All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: October 2009

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, October 30, 2009

Breathing For The Voice: The Counterintuitive Secret

The real secret to having enough breath for your voice:

Don't Think About It!

I had lots of problems when I first started going to my vocal coach, Gerald Arthur. He had to tackle my guarding, my inflexibility, my mix imbalance, my range limitations. When I asked him what he thought were my breath problems he flatly told me something to the effect, "you're breathing is fine; if it weren't I would tell you, until then don't worry about it!" And we never had another discussion about breath.

What happened, of course, was that he tackled my breath issues from another direction. He wanted me to concentrate on other things, and the breath problems resolved themselves without direct intervention.

Thinking about breathing while performing actually causes tension and worsens your breathing problems. Instead, when you sing or speak, learn to habitually stand or sit tall, head balanced on tailbone with your ribcage open.

If that doesn't work, get with a vocal coach who can assess and help you fix the source of your unique problems in one or more of the following breathing techniques:
1. inhaling,
2. supporting your breath
3. being able to control breath.

Breathing... it's important, and it's important to get so right you never think about it.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Possibly My Best Bluebird Round Ever Nov 5th

If you want to experience one of the best Bluebird songwriter events I've ever taken part in, you might want to put NOVEMBER 5th, 6:00PM on your calendar.

That's when I'll be joining Michael Stergis, Michael Hodges and Gerald Trottmman for a two hour round we will all remember. Michael Stergis wrote, sang and played with Crosby, Stills & Nash as well as a plethora of other huge artists from Count Basie to Helen Reddy, Michael Hodges has had almost 5 million hits on his MySpace page, Gerald Trottman has had success as composer, singer, music director in many genres of success including New York City musicals.

The four of us rehearsed for seven hours the other day. And that's just one of our rehearsals... This show will be for the love.

You can't make reservations until 8:00am tomorrow on Thursday October 29th. Then you can reserve your seats online at and even pick your table.

Don't count on getting in at the door... do reserve a seat, because this event will be sold out. There's no cover, but there is a $7 food and drink minimum.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Singing and Speaking Loud Without Vocal Strain: The Double Secret

To sing or speak at a loud volume without straining your voice, you must put two things together: Form and Strength.

You must know how to use your voice as efficiently as possible, with the least effort necessary. And you must know this BEFORE trying to increase your volume, so that singing loud is no more stressing to your instrument than singing soft.

You must increase your vocal stamina gradually and steadily. Never increase your vocal volume suddenly. You may injure it. If you haven't been singing full voice much, this becomes even more important. Once your stamina allows full voice without strain, sing full voice several days before a strong performance.

Comments from you let me know how you are understanding what I tell you... and are appreciated! Click the comment button at the website page under this blogpost.

Check this website for further information on "Power, Path & Performance"vocal training cds and personal lessons

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vocal Strain: Top 17 Causes

From the answers to my recent questionnaire, vocal strain is the subject most often on my readers' minds. You spoke, and I listened.

This is a big subject. Instead of just a series of posts, I will be writing about vocal strain off and on, interspersed with other vocal subjects in which you and other readers have expressed interest. Also per reader preferences, some posts will be short tips, some longer articles.

Here are the top 17 causes of vocal strain I see in singers and speakers:

1. Bad Breathing Technique:
...inhaling too high in chest, too much or uncontrolled breath pressure applied to vocal cords.

2. Tight Throat Channel:

tightness where nose, throat and mouth meet at the "post-nasal drip zone".

3. Yelling:
... 20 minutes of yelling, screaming or "shooting your voice from your throat" can result in blood blisters, the beginnings of vocal nodes, appearing on the vocal cords. Keep it up and you'll harden those blisters into callouses, polyps, nodes, or even cause vocal cord paralysis or vocal cord hemorrhage.

4. Acute Viral Laryngitis:
... which usually is triggered by an upper respiratory illness, but sometimes appears without other signs of sickness.

5. Acid Reflux (GERD)
... most damaging if it is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)

6. Smoking
... causes irritation, swelling and dehydration of the cords

7. Talking too loud, too long, without good vocal technique... can cause serious vocal damage. Many times the first thing I address to correct vocal strain is the person's speaking voice.

8. Chronic or Strong Coughing

... the constant hitting of your vocal cords together is as bad as yelling. You must get to the bottom of the cause of the cough and cure it. Sometimes it's GERD or LPR, sometimes a short term virus, post nasal drip, allergen or other air-born irritant, sometimes it's throat cancer. See your doctor if your cough lingers or brings up blood.

