All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: July 2007

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!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The changing adolescent male voice

There is a rite of passage adolescent boys must travel called the "voice change". It's a strange and sometimes embarrassing time for them. What should they do vocally during this awkward time? Here is some food for thought:

An Internet article by Jenevora Williams states that boys' voices begin to change at around age 12-13, finally settling about 15-18 years old. Ms. Williams urges that boys should be encouraged to keep singing throughout the voice change years. I agree. I believe that singing and wise vocal training can help boys develop steadier, co-ordinated voices, as well as better senses of rhythm and pitch. This gives them a head start with their vocal abilities as adults.

In another Internet article, Christina Clark notes: "There is no vocal exercise that will help to extend or lower a range that isn’t there. However, training an unchanged voice is definitely not a waste of time. By getting the student comfortable with singing in his upper register, this can help to keep a nice, clear head voice when his body does begin to change".

The biggest issue I find with young boys is vocal strain! They try to "MAKE" their voices work, screaming through the hard places. I teach boys with unchanged voices to sing as high as they can without strain, and I take them as low as they can go without sounding "hooty" or dropping the larynx. My awesome little student Ike Hawkersmith landed a professional role as "Amahl" in "Amahl and the Night Visitors" this way. I coached him to sing with a confident, talking style, which helped him even out his tone and intensity. Not only could he sing clear, floating high notes, he could also get the lower notes of his part without loosing volume and tone. Like all my students of all ages, he learned to "Pull" instead of "Push" his words in all parts of his range. This way he kept consistent, lively tone production throughout this range - and he experienced no strain in practice, performance, or recording.

The boys and young men I've worked with after their voices have changed have different issues. They are sometimes afraid of their upper register. I teach them not only to sing in the new-found lower register, but also to vocalize in head voice, Pulling their words in all registers instead of Pushing any note. Though I am careful not to fatigue this young male voice in the passagio, or "land between the voices" range, I DO have them sing comfortable exercises crossing voices. This helps them develop the all important "mixed" voice. Grown men I've taught sometimes didn't even know they HAD head voices! They learn that singing in head voice and falsetto (a lighter head resonance vibrating less of the vocal cords) adds richer resonance to their lower register and lifts the ceiling off their ranges. After they get over the shock, they like it, and some use a bit of new found "falsetto" in their professional careers!

Adolescent girls have their own issues. We'll talk about them next time :)


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keep the Critic out of the Vocal Booth!

When you are in the vocal booth in the process of recording, there is a part of you that you must keep out: Your inner critique.

This is the part of you that says things like:
  • I'm flat on that note... no, I'm sharp...
  • I'm not feeling it right now
  • I got this track in the wrong key
  • I can't hit that (high) (low) (long) (soft) note coming up
  • I should know better than to think I could do this
  • I am not getting this fast enough
  • I suck
  • They (the people in the control room) think I suck

Now, I ask you: What part of any of those questions has to do with delivering a message? We can take a lesson from children and puppies who are much better at being present in the moment when they have something they want to "say".

The vocal booth has room for two people: the singer and the one (usually not physically present) being sung to. The time to critique is before you get into the booth (do pre-production to make sure it's a song or story you believe you can authentically deliver, and that the key is right) and after you leave the booth (while you're listening to playback with your vocal producer).

Singing, like writing, is a creative process. It's a simple mindset where you focus on telling the story with confidence and freedom. If you try to analyze, edit and critique your effort while you are in the middle of it, you will cripple your ability. Think of a child coloring a picture while a parent tells them what they are doing wrong and how doing something different could make it better. The kid's gonna throw some crayons before long and give up. Let the child color; discuss coloring techniques later.

Don't sabotage yourself. It happens all the time. Instead... choose to totally commit to your vocal performance. Talk to your imaginary friend- to whom the song should be directed. This person is rarely anyone in the control room. When you go into the vocal booth to perform, bring your inner creative child with you and leave your inner critic to cool it's heels till playback! You'll be so much better, I promise.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vocal Impact: The Paradox of Power

A publisher of music instruction once told me that my Power, Path & Performance vocal training cds should be re-named. He had a problem with the word "power, which he interpreted as pushing the voice too hard, over-blowing the vocal cords.

That word makes some voice teachers see red. I understand. It's a paradox. Let me set the record straight:

Vocal power can, like any other kind of power, be either really good or really bad. It depends on how you achieve it and the purpose for which you use it. Steamrollers have power, but I think it's obvious that's not what I have in mind when I use the word in vocal training.

I'd like to offer concepts that determine vocal impact:
  1. The breath applied to vibrate the vocal cords
  2. The resonance of the sound generated.
  3. The communicative impact of the sounding voice.

Breath applied to the voice needs two opposing interactions: Breath Support and Breath Control. Think of the bowing arm a violin player. It must both press down and hold up at the same time. Supported plus controlled air pressure creates compression power that causes just the right amount of air to vibrate the vocal cords without straining them. In PPP training, I call this the "Power of the pelvic floor".

Resonance is created when vibration from the vocal cords transfers to the rest of the larynx, which then transfers vibration to the bones, cartilage and tissues of the rest of the mouth, nose throat, sinuses, and trachea. The best resonance occurs when the channels through these tissues are open. In PPP training, I call this the "Path to the Open Throat"

Communicative impact delivers the message (OR NOT!!). The psychological focus of the communicator is all-important. The phrase "Not now!" can be communicated to mean "Don't even try to make me...", "You're going to make me do this, aren't you?", or "Danger... Don't do it at this time!"- all according to the inflection and emphasis you give to the words. Powerful communicative impact demands clarity of, and confidence in, the message TO someone. In PPP training, I call this "Performance".

The reason I named my method Power, Path & Performance was that I noticed how magically these three overarching concepts affected each other, like the above paragraph shows.

And yes, I passed on re-naming it. :)


Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome to my new "All Things Vocal" Blog!

Hi there... You are now looking at my brand new blog!

I will be posting several times a week here on "All Things Vocal", just like on my old blog at That blog will remain up; it's full of vocal information you may wish to go back and read there.

Besides writing articles for this blog and recording audio for the corresponding podcast, I also will be publishing a newsletter about once a month.

What's the difference between my blog, podcast and newsletter? 

NEWSLETTER (best option):
  • The newsletter will contain news updates about myself and my clients' activities and performances, important announcements, links to favorite blog articles you may have missed and more. Please contact me with your news so I can share it in the newsletter. 
  • Plus, I will send out monthly 'All Things Vocal' blog and podcast updates through my newsletter, so you'll get links to the new episodes even if you don't directly subscribe to the blog or podcast.
  • The blog contains vocal training, tips and insights for singers, speakers, vocal coaches and studio producers. Most newer blogposts will also contain links to the podcast audio version if you prefer to listen.

How do you sign up for my All Things Vocal newsletter, blog and/or podcast? 

Note: I suggest you sign up for the newsletter, which will give you updates for everything.
  • Sign up to receive just blog updates (no newsletter) through this blog rss link
  • Sign up to receive podcast (not blog) updates at iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android, Podbean or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
I will guard your privacy and never share your information or spam you, and you can easily unsubscribe anytime.

Got vocal questions?

Let me know what you want me to write about here, will you? I intend to fill this blog with posts about what YOU want to know. I love the idea of community among music people; it's a hard world out there without friends! Click "comments" after each post to ask questions or give your viewpoints.

Keep in touch!