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!

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. :)



  • At May 28, 2009 at 1:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    When I was singing for Toni Foglesong and she would give me a break from 2nd tenor, I'd usually press too hard on those juicy bass notes I love.

    Immediately she would say "Stop sitting on it, Gordy!"

    Of course, "I" thought it was very "powerful"...and that was the problem.

    I do my best when I remember the words of Loren Weibe at BIOLA:

    "Never sing a note if it isn't going to go somewhere!"

    That's a difficult concept to get my head around when I'm chanting the drone in Byzantine hymns.

    Which begs the question, "Why try to get my 'head' around it in the first place?"

    For when I know I've done my best, there's always something of the metaphysical involved; an ability to imagine the note going somewhere, even if I can't see how it possibly can.

    A paradox indeed!

    Thanks for your engaging post Judy.

  • At May 28, 2009 at 6:35 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    The power of eliciting an emotional response.. that's what we should be after. That is controlled power that can really shake somebody up, in a very good way... and at the same time will never strain the voice.

    Thx for the great feedback, Gordy.


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