All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: August 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!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Studio Headphones: Tips For Best Use

Here's a video about recording with headphones half-off

Recording vocals usually necessitates hearing something to sing to. In the very old days, singers recorded with speakers positioned in the vocal booth or studio room so as not to bleed monitor sound onto the vocal track. Well, maybe not SO old... Actually, I used this approach a couple of years ago when recording a large ensemble for a demonstration musical theater cast recording. We were doing in 'on the cheap' and so had to make do in a studio that was not equipped for the big group. It was kind of like wiring my bus headlights back to working order with guitar string and duct tape... oh well, that's a different story altogether...

These days studio singers have much better options for hearing tracks, and engineers for separating and isolating sound signals so they retain more choices when they mix. They are of course called headphones. Here are some tips for using them:

1. Try adding natural cue by wearing one of your headphone ears half-off (one side placed half behind one ear). Hearing some of your natural ambient vocal sound can help your ears not get disoriented to what you are really singing:

  • DON'T wear or turn that ear all the way off, even if you have that option. You need a bit of sound from the track in that ear. Just park it back midway off that ear.
  • DO put that headphone flush on the side your head so you don't leak sound from the track into the mic.
  • DO make sure you have your cue box set to 'mono' instead of 'stereo' so you aren't missing something because one ear is half off.
  • SOMETIMES some singers do better with both ears full on. Experiment to see what you like.

2.  If you use headphones a lot, keep your hearing safe:

  • Don't turn them up too loud, which WILL damage your hearing sooner or later. I've known studio musicians who have gone deaf from years of using headphones too loud. 
  • If you've been singing for hours and can't hear as well as you could earlier, try changing the mix a bit instead of cranking volume - it's like a spash of cold water waking up tired ears.
  • If the engineer says to take your headphones off, do so IMMEDIATELY! There may be a very loud spike of sound coming through them as the engineer tests something.

3. Make sure you use good headphone studio etiquette:

  • NEVER point a headphone ear into the mic (it will cause feedback)
  • DON'T swing headphones by the cord, yank it off, throw it down or otherwise mishandle them. They are breakable, and somebody has to buy (and repair or replace) them! Handle with care.
  • UNPLUG your phones if you are leaving the vocal booth and someone else will be singing, so cue from your open phones can't leak onto the vocal track.
Know what to ask for in your headphone cue mix. I'll give you some tips about this in my next post!

Click here for a list of recommendations (2019) for quality studio headphones.

Much more at 

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

How and When Should You Copyright A Song?

Your songwriting is a form of intellectual property, and as such, it falls to you to protect it from theft. There are different levels of protection you can use.
  • There is the paper and electronic trail... dated lyric sheets, worktape recordings, emails to cowriters, etc. NOTE: The 'poor man's copyright' (sending your song through certified and unopened mail to yourself) has long been debunked as useless.
  • Also... it's a good idea, as suggested in this article at, to include the little circled 'c' copyright symbol and the name of the owner of the song in any lyric you share publically.
  • Then there is the official copyright you file at My strong suggestion is to use the less expensive eCo service and file online. If doing it for the first time, go to this link and register as a new user. Learning how to work the steps will be a learning curve for you; if possible, get someone who has done it before to walk you through the first song.

There is a controversy as to whether or not you need an official US copyright.

  • The common practice of the big publishing houses is to only copyright when the song gets cut (recorded as a master for public release). This is a good idea; if you write a lot of songs, it can get far too expensive to pay the copyright fee (currently $35) for each one.
  • The long held view was that you would need the official copyright if you wanted to sue someone for copyright infringement. According to a 2011 article at NewMediaRights, you can file for copyright any time... even after the infringement occurs...  and still be able to sue, but unless you've copyrighted within three months of publication, you can't get the 'statutory damages' that make the expense of suing worth doing it. 

The "Collection" solution:

  • That said... if you are the sole writer or if you have the same cowriter(s) and publisher(s) on lots of songs, you should look into copyrighting them as a collection. Scroll down to page 6 in this document to read about collections. That way you only pay one fee (I think now it's $55) for as many songs as you want to include in a collection.
Protection against BEING sued is another reason to copyright your songs. Note the dates of creation, and do include that little symbol at the top of this blogpost. Don't be paranoid, but do be smart and take care of business.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Singing Low Notes at a Recording Mic: The Ninja Technique

This will be short but powerful post with a professional tip I have learned to sing my lowest notes in the vocal booth. For the first time, I'm including a little impromptu video from my webcam to illustrate.

Simply put your hand on your sternum over your heart and gently press. It should cause your chest to open, not closed!) If you're doing it properly, you'll be getting taller, not shorter. Make sure your head stays back, don't let it bow forward.

You should find a resonant, rich, not hooty low note much easier to sing, and more controllable, too.
Did you try it? What did you notice?

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