All Things Vocal Blog & Podcast by Judy Rodman: January 2018

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!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Career Saving Tips To Protect Your Voice From A Hit Song - Part 2

Your voice's success doesn't have to be it's undoing!

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

NOTE: This is part 2 of a 2-part series. If you haven't read part 1, find it here.
One of the saddest things to me is to see an artist who has worked so hard finally taste success… only to lose their voice from having to use it so much! Here’s part 2 on how to protect your voice from a hit song.

6. Nourish your body like your voice is attached

The way some singer and speakers neglect the care of their physical bodies, you'd think the vocal cords aren't attached. Newsflash... they are!

Your body can't create good energy for singing out of donuts and m&ms. Eat clean, simple, healthy foods that you digest well. This means menu planning should be part of road or pre-show preparation. Good food won't necessarily be easily accessable everywhere, and inevitable 'stuff that happens' can create sudden schedule cram, with little time to sound check and no time to hunt for food. Bring protein snacks and water everywhere, and stock your room or bus fridge with fruits and veggies. If you take nutritional supplements that you've found work for you, don't forget to pack them!

Avoid acid reflux... bring digestive enzymes or whatever meds your doc has prescribed, and eat only what doesn't cause you heartburn. Even good stress can mess with your digestive system, so treat it with respect. Your voice will thank you.

7. Work your body out like a pre-game athlete

Your muscle tone, flexibility and core strength can really affect your vocal ability and your voice's succeptability to strain and damage. Use wisdom... to reserve your energy for performance, save your strenuous workouts for between tours. Before a show do gentle stretches and light physical workouts, being especially careful with free weights so as not to strain your neck and shoulder muscles. Your voice will be much more ready for performance demands if your body is, too.

8. Avoid voice saboteurs

Steer clear of the following like the voice destroyers they are:
  • Avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating, interferes with vocal control including pitch, and can allow you to punish your vocal cords without realizing it. Also it can make you be stupid in sundry career damaging ways. At least before and between shows, abstain. 
  • Avoid smoke, whether from cigarettes, wood burning fires or wildfires. The fine particles you breathe in will of course irritate and interfere with the workings of your lungs, but also will irritate the lining of your throat, including your larynx and vocal cords. If possible, don't let yourself be booked in smoky places.
  • Avoid ticks! The Shania Twain story about losing her voice because of Lyme disease from a tick bite really is a thing. She did fully recover is now back with her first album in 15 years. Most artists don't recover from such a loss of momentum.  Don't take chances with your voice or the rest of your health... use bug spray if you explore tick infested areas.
  • Don't avoid your fans, just wash your hands a lot, and keep them away from your face! The blessing of lots of hands to shake means lots of opportunities to catch something your voice doesn't want. Keep your immune system rocking with your chosen supplements.

9. Use in-ear monitors you've rehearsed with.

During most of my former MTM Records career I used wedge monitors, and I got used to hearing my voice that way. But it's very tricky to learn to 'feel' where pitch is when you can't hear it. Now in large venues I use in-ear monitors. There are lots of different kinds ... the cheaper ones come with standard ear tips, then you go up a level and get ear impressions made for a custom fit. Quite a bit more expensive are the ear monitors that give you the ability to dial in some ambient sound from the room. Whatever type you use, be sure to practice with your in-ears and your sound person to get used to how they sound to you. Oh... and protect your ears as well as your voice... never use just one. Stick them in both your ears.

10. Stay in touch with your vocal coach

Even if you start your busy hit career with naturally good instincts for singing correctly, you can become stressed, tired and worried, all of which undermine good vocal technique. If your voice is important to you... when you finally experience career success and the performance load that comes with it, you need a vocal coach to keep your technique at its peak and correct sneaky saboteurs that can snuff out the career you've worked so hard to build.

I suggest the following habits:
  • Warm up with vocal exercises before every show... and make sure you've been trained in the correct form for your exercises. Most people don't know that doing vocal exercises wrong is just like doing physical exercises wrong... it won't help you; it can hurt your voice!
  • Cool down after the show with light vocal exercises.
  • Take a snapshot check of the condition of your voice after every show.  Check in with your coach for an online lesson if you experience any sign of vocal strain - don't let it build! If you're singing correctly, you should never get vocally tired... only physically tired and hungry!

