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!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Want More Vocal Control? 4 Critical Factors

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How important is vocal control? It affects everything your voice does. The better your vocal control, the healthier and more successful your voice is going to be at singing and speaking. Today I'm going to give you 4 things to improve if you want more vocal control: Inhale, Breath Support, Breath Control and Mental Focus. 

I was called to go on the road with an artist who was having some seriously career-threatening vocal problems. He had trouble hitting his high notes, had pitch issues and chronic vocal strain, his dynamic expression included wild volume swings, and his vocal licks were forced. His vocal sound was thin and strained, and listening to him felt like being yelled at. As is usual when a career vocalist runs into vocal trouble, the harder he tried, the worse it got! Thankfully, being the great artist he was, yet receptive to learning something new, he responded really quickly to corrective training. After three days of tweaking his vocal technique for each of his acoustic and full-band performances, all of his vocal problems disappeared and he told me this had changed his life! His label president was thrilled. What changed? He gained vocal control.

So how do you get it?

The most important factor for creating vocal control is the way you apply breath! Breath for the voice is not the same as breath for life, which is just inhaling and exhaling. For the voice, breath consists of three areas we need to master… 
  • inhalation, 
...and a balance of two opposing forces of exhalation known as
  • breath support and 
  • breath control.

1. Inhalation

Your posture is all-important here. try inhaling as you stand or sit flexibly tall, chin level, head balanced over your tailbone instead of forward. This should cause the upper curve of your spine to be straighter, which will open the ribcage wide. Your low abdominal wall should easily expand as you breathe in, allowing your diaphragm to flatten out and lower the floor for your lungs. This kind of inhale feels like a quiet, quality breath falling into the pelvic floor (which is really into the lower lungs) ... no gulping or gasping sensation needed! You don’t need a huge inhale… just breath enough to accomplish the phrase you intend to sing.

2. Breath Support 

Let's define breath support as that which moves air up and out, passing through and vibrating your vocal cords. To get it, you’ll need to contract those low abdominal muscles you just relaxed for the inhale.... This will support the dome of the diaphragm moving up and pressing air from the floor of the lungs - but keep the squeeze below the navel. In fact, the safest way to engage breath support is to focus on tensing your gluteus maximus (butt) muscles, which will naturally cause your low abs to also contract. We’ll talk about why next:

3. Breath Control

Let's define this as that which holds air back as it's coming up. To control your exhale, keep the bottom of your ribcage wide! This keeps the diaphragm, which is connected at its edges to the bottom of the ribcage, stretched taut like a trampoline or drumhead. The stretched diaphragm can then control itself and the air it allows upwards. In fact, the biggest saboteur of breath control (and the voice in general) is a dropped or tight ribcage!

I call the delicate and vital balance of breath support and control ‘pulling’ instead of ‘pushing’ air. It is a compression source of air power, centered and sensed in the pelvic floor or saddle area – NOT in the lower rib area that comes from a wrong understanding of breathing from the diaphragm. You back off the air pressure to the minimum needed to make the sound you want. The sensation of pulling instead of pushing breath is, in my experience, the best way possible to have optimum vocal control.

4. Mental Focus

Another key to vocal control is what your mind focuses on. In other words, your vocal control is affected by your intentions to...
  • to hit a particular pitch a particular way - such as using a particular tone, volume, degree of shimmer or vibrato or straight tone, phrasing and other nuances of the human voice;
  • to communicate a specific message and get a specific response. 
When you fully intend these two things, it affects your body and facial language which affects your breath and then wait for it... your vocal control!

Remember: Vocal control is vital for singing AND speaking.

Without control, your voice is going to be wobbly and inaccurate. This is bad not only for singers but for speakers, too. Whether singing or speaking, our voices deliver messages and if uncontrolled, our messages will sound insecure, inauthentic, and ineffective at communicating. It's worth digging into gaining more control over that instrument in your throat!

Want more help to improve your vocal control? 

Get my vocal training course or a vocal lesson. And don't miss my free training: subscribe to get 5 pages of vocal health tips and also updates on new posts on this blog. Any questions? Just ask.

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  • At May 10, 2021 at 8:24 PM , Blogger Neil said...

    These principles are important for playing the wind instruments. I play the trombone. I know proper breathing is important.

  • At May 10, 2021 at 9:35 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Right, and in fact, one could think of the voice as another wind instrument! Too little or too much breath doesn't work for any instrument vibrated by air. The balance is key.


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