All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: May 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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Songwriting: 3 Myths Busted

Today I'd like to talk about the songwriting voice. And yes, writing is a form of voice, isn't it?

I'd like to correct three false myths about writing songs:

1. You need to form a publishing company.

No, you don't. 
You can form your own publishing company but just know that if you are signed up as writer to a performing rights organization (PRO) such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, etc, your publishing percentage will automatically be credited the same as your writer's percentage to  "[Your Name] Music". That is of course unless you have signed an agreement with a music publisher who will then own all or part of your publishing for the songs under that agreement.

Says BMI...
If you are just getting started, you will not need to set up a publishing company. Creating a publishing company will not mean that you receive more royalties. You are not leaving any royalties on the table.

2. You must copyright all songs with the US Copyright Office
Yes and no.
 If you want the best legal evidence/ copyright protection for your song, yes, do the formal copyright with this office. The electronic filing of one song costs $35. You can do compilations for far less, if the songwriters and percentages are the same for all songs.

However, if you write lots of songs, you may wish to do as the major publishers do... formally copyright only the songs which are going to be cut and released for public consumption.

Your intellectual property (song) is actually considered protected as soon as there is any evidence of it (lyric sheet, worktape, email of it, demo recording). You can go further and mail a certified letter containing the lyric/worktape to yourself and never break the seal. This is known as the 'poor man's copyright'. But attorney Fred D Zemel lists 5 advantages for registering a song with US Copyright Office on Entertainment Law blog.

3. A record label can release a song from an artist and deal with paying songwriters/publishers later.

 You (the label or the artist/label if you as artist own the label) are legally required to do a mechanical license BEFORE you release your project. If you're the songwriter and you find out someone has released your song without obtaining mechanical license from your publisher, your publisher can take legal action. You can usually take care of this by alerting the label/artist that this needs to be done immediately or the song needs to be taken off the market.

Hope this provides some clarity for you songwriter voices out there... comments welcome!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Vocal Stamina On The Road... 11 Tips

 Lyndsey in recent performance

Singing on the road brings with it both thrills and perils. My amazing vocal student  Lyndsey Highlander is bracing for a big summer tour season. Lots of consecutive day shows, some long ones. Wise artist that she is, she knows that taking care of her voice for the Olympic event-level vocal performance she wants to do at every show is crucial. As her vocal coach, I gave her some advice as to what to do to protect her vocal stamina on the road, and she and I thought you might benefit as well:
  1. BRING FOOD with you when you travel that make you feel good… just in case avail food is not good. Salads, fruit, protein snacks, etc.
  2. BRING EXTRA WATER of course, and possibly get some H2O Overdrive for when you need instant help for mucous membranes. Sometimes too much water can thin out your mucous membranes too much, leaving you feeling dehydrated! If so, go for diluted pineapple juice or that H2O Overdrive drink to soothe those membranes. Some people benefit from products like Throat Saver. Steer clear of black tea.
  3. STEAM YOUR THROAT with showers, hot baths as you get ready for your gigs, and also when you get into your hotel room from the dry-air vehicle or drive or flight.
  4. GET SLEEP! Even if you have to take a sleep aid like melatonin, Sleepytime Tea or whatever healthy thing works for you. Sleep is as important as food and hydration for the voice. When singing on the road, sometimes it's difficult to get the zzz's in, you sleep on the bus, arrive at the hotel in the middle of the night, have to get to soundcheck... but talk this out with your road manager before you leave and plan the time to get quality sleep.
  5. DO PHYSICAL WORKOUTS: 15 – 30 min short workout on gig days to warm and limber you up for performance and keep your core toned for singing. Consider bringing workout DVDs and any physical workout bands, ropes, etc you could use in your hotel room or on a bus.
  6. DO NOT NEGLECT TO WARM UP! Also, after your longer gigs especially, take 10 min to warm down after your gig so you don't sabotage your voice for the next day!
  7. LIMIT TALKING, and when you DO talk, pull your words. Try to schedule interviews for after your shows instead of before, if at all possible.
  8. CENTER YOURSELF: 10 minutes before your gig, try to find a quiet corner and don’t interact with anyone. Just center yourself, mentally send your presence out to occupy the venue. Prepare yourself by imagining the first verse you’re about to sing on your first song. Ignore distractions like an Olympic athlete preparing to ‘do it’.
  9. GET MONITORS RIGHT: Make sure you have enough vocal level so you don't have to push those strong notes during performance. 
  10. AFTER THE SHOW: As you warm down, take a quick inventory... how does your voice feel? It should feel better than when you began the show. If not, try to figure out why. You know you can always reach me by phone or Skype.
  11. Have a BLAST! You're taking care of your voice so you can ditch the worry! 
And do check out Lyndsey Highlander. She is beautiful inside and out, dedicated to the constant improvement, a dynamo in performance and has one of the best voices I've ever worked with (which is saying a lot). 

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Pitch Problems: 5 Sneaky Causes

Singing chronically flat or sharp - even just a little out of tune- may frustrate, embarrass you, cost you gig work and/or studio time and impact your music career. Often the peskiest pitch problems occur in the easiest middle part of your range! As usual, it's best to get to the root cause(s) Here are some sneaky reasons you might explore:

1. You aren't aiming at the center of the pitch.

You think you are, but you aren't really listening to the pitch you want to match. You need to learn to be aware of where acoustic instruments are... not swimmy instruments and not bass. Listen for the piano or acoustic guitar. Listen for the CENTER of the pitch in the track- not the over or undertones. Or if you're trying to sing with an acapella group, listen to the center of the group pitch.

2. Your can't aim at pitch. 

Your ear may need some training... you may KNOW you're flat or sharp, but can't seem to make your voice 'go there'. Your ear, vocal cords and brain need to actually grow some neural networking and muscle coordination. And YES indeed, it can happen... all you have to do is be willing to do the work.

Get some ear training with an intuitive vocal coach who does this, or at least with a friend who knows if you're on pitch or not. This needs to be a slow, patient and persistent practice situation where you can be corrected if you're wrong. If you don't have access to a vocal coach or other knowledgeable person who is willing to take the time necessary for you to practice aiming... a lot... here's where some of the pitch training software out there may help.Still there's nothing like another informed human ear to confirm that you're getting better.

3. You are not letting sound vibrations travel far enough.

You need to become freshly aware of where your voice is coming from. You need to learn how to use breath and throat channel configurations to allow your voice to travel farther through your alternative resonation zones. Simply put, you need to lift the ceiling for flat pitch to let your voice 'fall up'; relax the floor for sharpness to get better chest voice resonance and let your voice settle down. Your vocal sound should feel like it moves through different places in your throat and mask for different pitches instead of feeling like it's coming from the same place. Then just the intention of singing a certain pitch will put you dead center on it! This one you might want a vocal coach to help you with.

4. You can't hear your voice accurately.

When this happens in the studio you might find great help by taking one headphone half off so you can hear your voice acoustically and take some of that aural disconnect away. When it happens on stage, you either need to have more of your voice in your cue mix or your in ear monitors, or the band needs to turn down.

5. You're pushing too much air to aim your voice accurately.

Back off! Hearfones can help you learn to back off excessive air pressure, and also to hear what your voice is really doing rather than what you think it is.

Hope this provides an a-ha moment for some of you...
Let me know!

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