All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: October 2011

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!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top Three Reasons You Might Sing Out Of Tune

Pitch problems can really be frustrating. Many singers come to me for vocal lessons with this complaint... they can't seem to consistently sing in tune. OK, here are my top three reasons that you might be 'pitchy'...

    1. You're not really listening actively to the right thing. You must focus your ear primarily on the center of the pitch in the track... and that is usually on some acoustic instrument. Overtones of instruments can distract your ear. Lowering the bass can help you focus on more accurate frequencies (overtones from even an in-tune bass can throw your ear off). If you're having trouble in the studio, taking instruments out of the mix can help... so it's just bare bones acoustic guitar, piano and maybe some drums. Of course, if you can't hear because the band is too loud and/or your stage monitor mix is bad, you'll have to depend on the physical sensation or feeling of being in tune... the muscle memory you learn when you practice being in tune. Cupping your hand or two fingers over your ear helps, and many artists now use ear monitors, but you have to get the mix right. You might want to practice with a gadget called Hearfones.

    2. You are holding some sneaky, counter-productive tension somewhere keeping you from accurately aiming at pitch. In this case, you do hear it... you just can't hit it. Discover and cure the tension and your pitch will miraculously improve. A masseuse, chiropractor, Alexandra Technique or Feldenkrais practitioner, or intuitive vocal coach can help you do this.

    3. Or, ear training may be something you really need. Target practice is vital: Play a note or series of notes and try to hit them dead on. If you can't tell if you're right, practice with someone who CAN tell (and/or a vocal coach).  And don't let yourself get by with the bad habit of singing a little out of tune. Don't worry about being surgically accurate unless you're a session singer, but DO try to be!

And a final point: remember that it's not a good idea to depend on vocal tuning your final vocal to do the job. Yes, tuning can be a helpful tool, but used improperly will take the magic right out of your recording.

Need feedback: Do any of these three things

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Talking On The Phone Can Hurt Your Voice!

Did you know that talking on the phone for any extended length of time can sabotage your singing voice? Yep, it's absolutely true. Why? No one can see you. Therefore, you don't use the same kind of facial and body language that you would if communicating visually.

Here's the typical phone talker:
  • Your face upper face goes inactive. When you don't use your eyes, eyebrows and mask area while sounding your voice, your vocal ceiling (soft palate, back of nasal membrane) doesn't lift. That means your throat channel is tighter, and pressure builds up at the vocal cords. You can feel it... after a lengthy time on the phone, your voice is tired!
  • You slump - posture that cramps your ribcage and throws your head a bit forward. When you slump, your compressed ribcage sabotages inhale, breath support and breath control. This causes you to push your voice with a limited high breath and this is tiring to the vocal cords!
  • You don't use your hands. When we talk with our hands we activate muscles that open the ribcage. Without them... you're a 'talking head'... literally... and there goes your breath! 
BUT... you can talk on the phone without vocal fatigue if you do it differently. While on the phone, use the same body language you (hopefully) would when animatedly talking to someone face to face.
  • Talk with your face... paying special attention to using eye language.
  • Talk with your hands.
  • Talk with good posture... head balanced over tailbone in a chair, or over heels standing. Walk around if you're standing to avoid freezing your legs.
Talking on the phone can be a good way to practice good vocal technique ... the same stuff that works for singing. Try it... your voice will like it!

Need help with your speaking voice? Schedule a lesson in person, via Skype or yes... by phone!

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Resting My Voice

Yep, this is me... riding all the way to sand!

Hi sweet blog reading friends...

Just didn't want you to think I'd forgotten you. Boogie-boarding on my vacation took over... and except for the occasional (pulled) scream of delight when catching the perfect wave, I rested my voice for a week, literally and figuratively.

The voice needs silence from time to time. That way when it sounds again, it will do so informed with long view, re-invigoration and renewal. For too many years I never really rested... and even singing on the road in beautiful places doesn't count. Time out is golden. Walking in the early morning or twilight on the beach... with no concert to get ready for... is vital for my sanity.

I am back now giving voice lessons, producing in the studio, getting my vocal stamina back in shape for a performance at BB King's and at work on my late newsletter... it will be coming to those of you subscribed to it (and yes, you have to subscribe to it as well as this blog to get it... see the link on my homepage)

I hope you take your own 'sabbath' rest from time to time. It is good for the soul, as well as the voice... in fact it gives 'voice rest' a whole new dimension!

Talk soon... J

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Getting To Effortlessness in the Performing Arts

         Dancer taking a load off at rehearsal for Swan Lake Tribute to Elaine Thomas, Nashville, Tn

I went to a rehearsal for the Swan Lake Tribute to the 75th birthday of the amazing ballerina Elaine Thomas. The Dance Theater of Tennessee, where Elaine teaches now, hosts the event at Harpeth Hall Auditorium, Nashville.

I was mesmerized by the grace and beauty the rehearsing dancers exhibited as they readied themselves for the evening gala performance. Still mostly in their warmup attire, they appeared weightless, like they could fly at will. But of course, they were also sitting around as in the picture above conserving their energy for the illusion of effortless the public would see.

The best performance art, whether dance, music, acting, singing... requires not only effort but ALL of the artist. One has to be
  1. Trained in the craft... form is everything and it must be so ingrained as to be intuitive.
  2. Prepared, physically and mentally... without preparation, the artist cannot reach the peak performance otherwise attainable. And the unprepared performing artist can get hurt!
  3. Balanced.... and yes, balance can be the supreme achievement for an artist.
  4. Wise in the choices made... performing arts all require instant choices. Hold the pose just so long... sing the lick or not... play with a certain touch... write THIS sentence instead of THAT one... turn the eyes just so in that scene, etc.
  5. Healthy. No brainer.
I am very honored to be on the board at the Dance Theater of Tennessee. This event was a unique opportunity to see grace in the form of the art of dance... done masterfully in tribute to one of the world's great dance legends (Elaine Thomas is stunning at 75 - a beauty inside and out, now passing her art along to others). I believe all artists have much in common. I heartily recommend you watch for upcoming ballet performances by master dancers. You might feel a kinship:)

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