All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: March 2010

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, March 29, 2010

Learning To Sing From Scratch: A Strategy to Fast-Forward A Beginner

There is an interesting fast forward strategy you can take as a new vocalist, which mimics the way people learn to use their voices as children.

1. First, choose the vocal style you want to sing (rock, pop, country, alternative, etc.) based on particular songs you like. Then choose an easy song in that genre.

2. Now listen closely to the artist singing. I find that headphones are good at this point because they help you zoom in on the intricacies of the vocal performance you're listening to. Listen like you're holding an aural microscope to the sound.

3. After listening a few times, start miming with the singer, SILENTLY moving your mouth, face, tongue, etc. trying to imagine in your mind creating the exact sound and pronunciation of the singer you're listening to. Literally let the intent to make the sound teach your automatic nervous system to sing.

4. After you feel confident miming the song, start putting your voice to it. IMPORTANT: If you're wearing headphones, take half an ear off so you can hear what you are really doing. Don't sing with both sides on ... you'll fool yourself.

Let me know if you decide to do this. It's also a great way to learn a new musical style.

Power, Path and Performance training... when voice matters

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Well Behaved High Notes Are More Lovable

No matter what style of music you sing, from quiet alternative to heavy metal, there is a basic "etiquette" that your high notes should follow to be accepted and loved. It's like the stuff we learned in kindergarten. You, as the owner and operator of your high notes, are responsible to ensure they behave:
  1. No pushing... If you are a reader of this blog, you probably know how much I advise against this. Too much air pressure will sabotage the character of your high notes... they'll be pitchy and icky sounding... and may cause harm!
  2. Share the load... High notes need to be supported with adequate breath so they will not leave the brunt of the phrase to the other notes. Chickening out is no way to develop the beauty or control of your highs.
  3. Play nicely with others... notes, that is... If your high notes poke out of the rest of the phrase, all of a sudden loud and shrill due to incorrect set up and follow through, the jarring sound will be heard and felt with disdain (unfortunately too common in soprano sections of choirs and choruses.)
  4. Know when to use your inside or outside voice... If there is a crescendo or decrescendo appropriate to the music or directed by your leader, learn to control your high notes enough so they appropriately obey.
  5. Play a lot... You can't expect your high notes to behave if they never get to play. Do vocal range and control exercises to make them feel confident.
Now, go out and play nice.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

10 Signs Of Bad Vocal Technique

Whether or not you are studying voice, you are still using certain "vocal techniques" which you've learned either consciously or unconsciously from family, friends or music teachers. Here are some signs that your vocal technique is in need of an overhaul. Your technique is bad if:
  1. Your throat hurts to talk after you perform.
  2. You worry about losing your voice from talking or singing performance.
  3. Your voice feels strained after using it
  4. You don't command much attention when you speak or sing.
  5. You never seem to have enough breath.
  6. You can't hit your pitch accurately even though you can hear that it's "off".
  7. Your vocal tone is thin, uninteresting or hollow and hooty.
  8. You can't do certain vocal licks you're trying to imitate.
  9. You can't sing very low or high, your vocal range is limited so your song choices are, too.
  10. Your manager, agent, label rep or significant other who you trust tells you confidentially they are hearing  a problem with your voice. (duh).
I'm here if you need me:)

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Indie Connect Membership Fee Reduction: Gone in 12 Days

Hey folks... thought I'd give you a heads up:

If you are an independent artist who needs to know more about the music business, I recommend an organization called "Indie Connect". Many of you who are also readers of my newsletter have heard me mention it before.

I wanted you to know about the membership fee discount, which will be gone in 12 days. NOTICE: I am a board member but I do not get any compensation from you joining; this is simply a notice I'm sending you for your benefit, if it applies to you. Here's the info:
There are only 12 days remaining before the cost of Indie Connect membeship goes up. The cost of a 1 yr. general membership is $79, but will move up to $99 on April 1. In addition, the cost of an Indie Connect Professional membership will rise from $99 to the still-discounted rate of $129. 
What do you get for your membership? Besides meeting and event discounts, a free Broadjam membership, a long list of discounted services (recording studio discounts, voice lessons, Songsalive membership, etc.) you gain access to a vast library of videos, articles, tools, audio tracks and more. Click here to see the entire library. Keep in mind that every week they add more.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Audition Alert: SAG LA Webisode Show wants submission within two days!

