All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: March 2013

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, March 27, 2013

The Writing Voice: Punctuation Communicates!

Hi all... In keeping with my theme for this blog "All Things Vocal", I want to address the writing voice today. It matters. Music makers also need to be able to communicate in non-musical ways, and be assessed as somewhat intelligent to be taken seriously. I am stunned at the bad presentation of thoughts written by some people I otherwise know to be very smart. 

I'm not sure why people don't capitalize or use all caps, write 'there' when they mean 'their', spell atrociously - even when that red squiggly line beneath the word is begging them to reconsider. Texting - well of course that's one reason. You can really help yourself by remembering that text language is not, and doesn't necessarily need to be, formal writing. It's shorthand. We all need to up the ante on our English to be taken as serious people. If you want to bend the rule for fun or originality like e.e. cummings, learn the rules first so you know how to break them on purpose intelligently!

Here is an email sent by a dear friend of mine who is also deeply concerned (and also hilarious!). Ron Oates is a legendary, platinum-selling studio producer, pianist, arranger, composer - and astute writer of English. Here is his great rant about just one of the things we need to address in our public writing - the lowly apostrophe:
It is flaggerbasting (my spell check just fainted) to look at professional websites and publications... major magazines, newspapers and best-seller list books... with blatant grammatical and punctuation errors. It dampens my opinion of the individual (or the company’s) credibility when those things fly off the screen or the printed page in my face. One of the common idiocies is the omission of the apostrophe from the word “we’re”, making it “were” and, therefore, a nonsensical sentence. Without a doubt, the apostrophe is the most commonly abused mark of punctuation. You might find this difficult to grasp as did I, but there has been a campaign for the last five or six years to abolish the apostrophe. WHAT???

I think I recall telling you that my secret dream as a youngster and teenager was not to have a life in music, but to grow up to be an English professor. [Judy's note: That would have been most unfortunate for the singers like Gladys Knight, Eddie Arnold, Sawyer Brown, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly, Dobie Gray, Dave Loggins, yours truly and an absolute ton of others he's worked with through the years]
In keeping with that thought, or revelation, you’re (or if they ditch the apostrophes, your) going to think I’m obsessed when I show you the kinds of things I find interesting. For instance, in this instance, the apostrophe:

The apostrophe may be the simplest and yet most frequently misused mark of punctuation in English. Here are six guidelines for using the mark correctly.

1.    Use an Apostrophe to Show the Omission of Letters in a Contraction

Use the apostrophe to form contractions:

•    I'm (I am)
•    you're (you are)
•    he's (he is)
•    she's (she is)
•    it's* (it is)
•    we're (we are)
•    they're (they are)
•    isn't (is not)
•    aren't (are not)
•    can't (cannot)
•    don't (do not)
•    who's (who is)
•    won't (will not)

Be careful to place the apostrophe where the letter or letters have been omitted, which is not always the same place where the two words have been joined.

2. Use an Apostrophe with -s for Possessives of Singular Nouns

Use an apostrophe plus -s to show the possessive form of a singular noun, even if that singular noun already ends in -s:

•    Harold's crayon
•    my daughter's First Communion
•    Sylvia Plath's poetry
•    Dylan Thomas's poetry
•    today's weather report
•    the boss's problem
•    Star Jones's talk show
•    Victoria Beckham's husband

3. Use an Apostrophe Without -s for Possessives of Most Plural Nouns

To form the possessive of a plural noun that already ends in -s, add an apostrophe:

•    the girls' swing set (the swing set belonging to the girls)
•    the students' projects (the projects belonging to the students)
•    the Johnsons' house (the house belonging to the Johnsons)
•    If the plural noun does not end in -s, add an apostrophe plus -s:
•    the women's conference (the conference belonging to the women)
•    the children's toys (the toys belonging to the children)
•    the men's training camp (the training camp belonging to the men)

4. Use an Apostrophe with -s When Two or More Nouns Possess the Same Thing

When two or more nouns possess the same thing, add an apostrophe plus -s to the last noun listed:

•    Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream
•    Emma and Nicole's school project (Emma and Nicole worked together on the same project)
•    When two or more nouns separately possess something, add an apostrophe to each noun listed:
•    Tim's and Marty's ice cream (Each boy has his own ice cream.)
•    Emma's and Nicole's school projects (Each girl has her own project.)

