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!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Rehearsal Voice vs Performance Voice - Why The Difference Matters

Ironically yes, you can practice performance voice in rehearsal... just add the heart you're singing to!

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
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We humans have a lot of different singing and speaking voices. Some are just practice voices, some are message delivery. Let's talk about why we need both of them, and also why it's vital to choose the right one for the right situation. First, let's define these different voices:


OK, let's define Rehearsal Voice as the practice one, your internal voice. It can be a lot of things, such as:

- silent. The forming of intention. You're thinking your message up and imagining yourself delivering it, all of which you can do without making a sound.

- soft, breathy, mumbly, inarticulate. This is an appropriate choice when you're just thinking about saying or singing something, because you don't want anyone to actually understand you ... at least not yet! It works for compiling thoughts and experimenting with verbiage... and drumming up courage!

- or it can be plenty loud, full of experimentation and stop/start repetition of phrases we're trying to 'get right'. We tend to focus on technique, but not quite on the 'big picture' of communication. This is an appropriate choice when learning a song or speech, creating and practicing the 'dance of the melody' to commit technique choices to muscle memory. It is something we actually need to do a lot when getting ready for the main event:


Let's define Performance Voice as the sound that delivers the message. It is by that very definition, your external voice. To make the successful transition to this voice, a different goal must be aimed at and hit squarely. The goal of performance voice is not compilation and distillation of thought, word and lyric. It is also not perfection of technique. It is this and only this: to get the specific response you want from the heart to whom you are communicating. It matters more than technique, or even vocal health, though of course if one wishes to be in performance voice for long, technique and health are important.

Here's the thing to remember:
Rehearsal voice in all it's components should be in the service of the voice's true reason for existing... delivering the message with Performance Voice!


If you need to figure out what you're going to say or how you're going to say/sing it, then prematurely going straight to performance voice can get you in trouble these ways:

1. Your voice won't have the confidence or clarity it needs to successfully deliver its message. You may even be confused as to whom you're supposed to be directing your voice. So it won't quite know how to choose the authentic tone, phrasing, volume or articulation necessary to get the desired response.

2. If you try to use Performance Voice power before you're focused on-message and ready, you may end up with vocal strain or damage. That's because when you have the ultimate goal of getting a specific response in mind, it puts your mind, body and voice together to accomplish that goal. In other words, if you have been in rehearsal voice enough, your voice has access to a big box of crayons. Your performance voice then picks from the available options the right colors to paint the sonic picture that successfully delivers the message. I know, it sounds complicated, and it is... because human communication is chock full of subtle nuances!


Ironically, even though Performance Voice is our ultimate mode, we should practice many more times in rehearsal mode than performance. You can indeed practice performance voice... but not but a couple of times in a row, because your automatic nervous system will go 'why are we doing this? we already did it!'. Like the Olympic-level events of athletics, you should actually practice rehearsal voice with more technique and crazier options than you plan to use in performance. That way, your voice KNOWS it can do what it chooses when communicating for real. Sometimes it will even get cocky and do things you didn't even know it could do... but that comes from all that time in rehearsal mode.

Be careful about what I call 'singer/songwriter syndrome'. It's one of the biggest mistakes I see in Nashville songwriter rounds. This is when the singer is unknowingly still using internal voice. Often you can see that the singer feels the song, but not communicating it outwardly. Even a very intimate song, like a movie scene, should be delivered to the intended heart in such a way that the listening audience can understand it.


[for the podcast you'll find my own demonstrations of these differences]

Pick a song you know, and sing it in both voices.
  • Rehearsal voice: Don't use communicative body language. How does that change your sound and delivery?
  • Performance voice: Communicate with your eyes, hands, stance. Hear the difference?
Now try speaking these phrases in rehearsal voice, and then in performance voice. What do you have to do differently to change voices?
  • As keynote speaker at a business seminar, say: "Today I'm going to show you how to successfully get your list from 'to do' to 'done.'
  • As a narrator of an audio book: 'When Jim saw Jane, he totally forgot his grocery list.'
  • As a reporter for a TV news segment: 'the police have the highway and the off-ramps shut down, so if you're driving, you'll want to avoid that area until later this evening; Back to you, Sally.'
  • As a history teacher: OK people, let's talk about how the Middle Ages moved forward to the Renaissance Period.
  • As a voiceover for a documentary: The elephants form a circle to defend their calves against the lion pack. But the lions have cubs to feed, too.
In true performance mode, you may be amazed at what subtle, authentic to the message options your laser beam focus can bring out of your voice! Performance is the Olympic event. Go for the gold, and you'll deliver the magic.

I'd love to help you make this lesson personal. Inquire about an online lesson today!

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  • At May 19, 2020 at 7:12 PM , Anonymous Ron Calabrese said...

    This blog brings back many memories of preparing for various singing responsibilities. I must admit I never realized I was utilizing a rehearsal voice versus a performance voice, but I was. Frequently, I’d experiment at home with the transition through difficult vocal passages, to determine the best way to work through them. One of my bad habits, at least early on, was to allow the vocal position to fall back in my throat when coming down from a very high note to a note in the middle range. My teacher taught me to keep the same position as the high note, and listening to various great tenors, verified that was the “trick.” Being an emotional Italian, singing duets at rehearsal with a soprano and/or a baritone, I can’t say I saved my voice. We had some sopranos at the Chicago Conservatory, who would make you sound mute, if you didn’t put out sufficient sound. But there’s no doubt, a singer will learn much more in practice and rehearsal than can be learned in performance. The performance must be the time to allow the practiced technique to provide the basis of your communication. You never think about your technique when performing, and if you’ve prepared properly, everything works and you enjoy the communication best of all!

    The old singing teachers of the 1800 era would stress exercises before allowing the singer to try a song, something modern students would rail against. This concentration on “rehearsal” was obviously beneficial because singers were not worried about particular notes in their range. They had learned how to hear them in their brain and ALLOW them to happen. The other night I watched Pavarotti sing the great aria, Nessun Dorma, from Turondot, on You Tube. It’s a singing lesson for all tenors or anyone. Pavarotti sings the aria with its high tessitura, strings of high A’s, and a final B natural, without the slightest squint, lifting of shoulders, or tense facial movement. He could have been singing Jingle Bells. Such superlative performances are a product of tireless productive rehearsal, i.e. practice.

    Best Regards to you and yours and stay well.

  • At May 22, 2020 at 4:24 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Wow, Judy, I had never really thought about all the different voices we use: performance, rehearsal, classroom, presenting...Thanks for giving me something to think about and be aware of.

  • At May 23, 2020 at 10:51 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    You got it... so glad you enjoyed the read!


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