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, 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.

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  • At March 6, 2010 at 1:46 AM , Anonymous Leigh Ann Otte said...

    Wow. What a touching story (and a great program, it sounds like). I like the last bit of advice too: There's nothing worse than fake soul singing. Leaves me with something to think about: Am I really feeling it or just pretending?

  • At March 6, 2010 at 6:46 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    You've hit on the exact point, Leigh Ann... no one intends to fake soul singing, I don't think. It's just that a person can be unaware that they are doing so... and that there is a better, more authentic way to sing. The point is to ask ourselves the question you posed.

    Thanks! You always add such value when you comment.

  • At March 6, 2010 at 10:04 AM , Blogger PhilB said...

    Oh wow I couldn't agree more Judy!! I will always remember a night I sang "Don't you ever get tired of hurting me"...that wonderful old Ray Price song. I was smack dab in the middle of my divorce and just let all the emotions flow through me. I didn't know it at the time, but I was singing from my soul. There wasn't a dry eye in the house or on stage.

    Thank you Judy, I appreciate your insight very much.



  • At March 6, 2010 at 5:28 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Phil...I bet it was cathartic for more than just you... we never know what the audience needs, but they tell us with their responses. When we are in touch with the soul of the song, they get that way, too, and somehow, it's helpful- to both us and them.

    Love hearing from you... Judy


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