2 Bonus Tips 

When writing this 2 part series, I initially had 10 tips for you, but then thought of a couple more that are too important not to add:

11. Be Prepared for the emotional ride

The inevitable place after you reach a mountaintop is the valley. Be prepared for the roller coaster ride of album completion, performance success and industry kudos interspersed with a feeling that nothing is going on. You may experience boredom, dissatisfaction or fear. As a woman, I equate this with post-partum depression. Knowing there will be valleys after the peaks can really protect you from depression and the anxiety that goes along with fame and the lack thereof. Creative people can tend to have larger mood swings anyway. If you need to, don't hesitate to get help. Even a talk with a trusted friend or adviser can help, but sometimes you need to seek a professional therapist to get everything in perspective.

12. Know what to do about laryngitis

Learn your response to strategies you take when coming down with something. If your career has any degree of longevity you will probably experience a loss of voice for one reason or another. Keep my blogpost on Laryngitis bookmarked, and if you haven't already, sign up for my 5 pages of tips on Vocal Health.

Not There Yet?

If you haven't yet gotten there to hit-land, but you're successful enough to be doing lots of performances or public speeches, or you are just doing more performances than normal, pay attention to these tips I just gave you. If you want to gain more ability for career purposes, consider professional vocal training. If you're interested, I can work with you in person, by phone and webcam. You can contact me at

And do check out part 1 of this series with tips 1 through 5 if you missed it.
Did I leave something out? Join the conversation - your comments are most welcome!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Career Saving Tips To Protect Your Voice From A Hit Song - Part 1

When the crowds are rocking... make sure your voice is, too!
NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

Having a hit song can be a double-edged sword for your voice. When you catch that career-moving wave you can get very, very busy and your voice gets pushed to the limit. But if you're armed with good information and consistently use great vocal technique, you need never cancel a show due to vocal strain or damage. You might cancel due to an upper respiratory illness - but not from vocal abuse!

I have a lot to tell you so I'm splitting this into a 2-part series. Here now is Part 1.
You can continue with Part 2 at this link.

1. PULL - don't PUSH for excellent breath control

This is my number one for a reason. Barring an organic disease such as laryngopharyngeal reflux, throat cancer, a nervous system disorder such as Spasmodic Dysphonia or receiving a traumatic injury to the throat, it's going to be excessive breath pressure that causes vocal fatigue, strain or damage. With the pressure of maintaining career success, your performances need to be high octane, but your power of delivery should be more of a magic trick. Get your volume from well-adducted (closed) vocal cords and your tonal richness by allowing laryngeal vibration to have free access to all your resonation surfaces and cavities. Not only will this protect your voice from injury, you will sound better and get the response you want!

If you use my pulling technique, your cords can adduct (compress) with ease and consistency, generating a laser beam rather than a flashlight beam of breath and sound. Your throat channel will also morph, or shape shift, to allow each pitch and vowel to find their most favored places to resonate the best. You don't have to fear singing loud and passionately when you do it this way. You will also have more vocal control in general... helping you with range, pitch, vocal licks; really everything you want to do with your voice. Think of it this way: Vocal cords love to be vibrated but hate to be blown. So pull... don't push... for power!

2. Sing every time like it's the first time

I could have said 'support your voice' and it would mean the same thing... because performing with fresh fire activates your core, your face and body language, which moves breath from your pelvic floor through your open throat to create an emotionally powerful delivery.

If you have to sing the same song(s) over and over again, it can be easy to get complacent and numb with your performance.  What a crazy thing to do... you got a hit and now you steal it from the audience responsible for your success! Use your prime directive... to make your listener (who you can imagine is always at least selectively deaf) respond to your message. This should to re-energize your delivery. James Taylor once said he and his band make light and fun of 'Fire And Rain' during rehearsals, but when he's in front of an audience every time feels like the first time he ever sang that classic smash of his. Maybe that's part of why his career has lasted a lifetime.

