All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: June 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!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Old Singers... Are Rocking The House

I have many sweet and amazing young clients, and I adore them. But I was moved, deeply, watching the Carol King and James Taylor concert "Live at the Troubador" on PBS recently. I've NEVER heard either one of them sing better, or even as well, as they did on that show.

And check out Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Ralph Stanley for goodness sake! Singing their derrieres off!

I get older clients all the time who have been told they are past their vocal prime. What we discover together is that the limits are due to poor vocal technique. If you wonder if you are too old to sing, take heart. Here are two things I believe that are important:
  1. Take care of your body (your voice needs that, after all) ...
  2. Train strain out of your voice...
...and you can sing better than ever, well into your twilight years.
If you're young... well, you can look forward to that!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

When You Wake Up With Thick Vocal Cords

There are lots of things blooming in this area of the world (Nashville). Beautiful, but for a singer sensitive to those particular flowers, scary. What do you do when you greet the morning sounding like a frog? Well, because many allergy and cold medications dry the throat and vocal cords out, I recommend trying these non-medical suggestions first (but if in doubt, check all this out with your medical professional).

Start with a drink of lemon juice and water, then I would really recommend a freshly juiced 'green drink'... put in (as long as you are not allergic to them and can digest them) things like lettuce, carrots, celery, beets, tomatoes, apples, pineapple, asparagus... you get the picture.

Then eat a light, non-mucous forming, protein rich breakfast. What is non-mucous forming? It varies with the individual, so start to keep a journal of how foods affect your mucous thickness. Should you drink coffee? Observe its effects on you. Even black tea can feel dehydrating to some. Watch how much dairy you consume, this usually encourages excess mucous, as does rich and heavily sugared foods. Here are breakfasts I eat that my voice likes:
  • A fruit smoothie. To a frozen fruit mixture I add soy, rice or whey protein, or a suppliment I particularly love called "UltraInflamX". I add a little orange or other 100% juice and water to cover before I blend.
  • Oatmeal with vanilla soymilk, nuts and seeds (especially pomegranate) , raisons and bananas. I sometimes add half an avocado.
  • Fresh avocado, pineapple and orange slices, plus fresh nuts and seeds.
  • Eggs scrambled with loads of saute'd veggies. I'd call it an omelet but I use more veggies than eggs. Instead of heavy bread, I accompany it with a rice cake with tamari sauce.
I also like to take a hot bath or shower and really breathe in the steam. Then using my Neti Pot helps get rid of whatever is irritating my tissues. 

This is a morning you seriously need to warm your vocal cords up if you are singing that day. Warm up slower and longer than usual, and don't forget... form is everything when doing vocal exercises if you want to make your voice better and not worse!  Your vocal exercises should be stretching your sinus openings so they drain... a sign that you are doing it right. I also like to do a physical workout to get the junk in my chest moving out.

Hydrate heal...
I add ceyenne pepper and lemon juice to a glass carafe of water and drink it throughout the day, or my ginger tea concoction. I definitely up my water intake, and even bring a shaker of ceyenne with me if I need to eat out. This may sound strange, but ceyenne is a healing herb for the mucous membranes!

What about you? What's your favorite way to wake up a thick voice?

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Friday, June 18, 2010

For Your Vocal Stamina, Physically Train Your Core

It's morning and I'm looking at a physical training session in my schedule today. Why do I do this to myself? Partly for my VOICE!

My recommendation to all singers and speakers is that you do some physical activity which strengthens your body's core muscles. Without this strength, you cannot apply enough breath support and breath control to your voice to have it work optimally.

Health, weight contrrol, bone building, mental clarity and endorphin release that makes you feel so great... all these are fabulous side effects of regular physical training. (Only a vocalist would put it that way:) I'm very busy, but the truth is that I have a physical body that my voice cannot do without.

