, so this will impact live audience concerts as well as writers' nights and speaking events. Connect with your fans in other ways. Do online shows with virtual tip jars. Try out Patreon or use Buy Me A Coffee for small one time donations
  • Do some internet infrastructure work (website updates, social networking, etc). 
  • Find creative ways to make financial ends meet. 
    • Some mortgage lenders are now pausing payments for as much as 12 months and freezing foreclosures and evictions. We're globally all in the same boat... so don't hesitate to ask for payment grace. 
    • Be willing to look for at least a temporary new type of job. While most businesses are being crushed, the food industry including delivery and local grocery stores, health care, wellness and home fitness industries, online education, remote work
3. BE USEFUL 
  • Check in with family and friends. Social distancing doesn't have to create emotional distancing! 
  • Be useful to your fanbase. How can you make their world a little better? They love what you do. Love them back with something special that is a one-way-street gift to them. A free online concert. A personal message or live video event to support and encourage them for what THEY are going through. 

HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

To protect us all, I will only offer online lessons until this crisis passes. If you can't afford lessons right now, I will be giving plenty of free information out in this blog and podcast so people can still train. Please stay in touch and tell me what you need! One thing I'm considering is a video about centering, opening and breathing to help anyone who is having emotional or respiratory distress. Let me know in the comments if you'd like that... or any other subject you'd like for me to cover.

MY LESSONS: If you can and would like to, there are some silver linings to doing online lessons with me:
  • You can't catch a virus through the internet (except a computer one:)
  • You don't have to deal with traffic to get here. 
  • You can take the lesson on any device anywhere you get internet (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer) - in the parking lot, a green room, your bathroom, your motel room, your car.
  • You can take a lesson even when you're sick! Or still in your pajamas!
  • If you wonder how online lessons work, read/listen to an article I did on it...  https://blog.
  • judyrodman.com/2017/02/online-vocal-lessons-pros-and-cons.html

FINAL THOUGHTS:

  • NOW IS THE TIME to adopt proactive and protective practices so we can avoid contracting this dangerous flu and spreading it to others. Remember... it doesn't just matter to you, it matters to everyone you come in contact with. 
  • LOOK FORWARD: There WILL be an end to the crisis. It may not be til next year that a vaccine and/or effective antivirus drug gets developed. But audiences will gather again. People will shake hands again. Right now we don't need to panic... we just need to prepare. Prevention is better than cure.
  • STAY CONNECTED! Call & check up on family and friends, text, email, message, chat face to face online. Look for fact-based sources of information to make wises choices as things progress. We are all better together.
Be well... Be kind... Stay positive!💗  Judy

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