All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: May 2014

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!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why Eye Language Matters To Your Voice

As vocal coach, one of the quickest ways I can improve someone's voice is to get the person using eye language when they speak or sing. Here's why:

Your eyes, eyebrows, eyepads all communicate messages. Actors learn this early... especially film and TV acting with closeups. Consider how masterful actors like Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, Jack Nicholson silently and instantly tell you something by a slight rise or fall of one or both eyebrows, widening of the eye, squint at the edge above upper cheek.

This eye and surrounding tissue movement creates not only silent messages, but audible ones. So much so that when I do a vocal lesson by phone, I can tell whether my student is lifting eyebrows or not (this frequently freaks people out). The reason is that the outside tissue affects (opens or closes) the inside of the throat channel, which includes the nose, mouth and entire pharynx regions. For instance:
  • Try to lift your eyebrow without affecting the top ridge of your nose. (Good luck with that!) Usually the nose is affected so much it actually flares with the lifting of the brow. When the nose lifts open, it usually releases the soft palate to move, too, which affects tone choices the voice can make.
  • Squint as if you're looking into the sun (this affects the eyepads). Notice how it tightens the soft palate. Good luck trying to yawn and squint at the same time!
  • Notice how it's hard to tighten ('set') your jaw if you widen your eyes. Usually tight jaw goes with tight eyes... and tight soft palate!
Now try using your voice:
  • Using a poker face (very still in the eye area)... read the following sentence: "Hello, I'm (say your name). I understand you're interested in the demo I sent you last week. Would you be willing to meet with me for coffee?" 
  • Now using very active eyes, brows, eyepads (over-do it for this exercise), say the exact same thing.
Please leave a report on what you discovered about 1. the sound of your voice and 2. the feeling in your throat ... by commenting to this post. Thanks!

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

3 Big Reasons You Should Never Trust A Vocal Coach...

...until that coach proves their training actually works for YOUR voice!

It is very sad to me when a vocalist comes in to me for the first time with a voice that's been hurt, fatigued or limited in the very act of taking lessons, doing vocal exercises, trying to improve. To put it bluntly, if you come to anyone - including me - for vocal lessons, consulting or directing, you should not trust the coach until you experience success in the lesson.

The Big Three Reasons a vocal coach can't be trusted:

1. The corrections, directions or vocal exercises suggested cause you vocal strain!

Mental strain from doing something different is OK, but you vocal cords should end up unstressed. An intuitive coach will know how far to push each student on any given day, by the sound of the voice.

Bottom line: Your voice should feel BETTER -  not worse - when you leave the lesson.

2. The teaching doesn't help!

A good vocal coach enables you to do something better with your voice. This could be better tone, pitch, execution of vocal licks, clarity of articulation, high notes, low notes, volume, mending of vocal breaks, mixing of registers, richer resonance throughout the range or a noticeable lessening of vocal strain. It could be in your singing and/or speaking voice. You can't expect all this at once lesson, and you may not be able to repeat the improvement techniques habitually yet, but something should really rouse your hopes and make you curious and eager to go farther.

Bottom line: Your voice should be able to do MORE, not less, when you leave the lesson.

3.  The vocal coach won't listen or agree to teach you what YOU want to sing!

This doesn't mean a good coach won't challenge you to go outside your comfort zone... but it should all be for the purpose of enabling you to deliver the type of song that fits YOUR heart as well as YOUR voice.  

Bottom line: You should leave the lesson confident the coach can and will train you for what you want to sing.

You may also wish to avoid a coach who ...

  • ...teaches through intimidation. This may be a mask for what they don't know ... they may try to make you feel like the limiting factor is your lack of talent or intelligence. Or, a sick personality in need of ego gratification may just want you to feel 'less than' in that teacher's presence. That said, if you don't practice, expect to be called on it by a good coach! Teaching is a team sport... you have to do your part for continued improvement. 
  • ...wastes time. Be careful judging this... there is a difference between a teacher who doesn't respect the student's time (and money) and a teacher who takes the time to be thorough. Every student is different and care must be taken that vocal instruction is appropriate to that student's needs at that moment in time. A good teacher will also take the time necessary to connect on a personal level with the student (the opposite of intimidation) to create conditions where the automatic nervous system can become unguarded and allow positive changes to take place. 
  • not well acquainted with, or is unwilling to teach you, the musical genre you wish to sing. Typically (but not always) a great classical vocal coach is not a great contemporary commercial coach, and vice versa. [Side note: The terms 'vocal coach' and 'voice teacher' are often used interchangeably. However, some define a 'vocal coach' as dealing with vocal style, a 'voice teacher' as dealing with vocal technique. I am both.] Ask! A good coach will readily tell you if they are not familiar or confident enough with a style to teach it.
Bottom line... to decide whether you should trust a vocal coach, do a quick check as you leave the your vocal lesson:

- Did you connect well with the teacher? 
- Does your voice feel more open, free and healthy? 
- Did you actually experience (even momentarily) some improvement in your vocal ability? 

Three yes's?...  Trust THAT!

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