5. Do Not Use an Apostrophe with Possessive Pronouns

Because possessive pronouns already show ownership, it's* not necessary to add an apostrophe:

•    yours
•    his
•    hers
•    its*
•    ours
•    theirs

However, we do add an apostrophe plus -s to form the possessive of some indefinite pronouns:

•    anybody's guess
•    one's personal responsibility
•    somebody's wallet

* Don't confuse the contraction it's (meaning, "it is") with the possessive pronoun its:

•    It's the first day of spring.
•    Our bird has escaped from its cage.

6. Generally, Do Not Use an Apostrophe to Form a Plural

As a general rule, use only an -s (or an -es) without an apostrophe to form the plurals of nouns--including dates, acronyms, and family names:

•    Markets were booming in the 1990s.
•    The tax advantages offered by IRAs make them attractive investments.
•    The Johnsons have sold all of their CDs.

To avoid confusion, we may occasionally need to use apostrophes to indicate the plural forms of certain letters and expressions that are not commonly found in the plural:

•    Mind your p's and q's.
•    Let's accept the proposal without any if's, and's, or but's.

Ron Oates

Jes Fine Productions

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PPP Vocal Training Method Endorsed by Acting Director Darren J. Butler

Cast of the Butler/Rodman musical "We The People" using PPP Vocal Technique 

I just got a wonderful surprise in my email... my co-writing partner in the musicals "Runaway Home" and "We The People" sent this glowing endorsement of my vocal training method. It is all the more precious to me because it is based on the real-world, practical experience Darren has had with actors whose well-being and success I know he deeply cares about. Me too:) Here's Darren...
“The POWER of Power, Path and Performance”
by Darren J. Butler

In the early spring of 2006, my theatre company sponsored a vocal workshop for young people and adults. I went into this kicking and screaming. Our plate was so full, I didn’t see any way we could afford to take a day out of our schedule on a Saturday to do this workshop. It had nothing to do with ego. I knew our actors and actresses needed help with their voices, but my assembly line of shows for the season was kicking me in the tail. Finally, I gave in and scheduled the workshop.

About fifteen minutes into the workshop, I was wanted to go outside and horsewhip myself. My gut told me this woman was about to change everything...for the better. Little did I know at that time, it wouldn’t be for the better; it would be off the chart amazing.

Judy Rodman’s Power, Path, and Performance is an incredible vocal toolbox that empowers singers to reach their potential. Period. To my good fortune, Judy trained me in the method and allowed me to pass along her knowledge to my vocal students. Instantly, I saw results. Students with nasal qualities to their tone experienced a vocal make-over. All nasty, nasal qualities vanished with a posture correction and “wall work” as Judy refers to it. Students who experienced tired voices or pain in their throat quickly found a path of strength and pain free singing.

Seven years later, there is a long list of students whose lives have been altered by utilizing Judy’s method. Many of them have had the great privilege to work with her one on one. She has this incredible ability to diagnose vocal problems and show students how to fix them. These are not quick fixes; they are answers to improving a student’s voice for the long haul.

As a result, I have students writing songs, creating CD’s, and performing for audiences. They have the tools they need as well as the confidence to pursue their dreams. As a vocal coach, I see my role as “a passer on of the concept.” With an extensive musical theatre background as a director and performer, I bring unique tools to a vocal session. I pass along the Judy concept for the power and the path, and I use my background to focus on the performance.

Last summer I directed The Wizard of Oz. I directed the show and played musical director. I taught the entire cast how to implement Power, Path, and Performance into the show. It definitely raised the show to a new level, but there were underlying waves I had no clue about. Two young ladies in the chorus took the training to heart. A couple of months ago, they opened for a band at a local theatre, and my family and I attended. Katie and Lindsay Konig, fourteen year old twins, took the audience by storm. My jaw dropped. They were up there “pulling” and using Judy’s method every step of the way. No lessons. No formal training. Simply using what I had taught them during music rehearsal for Oz.

The bottom line - there are probably hundreds of methods in the world. I would hate to even think about how many hits one would receive if you Goggled the topic. But, if you’re looking for a tool to provide a singer with consistent vocal training and stability, you cannot go wrong with Power, Path, and Performance.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Vocal Warmup: Why You Should Not Skip It

 Maria Sarah on NBC Today Show

At 4:30 Central, 5:30 NY time, I finished a Skype vocal warmup with my student Maria Sarah. This wise young singer chose to get up a half hour early to do her vocal exercises before going off to perform her piano/vocal solo on the Today show. Because she was warmed up, she sang with confidence and ease even in the heady, pressured environment of her first live national TV performance.

