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, January 30, 2009

Payoffs for bad vocal technique

We do things for reasons. Singing badly is no exception to this psychological fact.

A useful tool in changing a behavior habit is to discover the "payoff" bad behavior is getting you, and then finding a better way to get that payoff met.

Take cigarette smoking.
We don't do it to give ourselves lung cancer. We do it for positively perceived payoffs. One big one: it seems to take stress away. But here's the truth: Cigarettes are ultimately counter-productive for minimizing stress. In effect, it lies to us. The stress and worry caused by range and tone-limiting changes in your voice, the weak immune system that allows you to get sick for that career gig, and your growing lack of stamina for reaching your life goals the ultimate shortening of life itself- far outweigh the addictive fix of a cancer stick.

OK! We identified a major payoff for smoking... now let's find some stress relieving substitutes:
  • some great nutrition (simple protein, vitamins, minerals and herbal supplimentation that de-acidify you also calm nerves), and consider getting tested to discover your individual needs,
  • some breathing exercises (a proven calming tactic),
  • possibly some interim drugs (no, not cocaine :<) such as nicotine "patch" to deal with cravings,
  • some oxygenating physical exercise (also stress-diminishing),
  • some wise human counseling (talking with a therapist and/or wise friend who can offer you encouragement, incentive and accountability).
  • some knowledge- about what smoking does, how it is really possible to quit no matter how "hooked" you seem to be.
Before you know it... you're chewing on carrots, washing all your stinky clothes and wondering how on earth anyone could ever want to light those horrible sticks up anyway! (there's nothing like a reformed smoker:)

So what are some payoffs for bad vocal technique? Let's identify a few:
  • To hit that high note
  • To hit a low note
  • To carry a long note
  • To hit pitch more accurately (a big payoff for session singers)
  • To communicate passion
  • To sing over the live band volume
  • To talk so you're heard in a noisy club
  • To please the studio producer who keeps asking for "more, more, more"
  • To please the judges who want so see something over the top
Get the picture? These are all worthy payoffs. But here's the truth: Bad vocal technique will make every one of these problems worse... and if they do momentarily seem get you to a goal, the limitations and damage they will cause your voice will far outweigh the momentary strain-fix. A vocal career can and frequently is cut short by the wrong solutions to these payoffs.

Some substitutes to meet these vocal payoffs:
  • Find out how to balance breath support and breath control... maximizing the size of the "vocal channel" while eliminating over-blowing air against vocal cords.
  • Learn to set-up and follow-through to make high notes as strain-free as middle notes.
  • Use the right posture for hitting low notes.
  • Learn how to use your hands to help you sustain a long note smoothly
  • Learn how you can balance breath, open throat and communication to have surgically-precise pitch with perfect tone color to match the emotion.
  • Discover how to mix a good middle voice instead of straining, pushing chest voice as high as it will go (i.e. the contest singer misguidedly pushing Martina McBride Mercy Me, Switchfoot or Christina Aguilera pushed from chest... argh!!!!)
  • When in the vocal booth ranslate the word "more" into "richer".
  • Find out how to incorporate your face, hands, legs- your whole being- into communicating passion that moves the heart, but does not strain the voice!
  • Get your speaking voice assessed- every time you speak, you practice vocal technique!
My suggestion: if you need to make payoffs like this, get some vocal training. There are many ways to train, such as getting free lessons from reading blogs like this, investing in wise vocal training products, taking personal lessons from a coach you trust, or a combination of strategies. It can also be helpful to have real vocal producer with your production team in the studio. Kudos to all my precious students and clients reading this- for your dedication to true vocal excellence!

Bottom line:
To change bad vocal habits, you have to learn new ones that actually meet your payoffs even better. Or you WON'T change. Practice solutions for real and lasting vocal goal payoffs until they are habits - instead of letting counter-productive strategies drive vocal payoffs into foreclosure!

For info on Power, Path & Performance vocal training products, go here

For info on Power, Path & Performance personal lessons, go here.
For info on my production services, go here.

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