Find a trainer who understands the special precautions needed by someone who values their voice. For instance:
  • no grabbing at the glottis (vocally straining or grunting)
  • very careful not to strain neck and shoulder muscles. Strengthening is great, but not straining.
  • also careful not to overtrain and tighten those muscles with too much weight lifting.
  • concentrates (which most would) on core torso strengthening and flexibility (stretching).
My personal trainer is also a singer. I am absolutely thrilled with the expert, intuitive and creative approach he takes to personal training. If you're in Nashville, you may wish to contact him about his training. Oh... and do go hear him sing, too!

His name is Ricky Harris. Email him at

To those of you who are in my newsletter database... thanks so much for your efforts to get news out of the bioremediation solution to the Gulf oil spill crisis. There is ongoing progress ... please pray for the ok soon! xoxo Judy

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Body Language for Vocal Performance

Pro vocal coach Judy Rodman explains and demonstrates body language for singers. A free vocal lesson in "Power Path and Performance" vocal training.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Is Power Path and Performance Vocal Training?

This post is for those of you curious about my vocal training method "Power, Path and Performance", and how it was developed.
Power, Path and Performance (PPP for short) was many years in the making. The kernel of the method began to form when I tried to figure out a system where I could put everything I knew that was important about the voice into a system that I could use as a template to work from with every student.

My one benchmark was that whatever I taught vocalists had to WORK, in practical settings like small/large/indoor/outdoor performance stages and recording studios of all types, for every genre of contemporary songs as well as speaking. So I started carefully paying attention to what my students needed to know to improve their voices enough that it was more than worth my fee. I drew from my own 40-plus years of vocal experience and from sources like doctors, chiropractors, alternative health practitioners, other vocal training methods, and of course, my own professional coach Gerald Arthur.

I happened upon a book called "Secrets of Singing" by vocal teacher Jeffrey Allen. To date, it has been the most influential source I've found for my own teaching method. There was a shape of "voice path" he had in his book that set lightbulbs off in my brain, because I recognized that voice path muscle memory in my own best singing through the years.

With that voice path imagery inspiring me, I gradually condensed all that I knew about voice into three primary cornerstones of vocal technique. They were: the power of breath, the voice path through an open throat and physical and psychological aspects of communication. I contacted Mr. Allen for permission to use his "voice path" imagery in my method, which he kindly granted. After a few months I used alliteration to finally trademark my method "Power, Path and Performance".

It was some time after that when I noticed that not only was this a logical sorting of information... there was a synergy involved between the three cornerstones. What that means is that if you get something right or wrong in one area, it will affect the other two. So if your breath support or control is off, you will not be able to keep your throat open. This creates a subtle block to being able to connect with your audience without being distracted by the way your throat feels. Tight throats cause tight breath, with compromised performance. Breath issues create tight throats and hinders communication. It's all connected!

But the good news was that if I could help a student improve in their weakest cornerstone, the other two would benefit. When I teach a vocalist to integrate all three with the Power Path and Performance method, the whole voice is available... without strain... to powerfully move an audience. This worked even for the speaking voice- with my own method I gained (and taught) the ability to talk all day without vocal fatigue. I was also able to cure my own vocal break... and those of my students.

I am on a continual learning curve. I love to network with other voice teachers and scientists, and I find new ways of helping my students with every one I teach (they are all so unique)... but so far there I have yet to find something that didn't fit within the three stranded cord of PPP.

But in my experience with my own voice and with others...It's not enough to get one right- you have to have all three things working optimally: your breath, your throat and your communication skills.

I hope that gives you a peek at this training method. It's available in personal and phone lessons and in vocal training products.

Question: Which cornerstone (breath, throat, communication) do you think the weakest link you have in your own voice?

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vocal Performance: Different Venues, Different Body Language

I got a question that has to do with live performance techniques. The person wanted to know if these change for different venues, audience types and situations.

Short answer... yes. Be aware of your surroundings... find the fine line between what makes the audience uncomfortable and feel energized/engaged by you. Remember singing is, at the core, human communication. That's a two way interaction... you sing, they listen (or not). Be confident and passionate... but don't push your listener away.

And remember folks, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask.

Questions anyone?

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