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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How To Get A Record Deal-1: What Record Labels Want

This is my first post in a three-part series I'm writing about "How To Get A Record Deal".

First of all, it is VERY hard to get a legitimate record label interested in signing you as recording artist. If someone promises you otherwise, RUN, do not walk, and slam the door behind you. With that understanding...

Before approaching a record label as an artist, you should understand two simple things.   

 - Record labels, like all viable businesses, want to make a profit. 
 - You want to make a deal that will profit you, the artist.  

Look for that win-win deal, which will result in a prosperous label AND artist!

What record labels want is for you to have at least one of these three things
  • Your own money to fund your recording project - and possibly fund your promotion & marketing.
Yes, labels still sometimes fund recording projects if you can bring the devoted fan base (see the following two bullet points). And there still is nothing like the promotional, marketing and distribution reach of a major or large indie label to extend the efforts you fund. But if you bring an already finished project to the table, it can help you retain control of your artistic definition, give you more deal options and possibly sweeten any deal you make in your favor. 
  • Your own significant, real and growing fan base.
Without a fan base, to whom will you or a record label sell your music, shows and merchandise? One of the big differences between now and 'the old days' is that if a label believed you COULD BE an artist who would draw a big fan base, they would take a chance on developing you, funding your project and releasing your music for sale. Now, not so much, because with the advent of technology and internet marketing you are capable of creating own fanbase without label support. They want to make deals with more proven fan/customer drawing potential. But then you are more valuable when it comes to contract negotiation!
  • Your unique, high level and marketable body of work and talent in the studio and on stage.
You really do need to be remarkable to get a good record deal. You may be a big TV contest winner, but if you are only bringing the fan base from the TV show, your career will be as short-lived as the fickle reality-TV audiences are. AND, you've probably signed a contract with the TV show to hand over a significant portion of your future profits. It's far better to bring to the negotiating table your extraordinary skills as communicator, singer, and performer. It helps if you have good media and musician skills, It is a real value-added deal bonus if you are a great songwriter. Part of the negotiation often includes publishing on your songs. Your style, unique appearance and willingness to connect to your audience is vital. Fans are not just drawn to the songs...they want to fall in love with the artist - and that's what generates income to split (or not!) from records, shows and merchandise.

Next post: Steps to attracting a record label

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Singing While Old: How Vintage Voices Can "Rock"

Singing is a lot of things ... it is athletic, it is biological, it is psychological, it is spiritual,  it is technical and above all, it is art. Because of all these things, the voice changes as we age. And because of these things, aging is a good news/bad news balance we can tip in our voices' favor, if we know how! Let us consider...

The bad news: We may have lost some vocal ability.

We may not be as physically able as in younger days. Our energy and stamina may give out sooner. Our memories for lyrics may grow, shall we say, less reliable. We may have developed one or more health limitations causing compromised breath, loss of vocal muscle control or any kind of distracting pain.

The good news: We may be able to sing better than we have in our lives!

We know things we didn't. We have had more life experience, and so we have a wider color palate from which to paint nuanced vocal emotion. We may have learned and practiced better vocal technique than we ever used before. Also, much like an old guitar or piano vs a new one, the density of our instrument (larynx) is harder and more resonant. We may have addressed and healed some limiting physical conditions and diseases, and have more stamina than ever! And finally, we may have conquered self-conscious fear that used to numb us in performance.

Some important things to do as a vintage voice:
  • Physically: Stay or GET healthy! 
Do you need to change your diet, add some nutritional supplements, drink more water, get on some high blood pressure, thyroid, cholesterol or other meds? Do you need to visit the doc, dentist, chiro, nutritionist, accupuncturist? Do you need to find a good exercise routine? Now is the time. Now.
  • Mentally: Shake yourself up!
 Dig into the unknown with all your senses... listen, touch, taste, smell, look ...especially read! Take on, or renew, a creative hobby, travel (even if it's to another part of town), do some brain-training games, learn another language or computer operating system. Learn to play a new instrument... banjo, cello, lute, percussion.  It's never too late for piano or guitar. Take up dancing! Practice with pure joy!
  • Spiritually: Go farther!
 Find a newly authentic connection with the Source of all life and creativity. Do some work ... let go of bitterness, resentments and other old baggage. Love more fully and less selfishly. Breathe deeper. Let God. Reconnect with old friends; make new ones. Without community, a voice is a lonely cry.
  • Musically: Get brave! 
- Sing old songs with new meaning, unique to how you understand them! Learn new songs and sing them your way. Better yet... WRITE new songs!