9. Bone and joint problems
... lack of strength and flexibility in the spine tremendously affect the voice; pain in spine or between ribs can indeed cause vocal strain from breath and throat issues.

10. Muscle tension problems
... trigger tight chest and/or throat channel and "freezing" of anatomy... always detrimental to voice.

11. Fatigue problems

... inhibiting good support/control, causing slumping of body with concurrent high, pushed breathing and throat tightness.

12. Posture issues
... causes pushing of breath, tightness of throat channel and guarding stance.

13. Emotional problems
... nervousness, lack of confidence, numbness, eating disorders, addictions, chronic resentments, inability to focus on communicating. These emotions affect anatomy in ways that can cause vocal strain.

14. Lack of Sleep
... causing once again, slumping of body and breathing/throat issues

15. Dehydration
... the vocal cords need a thin layer of mucus lubricating them to move most efficiently. Not enough water intake results in a thickening of this lining... imagine your boat running aground and you'll have an idea of what your dehydrated voice experiences.

16. Flabby Core (insufficient physical exercise)
... causing slumped posture, unsupported and under controlled breath and tight throat.

17. Endo-tracheal damage from being on a ventilator
... if you must undergo surgery, watch for this one.

Need your help:
Which of these 17 top causes of vocal strain do you want me to write more about next? Or... is there another cause of vocal strain that you'd like to add to this list for me to address?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The difference between my Blog and my Newsletter

I recently put out a short questionnaire, which I sent to my "Judy Rodman Productions" newsletter database. One of the many things I learned from the valuable answers and feedback of the survey (if you took it, THANK YOU!!) was that several people were asking for me to write more about vocal technique. This let me know that these respondents probably didn't know about this blog, and the difference between it and the newsletter. So... let me explain so that YOU can be sure you're subscribed to the right thing for YOUR interests and needs:


This blog is called "All Things Vocal" for a reason...if you've been reading it a while, you know:) Here's what I write about on this blog:
  • Tips and insights on things concerning the singing and speaking voice.
  • Free vocal lessons with "Power, Path & Performance" vocal techniques that you can instantly apply to your next live performance, recording session, public speech.
  • News flashes about upcoming auditions, events or other urgent news for vocalists.
  • Frequent updates... two or three times a week.
If you have not subscribed to this blog and would like to, go to the main blogpage HERE. Look on the left hand side of the page under the words "Subscribe to this blog". Click your choice to sign up via either email or reader.


My newsletter's purpose is to actually deliver news which will encourage mutual support, community connection and networking. For this reason, I use this publication to talk about what I am, and my clients are, doing.

Here's what I've been writing about on the newsletter:
  • Who I'm working with and links to their webpages
  • News about my vocal students and recording clients
  • Projects I'm currently working on (studio, songwriting, multimedia, live engagements, etc.)
  • Breaking news and upcoming events (sometimes on both my blog and newsletter)
  • Links to other places where you can connect with me.
  • Short vocal tips
  • Links to blogposts you might have missed on this blog.
  • Main newsletter is a monthly publication, special short notices are sent from time to time.
If you want to subscribe to my newsletter, please go here

I will be tweaking both this blog and newsletter from the information I'm gathering on the survey. I'm still looking for about 45 more people to respond before closing the survey. If you'd like to take the 10 question survey, please go here.

And thank you again for your readership, your feedback and your friendship. Let me know what I can do better... for you!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Newsflash: Mat Kearney plays Nashville TONIGHT


I just found out late last night that my friend and vocal student Mat Kearney will be playing the Cannery Ballroom tonight (Thurs Oct 14th). He just sold out the Fillmore, and has obviously been enjoying a great tour for his new album.

I know it's last minute, but wanted to get the word out, because we don't see him in Nashville much. This venue requires only 21 yrs old and up, and tonight's tickets are for standing-room-only. But I'm going... if you're interested here's the link to buy tickets.

Venue: The Cannery Ballroom
Time: show is at 8:00pm,
doors open at 7.
Tonight (Oct 14th)

Let me know if you're coming and I'll look for you. If you're not in the area, do look for Mat Kearney on tour near you... you'll be so glad for the experience.

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Vocal Warm Ups: Two Vital Reasons To Do Them

I believe there are two reasons to warm up your voice.
  1. To coordinate your body/mind/voice... practicing and developing the muscle memory that enables the basic vocal technique triangle of breath/throat/communication synergy.
  2. To give your voice a physical workout... get blood flowing through the tissues, interstitial fluid pumped out, and muscle stamina increased.
To accomplish these two things, "form is everything". Doing vocal exercises wrong, just like other physical exercise, will not help and can harm your voice. You can do ANY vocal exercise incorrectly. If your voice doesn't feel BETTER after your vocal workout, stop doing it!