 This just in:


Shoot/Start Date: April 15
Pay Rate: TBD (this is a paid job)
Location: Los Angeles



This is of a spin off of the successful web series "The Ryan and Randi Show."
We are looking for super talented singers and songwriters.
All submissions MUST be original songs.

[MUSICAL PERFORMERS] 13 to 21 years old. Super-talented singers / songwriters for the web series "The Ryan and Randi Show." Bands and Rap artists should also submit. The 20 artists chosen will perform live on the show. We are looking for acts that might break in the next year...We are a union (SAG) series. But nonunion are encouraged to submit.

Heidi Cataldo-Blais
HeidisStudio for Talent
Direct Casting for Talent

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PPP Vocal Technique: When Pulling Back, Don't Lift Your Chin

In my role as your vocal coach today, I'd like to clarify something I teach about head position that people often get wrong when first trying it. My vocal students know that I advise pulling the head back slightly when singing or speaking. Let me be more specific:
  • Don't lift your chin! Float your chin levelly when singing or speaking.
  • Don't pull your head straight back!
  • Do pull your head back slightly to the side, cocking your head at a small tilt as you do.
  • Do lift your head by lengthening your spine, which carries your head up.
  • Do balance your head over your tailbone. This is farther back than most people carry their heads.
  • But...don't bend your head back in such a way that something you were carrying on your head would fall backwards. In fact, practice by putting something on your head as you sing or speak. It should ride along, not falling forwards or backwards.
  • Do use your lyric to pull ... not push ... your voice out.
Hope these clarification tips help you!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Improving Vocal Ability: How Long Does It Take To Get Results?

In a recent forum subject on The Modern Vocalist website, a question was posed about how long a singer can expect to take lessons and practice in order to gain significant vocal improvement. I suggested the following thoughts:

How many lessons you must take before your voice improves?

You should notice definite improvement after ONE vocal lesson with an intuitive, skilled voice teacher. Then, if you're serious about vocal training, I recommend committing to two or three months of work with a vocal coach and then reassessing where you are. But your improvement should be both noticeable and growing after every lesson you take.

How long should your practice sessions be?

It depends. You should understand that your vocal ability can improve in two major ways... and you can plan your practice sessions accordingly:
  • The first way is to improve your vocal technique... meaning the WAY you use your voice, the way you apply breath, the openness you keep in your throat, the degree to which you effectively communicate. (I call this training  Power, Path & Performance.)  This helps you gain access to the latent vocal ability you already have. And this is where HOW you practice is matters. If done properly, vocal exercises can help you create and correct vocal habits you need. But just like in any athletic endeavor, form is everything. Even if you could only fit in 10 minutes of daily practice with correct form, you could make constant, significant vocal gains. Just don't practice wrong!
  • The second way is to improve your vocal stamina... meaning to increase the strength, muscle tone and tissue structure... and coordination of the working parts of the vocal apparatus. This is where HOW LONG you practice (practicing correct form at all times, of course) matters. I would suggest singing at least as long as the length of the next performance you will be giving. If you have no particular performance coming up, it would be great if-- after warming up-- you committed to singing at least 30 minutes to two hours every day or every other day, for steady gains in your vocal stamina. Don't just practice exercises, sing your songs FULL VOICE, with communicative body language. Schedule your practice for when you have energy. The main thing here is that you don't want to practice singing with incorrect form, which happens when you get mentally and/or physically tired.
Bottom line... to improve your vocal ability, practice smart-- not hard.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Networking for Musicians: Indie Connect presentation

Lets face it; many musicians are some of the last, most uninformed and uninterested people to get themselves on the web. That's because you're too busy making music! But let's face it, the worms are out of the can and not likely to crawl back in... if you're doing business in music, you need a significant presence on the web.