- Do some vocal training! Yes, this is another case of use it or lose it. There are changes in the vocal apparatus that can occur when we age. But for those whose vocal folds have lost muscle mass or whose larynx have experienced other aging changes the medical field calls presbyphonia, vocal exercises can turn back the clock, and are recommended by ENTs and speech pathologists! I know from working with them... older voices can definitely learn new tricks. We do it everyday and it's a blast when you find your voice, get it back, or sing even better than ever. If you can't afford lessons or courses, dig into blogs and online forum discussions you don't have to pay for. Where there's a will... you will find a way.

- Don't worry about what you really CAN'T do. If you need to sing your songs down a 1/2 or whole step, do it! If you've developed a bit of wobble, train it out with some vocal exercises, and let what you can't control just BE. You are old enough to know the wisdom of perfectionism being the enemy of magic :)


Now for some inspiration and proof positive: here are some examples of vintage voices that rock...

...ok I started a very incomplete, top-of-my-head list that could go on and on... please add your favorite singers who are 60 years or older in the comment section. I'd love to check them out...

PS.. if you are a younger singer, read this post as evidence of what you have to look forward to!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

The Most Important Step To Vocal Improvement

one foot in front of the other... you'll get there!

Improving the voice is a multifaceted journey of exploration and surprise, filled with rabbit trails, pitfalls, toolsets, saboteurs, enablers, frustrations, u-turns, plateaus and sudden eureka moments. It is a journey of steps... and like a well-played video game, you want to take the ones that lead to victories, not defeat (and definitely not injury!)

When a singer or speaker comes in for a lesson with me, I assess where they are at the present moment. Then I look for the key to the next level up for their voice. Whether it's the first lesson or they are a long-time regular, I look the most limiting factor, the weakest muscle group, the lie they are buying, the area of tension they are prone to, the awareness they haven't yet aquired, the degree of curve in their upper back, the great thing they are doing sometimes by accident that they need to be mastered into habit. These steps usually fall into the big three catagories of PPP training:

POWER (balanced control/support of breath)
PATH (sending voice through an open -not tight- throat)
PERFORMANCE (reach, communication issues)

Sometimes the steps are concerned with physical, emotional or vocal health. I began this post from an observation of myself. A long-delayed trip to the dentist (and yes, eventually an endodontist) left me with some temporary but serious dental nerve pain. I found that this made me lose any desire to sing; even vibrations from demonstrating vocal exercises for students was uncomfortable.

I've seen voices compromised by such random things as a dull headache, hormone imbalances, a crick in the neck, overbulked shoulders, worry about a math test and menstral cramps!

Some specific key steps among the myriads I've seen unlock vocal freedom:
  • Taking on a taller, more flexible posture.... getting used to balancing head over spine.
  • Becoming aware of, and changing, the bad habit of over-lifting or over-dropping the larynx to reach notes.
  • Doing some self-discovery: Getting to the bottom of - and conquering - fear and insecurities... such as looking foolish or being harshly judged.
  • Practicing active listening plus various exercises, aiming directly at the center of pitch.
  • Becoming aware of your immediately improved vocal control when you keep the ribcage flexibly wide.
  • Finding allergy protocols/ remedies that work for you.
  • Drinking more water to increase cord hydration and correct viscosity of mucous layer.
  • Adopting a habit of dropping and loosening the jaw when articulating.
  • Adding facial and eye language.
  • Figuring out who one should be singing or speaking to.
  • Changing diet for respiratory and other health issues, better digestion, controlling acid reflux, gaining more energy for vocal support & less mucous.
  • Addressing and controlling sources of pain - anywhere!
  • Developing live mic technique to control breath.

Here's the thing, EVERYTHING can affect your voice. But don't get overwhelmed - the staircase to great voice is not too steep to climb. Ask yourself right now...
What is the one main reason my voice is not doing as well as it could?
The most important step to your next level of vocal improvement is to ACT ON THAT!

OK... I'd love to know... what was your step?

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