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, February 23, 2009

Singing In Color vs Black & White

I have heard many technically amazing singers who wonder why they don't have record deals or much of a devoted following. Very often, it's because they are singing in black & white instead of color. It makes me sad to hear a technically great vocalist who leaves me numb, and I fear has wasted a lot of energy, time and money. What do I mean?

Black and white singing:
  • This is caused by the lack of an authentically communicative face and body language. The eyes are usually rather numb, body language closed off.
  • This singer sings everything with the same tone of voice. It can be beautiful, strong, technically flawless but without subtlety of tone, it's just sound with no meaning. This voice may have dynamic changes but they are predictable, not nuanced and fresh. Listening to it you get the feeling that the singer is not present with anything other than the technical aspects of their voice. The connection from the singer and the song to the audience is weak or altogether missing.
  • This type of singing is common in amateur singers who don't have much live experience with an audience. They don't yet know how to truly connect with people listening to them, thinking their job is to amaze the audience, judges, industry with their vocal ability to hit high notes, long notes, strong notes. And/or they have stage fright issues, fearing any contact they could make with the audience.
  • Friends and family may attend concerts and buy CDs, the singer may have a small following but the emotional response will not be much. If they continue a black & white approach, the singer usually moves on to other things in life- not to a sustained music career.
Color singing:
  • This is singing with varying degrees of vocal tone and inflection, as is authentic and appropriate for the meaning of the lyric.
  • This singer communicates with eyes, face, hands, body language. They are holistically committed t0 delivering message. Dynamics are sometimes surprising, full of power but also infinitely controlled. There are subtle nuances everywhere, but no "over-acting". The listener gets the feeling the singer is singing directly to them.
  • This is the sound of the true artist. The goal of such sounds are to cause someone to understand a message, in such a way that they respond with emotion.
  • People will... 1. pay money for... 2. develop a loyalty to and ... 3. tell others about the experience of being moved in this way. Sometimes this devoted audience is a small niche market, sometimes a mega-market, but there is emotional satisfaction for artist and audience, and if wisely planned and monitored, a financially sustainable career.
Can singing in color be learned? You bet it can! Just like actors can be trained to go deeper into character, artistic singing can be be studied and learned until it is second nature. Some people get it easier than others, but then the question becomes, "how bad do you want it?" Real singing is not for the squeamish. You must commit, heart and soul ... to color!

So have you heard a black & white or color singer somewhere lately? How did that performance hit you?

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  • At February 24, 2009 at 8:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Great post and expression, thanks. To see it like this I think deepens the understanding of what it all comes down to.

  • At February 25, 2009 at 7:49 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you... it's great to get my reader's feedback to know if what I'm saying is getting through. Much appreciated, Par.

  • At February 25, 2009 at 10:07 AM , Blogger PhilB said...

    Thanks again Judy for reading my blog. I love your posts. I always tried to sing with passion and visualize the story as I was singing. I think that is singing in color. I love the metaphor.



  • At March 1, 2009 at 1:48 AM , Blogger Kelley Ann Hornyak said...

    Excellent post. I think another cause of singing in black and white is a fear of intimacy with the audience or listeners. The singer sings because they want that connection, but when it comes down to that moment when the words hit the air, they close down and focus on the technical aspects because it's safer. Safer than opening up, touching the real emotions behind the song, and making themselves vulnerable as an artist. It's no coincidence that the word holistic is in that post--learning to touch those emotions is something that you have to do in your personal life too, not just on stage or in the studio--and then the rewards are reaped throughout your experience and especially in song. I'm learning so much from you, Judy. I'm finally ordering your 6-CD set right now too, as soon as I hit submit on this comment. Thank you again for all the support and encouragement. I don't even know you but you have had a tremendous impact on me!

  • At March 1, 2009 at 6:33 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you so much, Kelley, and kudos for putting your money where your mouth (voice) is!! You are a wise and brave soul... I can't wait to hear some of your songs online.

    You're so right - it's scary to put oneself out there and risk rejection. That's why I have a saying "real singing is not for the squeamish".

  • At May 10, 2011 at 5:23 PM , Anonymous Justus said...

    Great read. Thank you for insights. It is very true that too often we are to distracted by the notes to sing, the words to pronounced, the breathing, the posture, the timing, that we forget the heart.

    I would add one thing though, that the colour cannot be faked. It must be naturally mixed and blended.

    Thanks again.


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