At Monday's Indie Connect meeting in Nashville, tech and computer guru Scott Munc gave a great presentation on social networking for musicians and "broadcasting your station" on the web. Here are a few highlights from his talk:
  • Make sure you have a website to which you can point people. You can research top webhosting companies at Web Hosting Geeks
  • Get a Gmail account, from which you will have access to services like Blogger, Google Analytics, Picasa, and much more.
  • Set up Google alerts for your name, business, interests... to find out what people are saying about you and your interests. For instance, I currently have google alerts set up for "judy rodman", "power, path & performance", "music business", "vocal problems". I get these alerts sent to my email's inbox, from which I can decide to go to the link or not.
  • Get a account, from which you can update all your social networking sites with one "ping"! Note... you'll actually have to have or sign up for accounts at the social networks you choose to ping. Twitter and Facebook, along with MySpace, are the least you should do to get yourself findable. Add more when you can... and with Ping, you won't have to go to each site to update!
  • Get on Tweetdeck. From the tweetdeck interface, you can monitor and interact with not only twitter, but also many other social network sites. You add multiple accounts if you have them, as well. I actually prefer Hootsuite.
  • Get on "Google Reader". Subscribe to some blogs (including this one) and newspapers, etc, for a fast way to keep up with what's happening.
  •  I would add that you should join Indie Connect for physical and virtual meetings, newsletter, magazine and all kinds of music business information. You don't have to be in Nashville for this, it's going global.
As you monitor and interact with people, you will form your own community, within which you give and receive. What a great way to not only do business, but find friends and like-minded people! By the way... thank you for being a part of mine:)

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Monday, March 8, 2010

What Can A Free Jaw Do? Artist Video Examples

To get the best tone, control and vocal freedom, the jaw tightness needs to be conquered and the jaw loosed. You don't have to go overboard, just loosen your jaw so that it can move all around in a slight chewing motion and open wide easily at the back of the molars with no tension clamping it together. Doing this helps you keeping the river of sound flowing and not pinched. Pinch-- and you lose vocal control and tone; it's that simple.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, take a look at the following artists' video performances. This works in any contemporary genre, whether you're a rock, country, r&b, gospel, jazz singer... whatever. Free the jaw and free the voice.
...and here's one where you can't see her, because she passed away years ago without a video... but you can HEAR her loose jaw allow this incredible vocal performance on the Sting classic...
Now...There are "boucou's" of examples of the loose jaw at work in great singers' voices. I didn't look too long, so I know you must have other examples. Please chime in and add to the list.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Singing From The Soul

There is a subtle psychological shift you can make to take your next performance out of the ordinary and make it leave a memory in your listener's heart. I call it "singing from the soul" instead of just from the head. Let me use an old familiar tune to illustrate.

How many times have you sung "Amazing Grace"? When is the last time you ever thought about what the lyrics mean? It's usually played at a swift clip, sung with about as much emotion as "Row Row Row Your Boat" and if the lyrics aren't being read, the words come out as mixed up as most people's un-memorized version of "The Star Spangled Banner". 

But one event forever etched the song into my soul's memory, and I no longer can sing or listen to this song without emotion. Picture a woman's prison gymnasium, with an old funky piano somehow situated in a lost corner. This is where it happened.

I used to volunteer at Tennessee Prison for Women for a program called "Better Decisions" . After going through our own training, we each met with one woman prisoner partner for 8 weeks, teaching her a process of making wise decisions which would help her create the life she really wanted rather than the life that ended her up in such a place. Many times we were the only visitors these women usually had, and you can imagine, relationships of trust and friendship were quickly formed. Then we had to completely disconnect, for their own good, as part of empowering them to find answers themselves.

After the 8 weeks, we held a ceremonial "graduation party" for them. At one of them, an impromptu request to sing something before we all had to say goodbye moved me to sit at that old piano and play Amazing Grace. They all took each other's hands... prisoners and volunteers, and while tears rolled, a version was created of "Amazing Grace" that I will never ever forget. And after many years, I ran into one of my fellow volunteers out of nowhere...and she remembered it deeply, too.

Sing every song you perform... from your soul. And if you choose to do this, a warning: Check your own song list. Don't sing anything you CAN'T sing from your soul. There's nothing worse to listen to than fake soul singing.

Listen to this post on my "All Things Vocal Podcast"  or upload from iTunes.

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