Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: April 2012

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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vocal Warmups... How Long Should They Be?

Warming up your voice before any performance, or indeed before any significant vocal rehearsal or practice, is very wise, protective and enabling of good singing or speaking. In the same way you shouldn't do strenuous physical activity before doing muscle warmups and stretching, your vocal cords also need to be prepared, made flexible and coordinated for strong use with vocal exercises.

But how long should vocal warmups be? It depends. Here are some guidelines I find helpful:
  • If you've not been singing for a few days... 
Warm up for 20-30 minutes, gradually stretching your range, re-remembering your 'pull path' muscle memory of applying power to expand your chest and throat. I like to start with bubbles, do some of my exercises and then end with sirens.
  • If you've been singing full voice almost every day... 
A 10 minute vocal warm up may do just fine to get you limbered up for full voice singing. The most important thing is that you do them... it will make a difference and will protect your voice from strain.
  • If you've had swollen vocal cords from laryngitis or misuse
Start with some easy vocal exercises in the middle of your range, then continue to warmup until either you start feeling vocal stressing or you feel warmed up. You may need to warm up very gradually to pump interstitial fluid out of your vocal cords, for an average of 20 or 30 minutes or even longer.

How do you tell? When it hurts AT ALL to make a vocal sound, stop. When you can hit all the notes in your range with no discomfort and your passagio (vocal register change) area is smoothed out, you are warmed up and can confidently apply full voice. Important... unless your voice does feel warmed up, don't sing full voice. Wait till the next day, then warmup and try again. If it still feels stressful to use your voice, you might try vocal rest for a few days and/or go to a good voice specialist ENT for an evaluation.
  • If you are in-between sets on your gig...
Rest your voice (especially limit talking), drink some water and then warmup for 5 or 10 minutes before your next set to pump any vocal cord swelling down.

Important... at the end of your practice or gig, warm down your voice as well.

This is just like a warmup but is shorter and more focused on head voice vocalizations to pump out interstitial fluid and relax your cords.

FYI... I have incredibly effective vocal warmups included in both my training courses, Power, Path and Performance, and Singing In The Studio.

Anybody out there with a warmup story?

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Voices with Breathing Problems? Check These Areas

Breath is the power source for the voice. Not having enough breath or not having control of breath for singing or speaking can cause all kinds of vocal problems, including:
  1. running out of breath (can't finish phrases well)
  2. not having enough volume (weak, quiet voice)
  3. strained or fatigued voice (from overblowing cords and/or tightening throat)
  4. lack of vocal control  (causing problems with pitch, rhythm, tone, vocal licks, volume intensity, and more)
  5. numbness of performance (from too much worry/focus on breath)
For breathing problems it's best to get to the cause(s) to find the breathing technique(s) that cure your issues. If you have organic lung damage, allergies or other medical condition, by all means see a doctor. But check this list out and you may be surprised at how much better your breath can get, pretty much immediately:
  • Check your upper spine...  
Is it too curved, collapsing your ribcage? Sit or stand taller which should straighten the curve out... but don't stiffen, stay flexible in your spine.
  • Check your hands and arms...
Have they become 'rib anchors'? Try using your hands to communicate... they will help keep your ribcage open, which is the prime fix for breath issues.
  • Check your head
Is it balanced over your tailbone? Try moving it back until it is balanced over tailbone or heel instead of the balls of your feet.
  • Check your knees 
Are they locked? Unlock them so you can have use of your legs for power.
  • Check your belly
Is it tight? Let go there... the belly should be able to naturally move open and then tighten low is such a way the the bottom of the ribcage stays wide.
  • Check your energy
Everything that goes into energy will affect your breathing (sleep, nutrition, physical exersize, etc.)
  •  Check your breathing techniques
Especially when it comes to balancing breath support and breath control, vocal training can really improve your breathing for speaking and singing. Hit me up for a lesson in office, by phone or Skype, or buy my Power, Path and Performance vocal training course and conquer your breath problems once and for all.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vocal Careers: How To Find Success

Do you want a vocal career? Do you want a bigger or more prosperous music business? There is no substitute for planning for success.

Too many people are depressed or defeated in their music careers because they don't do what it takes to be successful at it. They worry, try, hope, whine, give up or stay in a perpetual state of failing but they don't do the following:
  1. Research what it takes to be successful in the chosen vocal career.
  2. Assess what vocal and music business assets they have going at this point in time.
  3. Get to work on acquiring those assets they are missing.
I strongly advise long term and short term planning:
  • Create a 5 year plan, where do you want to be and what do you want to have accomplished by then? 
  • Work back... what do you have to in year 1, 2, 3, 4 to reach your goals in year 5?
  • Work back further... what do you have to do in each month to work towards your 1 year goal?
  • Work back further still... what do you need to do for the next 4 weeks? for the next week? for the next 7 days? Today???
  • Create a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly agenda. Know that it will be a plan on rollerskates; revise as necessary but keep moving towards your goals.
I used to council people in women's prisons and juvenile detention centers, in a trained volunteer program called "Better Decisions". The funny thing is, I learned as much as my subjects did about getting to better places in life. We use 5 steps to get there:
  1. Assess the situation ( where you are right now)
  2. Know what you want (where you want to be)
  3. Brainstorm the possibilities (and get other sources to help you do this)
  4. Evaluate and decide (choose your strategies and tactics according to your life values)
  5. ACT! (without this step, the others are useless) You may need to do something, face something about yourself, learn something, network with someone, make some calls, try some experiments. Schedule these into your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly plans.
So how do you know you've become 'successful'? This must be an ongoing term defined by you. Factors in your personal picture of success can include some of the following...
  1. You are happy doing your art. You are personally satisfied.
  2. You can afford your investment in your music, and don't consistently go over-budget.
  3. Your music income is at least what your music expenses are (breaking even).
  4. Your audience gives you the response you need to tell they are deeply impacted by your music
  5. You win some kind of award or talent show you've entered. 
  6. You have a hit on the radio, the internet, other media.
  7. You can quit your day job because you're making enough to live on.
If you create a plan for reaching the moon you may not hit the moon, but you may hit a star. Get help; read books and blogs, find a music biz coach, check out the information Indie Connect, Rick Barker and PCG Nashville can offer, meet and network with other people who have successful vocal careers. Here's a video interview I did with PCG founder Bernard Porter.

Get pen and paper ... stay on roller skates but do put legs to your dreams and callings.

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