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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Three Keys To Unlock Your Most Powerful Voice

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Would you like to have a stronger speaking or singing voice? OK, first we need to talk about what that means. If you think in terms of what the voice is designed to do, you’ll see its sole purpose is to deliver messages. The ultimate goal of delivering a message is to get a specific response to that message. The stronger the desired response you get to your voice, the more valuable your voice is. Being vocally stronger takes more than being louder. Otherwise, we could just shout all the time and get what we want!

Power Fouls:

  • You push air hard to raise your voice's volume level. The problem is, overblowing your vocal cords drives them apart and dehydrates them... leading to inefficient vibration and vulnerability to injury. You will be loud but also shrill, thin and harsh. With the strain from the effort, your voice feels as bad as it sounds. You can be headed for vocal damage if you push like this for long. AND stage or studio mics and sound systems don't like this pushed sound, either. To accommodate it without clipping or distortion, your sound person or engineer will turn your signal down, and you will sound weaker than if you backed off! When you sing with less volume, your mic can open up for your voice. Your resulting mic'd sound ends up with more bandwidth and richer resonance - and more apparent power!

and/or...

  • You try to increase the power of your 'cool factor' by slurring your articulation, and creating a vocal lick for every possible phrase. When speaking, you stop your breath before the ends of your lines, ending with vocal fry that fatigues your voice while obscuring the words. You don't realize how valuable lyrics and space are to the power of your voice. Yeah, you're feeling it, but your audience isn't quite sure what to feel because they can't understand the words! You lose fully 1/3 of your musical/visual/lyrical performance impact. And it's one of the most common mistakes I see when watching songwriter rounds in Nashville, and something I talk to all my artist students about.

speaking of which...

  • You can trash your speaking voice by overblowing your instrument, too, and limit your impact power by forced, gluey or muddy articulation
Let me suggest a much more effective strategy: learn the following 3 core keys to max your vocal power:

1. Breath Compression

  Your vocal cords love to be buzzed, they just hate to be blown! So to vibrate them more energetically for a louder sound, you need to allow them to adduct or close together confidently with a balance of breath control and support. This is what I refer to as breath compression centered in the pelvic floor. It enables good vocal cord compression, which is ideal for efficiently creating volume. You take in a low breath, then you support its upward movement by tensing in the pelvic floor (or legs/heels which are butt extensions for the voice). Tensing that low instead of up in the mid-torso (diaphragm area) will allow the bottom of your ribcage to expand, enabling breath control. You end up with what I call 'pull power', delivering confident but controlled volume. You can rev it up by increasing this compression, spinning the air faster, being careful not to hold your breath nor allow it to blow through your cords without control. I know this is complicated. Your posture can affect it (hint, hint, keep your head over your tailbone, not your toes) and I teach certain vocal exercises that create the habit of this balanced breath engine.

Exercise:

Put your hand in the middle of your torso, in your solar plexus region. Try singing or saying something while powering your voice from right there. Next, put your hand on one of your back pockets, or press the back of your hip. Try singing or saying the exact thing while powering your voice from there. What did you notice about tension in your body and your throat? What did you notice about your breath and your sound?

2. Open Throat Channel

If you strum an electric guitar that’s not plugged into an amp, you can strum as hard as you want but you’re not going to make much sound. If you plug it in and play it, you’re amplifying the vibrations in the strings and the guitar body for much more sound. The quality of the sound can be tweaked by EQ changes in the amplifier. Another example to ponder here: No matter how loud you speak or sing, it won’t be as loud as if you are in a big chamber such as a hall with good acoustics. The surfaces and cavities of the larger space take your little voice and magnify it. Well, that’s what happens when you increase the space in your throat channel. The surfaces and cavities of that bigger space take the vibrations coming off your larynx to whole new levels of volume and more importantly… texture. All those places in your vocal cave add their own characteristics to your sound. For richest resonance and tonal variety, it's important to open your throat three-dimensionally.

Exercise:

Tighten your throat by squinting your eyes and locking your jaw. Sing or say something. If you can’t think of anything, try Happy Birthday. OK now, open your throat channel by raising your eyebrows, dropping your jaw and moving your head slightly back. Sing or say the exact same thing. What differences did you notice about the feeling in your throat and in your sound?

3. Laser-Focused Intentionality

Here’s where we get the cart positioned appropriately behind the horse. Going back to our prime directive for even having a vocal apparatus in our necks: the voice is for delivering messages! When we do that successfully, we get the response we want from the heart we’re talking to.

Exercise:

Ask these three questions:
  1. Who am I trying to communicate to? 
  2. What am I trying to communicate? 
  3. What would the response I want look like in my listener? 
When we have those answers in mind, our automatic nervous system can focus in on a simple, powerful directive… to get that response. This determines choices of tone, inflection, dynamics, styling, embellishments, clarity of articulation, etc…. in other words, this tells the voice how to sound! The higher level of vocal technique we develop just gives the voice more options to choose from! In short, technical vocal ability should be used in the service of delivering a message successfully. That's power! If not, we’re just playing survival of the vocal cords.

Putting It All Together

If you consider all three of our vocal power enhancers, you come up with my method of teaching.
Power, Path and Performance vocal training teaches you to center your breath engine in the pelvic floor, move your voice along the path through an open throat, and direct your communication to the appropriate one heart. This three-cornerstone synergy of training creates vocal power that truly matters, and you can power your voice to the max with no vocal strain - quite a bonus!

If you’d like help with increasing your singing or speaking vocal power, train with me in person, online or in a vocal training course on disc.  For more information, contact me through my secure website https://judyrodman.com/contact.htm. I'd love to work with you!

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