Train your voice, yes, but train it correctly. Make sure your vocal teacher shows you not only what to do, but how to do it.

For information on Power Path & Performance cd vocal training products, go here.
The third cd of my 6-cd course is completely on the subject of HOW to do my vocal exercises.

For more info on my personal lessons, go here.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

You fall from the top of the world. What went wrong? Maybe nothing.

I recently performed in Las Vegas, which was a blast, and here's what I came away with: great memories with my husband, my clients and friends, and... Perspective on why I sing. I told this story to a vocal student/friend and she suggested I put it in my blog here for you.

As always, when I perform, I end up looking for lessons I can use for you. I'm like a mad scientist, experimenting on MYSELF! I was doing live bgvs (background vocals) for a client of mine (Jim Wilkes) at the House Of Blues, and he also asked me to sing a couple of solos. One of my songs I chose at the suggestion of Ron Oates, who wrote a terrific arrangement of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" -- the Carol King classic.

As I worked myself into it (and yes, it took 7 days to get my full voice in shape because I haven't been singing out much lately), I looked for my usual motivation . I ask myself what the lyric meant to me. It came as a bit of a sudden surprise. I found myself singing to -- my audience. Why is this odd? Because the lyric goes...
Tonight you're mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight, the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me... tomorrow? (by Carol King & Gerry Goffin)
... and the answer came to me... "Probably not". Wow. What a splash in the face. But it is the truth, and in this truth there is great protection and power for an artist. That's why I want to share it with you. Let me explain:

Earlier in my life's journey, I was having hits on the radio, national awards, on TV and in stadiums all the time, etc. and when I sang, everybody loved me. It was the strongest drug I can imagine, all that validation. Then came the day when I wasn't on the radio or TV much anymore, and guess what... when I sang, the audience reaction wasn't nearly as strong, finally trickling to an appreciative pat on the head. I was devastated. What was I doing differently? Can I tell you how common this is for artists - both now and since the "music business" began?

I finally got my bearings, my journey took some wild turns and I'm amazed and thrilled with where I am now. Getting back to the present: I happened to take a ride in a parking business limo to the airport on this trip. While I was in there I had a brief surge of unexpected sadness... I was remembering when I used to spend a lot of time in limos. Then the antidote to this silliness was sent to my heart: Jesus never rode in a limo.

Hmmm. So I'm already more blessed in this life than Jesus was? If I am really a follower (as I want to be) of Jesus, why is the limo important? Here's the thing: it's really, really true that it is better serve than to be served. I will always enjoy a limo ride, an audience cheering, a thank you from someone I can help... but motivation is everything. When I do what I do out of the sheer joy of performing the act... and out of a desire to truly serve someone with my best ability... that's when I really win.

Fans must always be important to an artist. Without them, you won't have much of a career. In Power, Path & Performance parlance, the audience is the endpoint of your performance, after all. For your voice to work best, your motivation should be to communicate the message of the song so authentically you make the object of your message feel something. But paradoxically, the safest way to have a public career is to be careful how much importance you are attaching to public fame. A good way to check yourself is to ponder if you'd still want to sing if you fell several rungs down the ladder. George Strait says he'd go back to singing in Texas bars (well, not sure he'll have to find out).

That's what I took away from Vegas, and it felt good. I had a ball... and the truth is, I would have had a ball just feeling my voice sound with a full band and horns and Ron Oates playing piano behind me... even if there were only one person in the audience to listen, and that was just God clapping.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Singing In Heels (not just for the girls)

I had to wear heels last week to sing in Vegas and I have to tell you that I don't spend nearly as much time in those pedi-torture devices as I used to. It was actually fun to be back in 'em, but I had to use my secret to make it work for me instead of against me. Dear beloved readers, I shall share it with you. Ready?
  • Balance yourself on your HEELS when you sing, instead of the BALLS of your feet. Press down on your heels for the hard stuff.
Everything should line up nicely, and it's easy to lean back a bit for the high long notes or the tricky vocal licks (those of you who train with Power, Path & Performance know what that's about). Your heels go right up your spine to your neck and your skull. Balancing your body weight on your heels like this will help you open your chest for both breath support and control, and open your throat as well.

Guys, the truth is, we all need to sing from our heels no matter how high they are. Plant those heels firmly into the floor and you'll feel the difference.

Feedback anyone?

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