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, February 9, 2021

3 Signs Your Vocal Technique Needs Help

What's your sign?
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To make good music, you need more than a well-made instrument; you actually need to operate it well. Otherwise, we could all pick up a Stradivarius violin and begin to bow like Itzhak Perlman! So it is with the voice. Sometimes your technique is naturally good; sometimes it could be a lot better with some tweaking. How do you know if you're using good vocal technique? When singing and/or speaking, check for these three signs:

Sign #1: Your voice doesn't feel good

Many people think that it's normal and inevitable for the voice to feel tired or strained after using it a lot. Well, I've come to firmly believe that is not true. In fact, one of my favorite things to do in lessons is to have a student come in with a voice that is feeling strained, and watch their reaction when their vocal strain disappears with a change of technique. 

If you use healthy technique, strong singing and loud speaking can be a kind of magic trick. This is how even rock and classical singers can have career longevity... they do what they do without trashing their vocal folds. The only exception to the rule that you should use healthy technique is if you're a voiceover artist who needs to create an abusive sound. In that case, it's even more important to learn healthy warm-up and cool-down vocal exercises. And make sure your technique is perfect when doing those exercises!

How to tweak technique for vocal health:

  • Stop pushing too much breath... learn to pull your voice out for vocal strength!
  • Learn to do vocal exercises with proper form to change bad habits into protective vocal technique.
  • Make sure your overall health is good, because your voice is part of your body and mind. Signup for my 5 page document with vocal health tips
  • Consider having diluted pineapple drink to sip on when you are using your voice a lot.

Sign #2: Your voice doesn't sound good

Many singers and speakers think their voices are just naturally the wrong shape or size to sound good. In truth, the size and shape of your larynx and your resonating spaces and surfaces ARE important to how you can sound, but like the brain, most people don't know how to access what they've got! You can change bad tone to amazing degrees by accessing your resonance spaces differently. 

As a session singer singing background vocals on other artists' recordings, I've had to learn to thin, thicken, brighten and darken my tone, speed or slow my vibrato, match foreign language dialect, and sing smoothly around and over my natural vocal passagio area in order to blend my voice with others or 'step out' on a line as the producer desired. Voiceover artists have to take on all kinds of different vocal tones. We humans can make an amazing array of sounds!

How to tweak technique for vocal sound:

  • Stretch your throat channel or 'voice cave' up, down and back when warming up. Lift your eyebrows, drop & circle your jaw, move your head back over your heels or tailbone and do some crazy berserk bird or karate-kiya yell exercises.
  • To access more resonance, use more facial language when singing or speaking. Especially activate your eyes and move your jaw.
  • Change your posture. Balance your head farther back on your spine than usual to allow the vibration from your vocal cords a wider channel through which to reach various resonating spaces. Learn how you can use your hands to make this happen.
  • Try miming a voice that you think 'sounds good'. Often, just intending that sound can tell your vocal apparatus what it needs to do to get it. After all, that's how you learned to sound like your family, for better or worse!

Sign #3: Your voice doesn't communicate well

The only reason that voice box is in your throat is to deliver messages. If you want to create a 'good vocal sound', remember that the real measure of success for the voice is whether or not it gets the response it wants from the heart to whom it's communicating! 

How to tweak technique for better communication:

  • After warming up and practicing technical aspects of the song or speech, go into what I call 'lights, camera, action mode'. Use acting technique: What is your message? To whom are you communicating? What would the response be if you got your message through?
  • Use your imagination to focus on your intended listener and to eliminate distracting stimuli that your senses may be bombarded with.
  • In the recording studio, make sure only you and your intended listener are present in the vocal booth. Don't sing to the producer or the pop filter! 
  • Use more communicative articulation: practice singing or speaking as if your intended target is partially or selectively deaf.

How it Feels + How it Sounds + What it Accomplishes = Vocal Synergy!

To be in best voice for singing or speaking, you need your voice to feel good, sound good, and communicate well. These three things affect each other synergistically. When your voice feels bad, it generally sounds bad and your communication will be distracted, producing a weak connection. When your voice feels good, it opens up to more resonation and more interesting sound, and you can much more effectively make somebody hear and respond to you! 

Need help? 

Get some vocal training! I'm available for online lessons these days; just contact me at this link to book. My lesson rate is $125 an hour or $65 for 1/2 hr. Or purchase a packaged course on my website. No matter what your budget or time constraints, where there is a will, there is a way to get all these signs pointing in the right direction!  

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  • At February 11, 2021 at 3:10 PM , Anonymous Ron Calabrese said...

    Hi Judy. Every time you provide a blog covering technique I’m reminded of the problems I had when I first started singing lessons. So many singers don’t understand why their voice is working well one day and seems a confused mess the next. Unlike other musical instruments, a myriad of factors effect the vocal emission, including both physical and emotional variables. Woe is the tenor who has good natural high notes, but has no clue how he produces them. The first time he cracks on one, the next one brings a debilitating sense of terror. I know first hand, having produced some “ruptured ducks,” before learning why, from a good teacher.
    None of your young students should ever be embarrassed by missing an attack, cracking, producing an unclear note. It happened to every famous soprano, tenor, or baritone in history. The legendary Enrico Caruso was a notorious “note cracker” early in his career, chronicled in all the books about him. Beverly Sills in an interview said she never worried about missing a note here and there, as long as she “communicated the music.”
    Personally, my voice improved the most when I gave into my teacher’s advice to “never sing louder than beautiful.” He wanted me to produce perfectly clear vowels, with no clutter. It’s easier said than done, but if you concentrate on clear uncluttered vowels, miraculously you pass through the passagio without an abrupt change in vocal position. To this day, that’s how I vocalize and it works, even at age 76!
    Your students are certainly blessed to have a teacher who has sung in various styles and has experienced all the vocal sensations, some of which are impossible to communicate, without real experience!

  • At February 11, 2021 at 3:43 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Ron I truly love hearing how you see this; your excellent experience training and singing classically gives you a unique vantage point to look at my posts for contemporary vocalists; I am really thrilled you enjoy them! Thanks again for the kind comment.

  • At March 23, 2021 at 3:08 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Just, Your 3 steps to a better voice was a great read. I still fight too much postnasal drip I'm drinking more water now. Coffee was killing my voice
    I do a radio show and have for 40 years. Thanks Judy

  • At March 23, 2021 at 5:06 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    So happy you enjoyed the read! As to postnasal drip... you might look at this post https://blog.judyrodman.com/2013/07/how-to-get-mucous-off-vocal-cords.html

  • At August 20, 2022 at 10:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Great insight Judy! Firewater...!


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