Here's why I advise you not to skip a good vocal warmup routine before performance:

Flexibility enables finer movement of vocal apparatus.

A colder muscle is not as flexible as a warmed up one. Your vocal apparatus needs all its parts to be flexible, agile, stretchable to perform all the variety of movements necessary for great singing.

Thick vocal cords need to be pumped thin.

The action of doing careful vocal exercises with correct form pumps interstitial fluid out of puffy vocal folds (cords). If the voice is sounded strongly with puffy vocal cords, it will not operate nearly as easily, and is much more at risk for being damaged in the process.

Great vocal technique needs to be automatic by the time you perform.

The 'muscle memory' of your voice needs to be reminded to operate optimally. Not only should you warm up... you should warm up with as much perfect form as possible. When you practice 'pulling' your voice instead of pushing, getting your voice coming from pelvic floor, over the back top of your head and to an audience point during exercises - it automates the process so you don't have to be thinking about it during performance. You also will be re-memorizing how it feels to have your voice buzzing in your mask, having your posture correctly enabling balance of breath support and control, getting articulation in the front of your mouth instead of your jaw.

Other factors you should consider when doing vocal warmups:

  • Do them right...
Form is everything. Do learn HOW to do effective vocal exercises properly, or a vocal warmup could become a vocal tighten up! Here's a check list for assessing your vocalise routine.
  • Do them long enough...
Consider your situation to figure out how long you should do your vocal exercises.
  • Do them afterwards, too...
Like any significant athletic endeavor, vocal muscles need to be warmed down after performance... especially when the performance has been a strenuous or long one. Any recovery time needed can be significantly shortened when the voice is warmed down. In fact, if properly warmed up, worked out in performance and then warmed down, your voice should only need water, sleep and nutrition to not only recover but also be in even better shape for its next performance.

It truly matters...

Whether it's 5:00 in the am or the pm, for best vocal results and for maintaining vocal health, whether using your voice for public speaking or for singing: don't skip your vocal warmup! And for important gigs you might even want to schedule your warm up with your vocal coach:)

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

9 Tips for Singing Better High Notes

Using my own technique to sing the long high end of 'One Way Ticket'

Hitting high notes seems to be the rage these days. Also known as the 'money notes', they can be over-rated, because if the rest of the song is not delivered, good execution of high notes will just be a momentary audience or talent contest judge 'wow', not a career-making vocal performance. That said, if the high notes are missed, flat, or splatted, it will definitely detract from an otherwise solid performance. So...

Here are 9 tips for singing high notes:

1. Make sure you are well hydrated.

Your vocal folds need to have a thin -not thick and not too thin- layer of mucous in order to perform well. High notes and dry throat tissues do not dance well together.

2. Warm up your voice

duh. Stiff vocal folds can't work nearly as well as warmed up, flexible and hydrated ones. But do remember... form is everything when doing vocal exercises. You don't want your warm up to become a tighten up!

3. Aim at high notes accurately

Don't just make a blind stab and hope for the best. Actually know what note you want to hit and intend to hit it.

4. Set them up

For short I call this concept 'Lift before you Sound'. Lift the notes before the highest notes so you'll already be 'at' the high note before you sing it. Do not lift the PITCH making those notes sharp, just lift the PLACEMENT of where you resonate these pen-ultimate notes.

5. Back off breath pressure

The biggest mistake I hear people make when going for a high note is pushing them as hard as they can to try and make them go up. This upsets the balance of breath support/breath control. Back off the pressure, add passion (by the way you articulate the lyric) and you will be amazed at how they can just 'fall up'.

6. Use your hands

Learn to 'talk with' and use your hands to widen and stabilize your ribcage so it doesn't collapse, pushing too much uncontrolled air.

7. Form vowels more vertically

Open your mouth more and allow your jaw to loosely fall and your soft palate to lift.

8. Pull them through

This concept is core in my Power, Path and Performance vocal training. Much like threading a needle, use articulation to pull instead of push your high notes.   It's imagery that works miracles - and conquers vocal strain.

9. Follow through

Now that you have that high note sounded, don't think you're done. Like a baseball player throwing a ball, you need to follow through at the end of the note, instead of just dropping your support and minimizing the importance of the rest of the phrase, or the end of the high note.

Let me know if you try any of this. If you'd like to take an in-office or Skype vocal lesson on it, contact me. I'll be happy to make this personal for you and your voice. Or get your copy of PPP vocal training.

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