3. Limit and control your speaking voice

Remember when you said something as a child and were told to 'watch your mouth'? Truth! Many times, it's an artist's speaking more than singing that gets them into vocal trouble. When you're doing pre-show interviews, meet & greets, post show autograph signings and schmooze parties, remember NEVER for any reason push too much breath while you're talking. If someone can't hear you, lean in, talk with your hands or silently mouth words with facial language. Whatever you do, don't yell or whisper (both are like the Sahara Desert winds blowing through your cords). 20 minutes of screaming can cause the first sign of blood blisters on your vocal cords, a precursor to nodules. Learn to pull your listener in... you'll find the magnet more powerful than the blowhard.

When touring or otherwise doing back-to-back shows or sets, limit the words you speak in general, especially if you don't know how to pull your words. When you do talk, use pingy, bell-like quality of tone instead of breathiness.  And be careful not to push a laugh, either! I teach my students to scream, yell and laugh with a backwards sensation! Prone to longwindedness? Change your habits of protracted gab. Protect your vocal cords... they are your career's most important asset.

4. Rest wisely

There is no substitute for sleep. None. Yes, you may have to sleep on the bus, but factor quality sleep hours in your travel plans, and try to get to sleep before midnight if possible. If you have a road manager or other travel planner, make sure they get the message that sleep time is a priority that must be scheduled in.

During a busy tour, you will get tired. Be smart. Don't talk when you're tired; if you're speaking with proper support it will take a lot of your precious energy which you probably won't expend. Speaking without adequate breath support/control balance and with crunched posture will result in avoidable vocal fatigue... just what you don't need.

When your voice matters, the voice rest of silence is golden. Treat vocal sound like money in the bank... don't make unnecessary withdrawals.

5. Stay hydrated

There is also no substitute for adequate hydration of your voice. Did you know that vocal sound is literally set up in the mucous membranes covering your vocal cords?It's called the mucosal wave. If anything interrupts the free flowing of this wave - like an unhappy vocal cord surface - you're in for vocal trouble. It takes enough water to keep the mucous the right consistency.

A great friend of mine, Jennifer O'Brien, is a top studio and road tour singer. When her voice starts feeling stressed, the first thing she does is to increase the water she's drinking. On the road you may find yourself in dryer areas than you're used to, and of course planes, trains and buses (and cars) are like dehydration chambers. Drink like a fish, take a long shower and breath steam in deeply before your shows, and when going to dry areas, consider bringing an inexpensive humidifier with you.

Find a throat soothing remedy that works for you onstage, pack it and use it. My remedy of choice is diluted pineapple juice (3 or 4 parts water to 1 part juice). Others like honey/cayenne/lemon juice in water; ginger or throat coat tea, some have herbal throat sprays that work and some chew gum right before going on stage. Do NOT sing with a lozenge in your mouth. You could end up inhaling it.

OK that's it for part 1. For seven more tips on protecting your voice from its success, go to part 2 here.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Tips For Stage Performers From A Sound Girl ... Interview With Fela Davis

Pro audio engineer Fela Davis 

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps

In the quest to become better performers, all singers and speakers would do well to learn more about audio engineering, and how to communicate with sound experts. 

So... for this episode of the All Things Vocal podcast, I interviewed Fela Davis, an audio engineer entrepreneur based in New York City. This amazing woman graduated from Full Sail University and now has over 15 years of audio engineering experience, including working for industry powerhouses Clair Global and House of Blues. You’ll hear the names of several legendary artists she’s worked with as you listen to our audio chat. 

Fela specializes in wireless mics and in ear monitors, has prepped gear for network and cable TV shows including Good Morning America Summer Series, The Colbert Report and The Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. She and her partner Denis Orynbekov combined their expertise to create 23dB Productions, located in New York City. Besides in-studio work, they offer a mobile one-stop shop for live projects: They film videos, do multitrack recording, mix and master for concerts and live events.
When Fela's not creating content for her company she’s on international road tours… currently working as mixing-front-of-house engineer for 5-time Grammy award winning jazz artist Christian McBride, and does some shows with 5-time Grammy award nominee Ottmar Liebert.

Read more »

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