Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

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, April 29, 2017

How Your Voice and Your Messages Create Each Other

As you think, so shall you sing...
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The message you are delivering is the autopilot that works your voice. That means your message actually directs the movement of the muscles, cartilage and other tissues of your vocal apparatus. The message you're communicating even affects how you breathe, and the shape of your throat channel! Let's talk about how this happens, and how we can use this information to give your voice more power.

The vocal apparatus is operated mostly by the automatic nervous system which I refer to as the autopilot, not the conscious mind. An autopilot (in tech speak a 'macro') is configured by consciously choosing the job we want it to do. In the case of the voice, the job is: To Communicate a Message! 

How the voice creates messages

Effective communication requires shaping vocal sound so the message can be understood by the intended ear. As discussed in this interesting article I found, shaping vocal sound is accomplished by
I would add that movement of eyes, jaw, soft palate, and the larynx itself help differentiate messages. The degree of tightness in the ribcage, stiffness in the spine, active language in the face and body cause subtle changes in vocal sound, too. Whew! Amazing how many shades of tone colors can be created in the human voice!

Let's try experimenting with some exercises. Using the sentence "You better not do that" see how many different messages you can create:
  • Say or sing it 5 times, each time emphasizing a different one of the 5 words. Notice how the message of the sentence changes, becoming a threat, a warning, a pleading, an invitation to play, sarcasm.
  • Say or sing it while moving the jaw with a slight chewing motion, then with a very still jaw. Notice the still jaw message is more menacing.
  • Now do it with a tight ribcage, then with your spine moving like a lava lamp.
  • Try it with a flat, then lifted, soft palate. 
  • If you know how, overlift (it will sound thin and strained) and then overdrop (it will sound hooty) your larynx while sounding the message.
  • Do it with a numb 'poker face', then while smiling and moving your eyes around.
  • Try pushing it out with a lot of (uncontrolled) breath, then pulling it out with wide ribs but using very little (controlled) breath. Oddly enough, the second way can sound a lot more confident!
These are only a few of the variations the human voice can use to create different messages out of the same 5 words!

How messages create the voice

Your choice of message will definitely change the configuration of your autopilot! Try focusing on the following messages and notice how it changes the working parts of your breath, throat and speech organs (lips, teeth, tongue). Sing or say a phrase like 'you're the reason I feel this way' and with the same 7 words, intend to send these different messages to the listener: 
  • you're the reason I feel this way (you make me happy)
  • you're the reason I feel this way (you made me angry)
  • you're the reason I feel this way (you left me lonely)
  • you're the reason I feel this way (you gave me this courage)
How did your choice of message change your voice? Your breath? Your throat? Your face? Where in your mouth did the words come from? What did you have to do to create those messages?

Messages that diminish the voice 

Sometimes we aren't consciously focused on a message, but we still deliver one. Here are some counterproductive messages that get delivered when the singer or speaker distracted, scattered, insecure or tired. Quite often they even result in vocal fatigue and strain. The response they get is usually negative or none:
  • I don't know what these words mean. I'm just making noises.
  • I'm bored with this song. It's not worth my time or yours.
  • I'm sick/ weak/ stressed/ tired/ worried/ otherwise in need of your pity.
  • Didn't I just hit a great high note there?
  • I'm scared. Don't hurt me, audience!
  • I don't know who I'm talking to. Certainly not you.
  • I suck. I'm just proving it to you.
  • This is a vocal exercise (not a message). Laugh, then come back when I have something to tell you.
  • I'm singing GOOD... you want to give me the PRIZE... I'm the BEST... I can do more VOCAL LICKS than anyone else (I hear these messages a lot at contests, church, and sometimes awards shows). 

Messages that empower the voice

The best messages are authentic, and strong enough to get the exact response desired. That means the choices of vocal tone color are perfectly matched to the meaning of the lyric being articulated, and the shape of that tone is as focused as the point of a spear on piercing the heart being sung to, eliciting a powerful response. 

To deliver such messages, you have to be crystal clear to whom you're communicating, and what response you want. And ALWAYS focus your message to one heart (or the one composite heart of a group)! 

The voice really exists for one reason: to deliver messages. 

How well that message is created will determine the strength of the response you get. THIS is the power of your vocal performance! Even when going after a commercial vocal career, the paradox is that vocal performance is the most powerful and valuable when it's focused on making a particular heart understand something at an emotional level. Your gift is made for giving.

Want more?

Try Power, Path and Performance vocal training.
Communicating the message is a primary cornerstone of my 3-stranded vocal training method, with balancing breath support/control and keeping an open throat comprising the other two. The synergy of Power, Path and Performance courses and vocal lessons creates significant vocal improvement with immediate and ongoing gains... and without strain. Check it out at www.judyrodman.com

PS... Your comments here on this blog are always welcome and your podcast reviews are extremely helpful! Thank you!

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