Saturday, July 14, 2007

Goodbye, I say Hello

Goodbye...This is the last blogpost I'll be making to this blog. :<

Hello... You are invited to subscribe to my next blog at ! :)

I have mixed emotions... I've learned so much in developing this particular blog, and I've invested so much time in posting to it, I almost hate to leave it! BUT.. it's only because I'm moving to a better second blog, which will be at my new website! By the way, please take a moment to check out the new website and give me your feedback!

I hope you will continue with me by subscribing to my next blog... where I will continue to ply you with free vocal lessons and other "All things vocal" information!

AND... please note that this blog will remain up. You can always refer back to articles that will be archived here, or read posts you haven't read.

I'm so honored that you have joined me in subscribing here. I know your time is limited, that's why I've always tried to write things you really would want to read.

Hope to see ya round my next blog!
Blessings, Judy

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What happens when you don't warm up your voice

I urge every student and recording client I work with to be sure and warm up vocally before performance. That preparation includes:
  • Carefully doing special vocal exercises to warm up the instrument and to find the proper body/voice connection.
  • Singing, at least as long as your upcoming performance, full voice at least 3 and preferably 4 days before your show. (If you are regularly performing and in top shape, you might be able to skip this full voice preparation.)

So, I decided to prove my point by having my own show to do and NOT warming up before it. After all, I do vocal exercises all the time as I teach. And... I was BUSY with deadlines and distractions. Oh, the sacrificial experiments I do for my people!!

The show was at a huge outdoor 4th of July celebration in Decatur, Alabama. I spent the night with my mother who lives in Florence. I started the day, yes, by singing my songs full voice at my mother's piano a couple of times. (Remember, I said to do this BEFORE the day of your show?!...) Then I drove to Studio One Acting School where I taught our Runaway Home (the musical) cast a new acapella arrangement I created for them of "God Bless America". I also rehearsed them on a few songs from the musical that we would be singing at the show. It was great to see them and sing with them again, which we did for a couple of hours!!...

Then we met at the stadium field and rehearsed a little more backstage. Can I say it was HOT, ya'll!!??? I was sweating even before I took to the stage, where I energetically sang a couple of solos and then sang with them. It was a great show, and I felt good about all our performances, but as I left the stage I was talking in a voice that sounded like I'd been breathing helium. I took about 48 hours for my cords to calm down and shrink.

OK, I've turned around. Somebody kick me now. :<

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Question about Power, Path & Performance open throat techniques

Hi everyone... sorry it's been a few days since my last post.

I had a question from a man who bought the 6-cd package of Power, Path & Performance vocal training cds, and I thought I'd share them (and my answers) with you. I always want my vocal training courses on cd to work for you- so your questions and feedback are always welcome!

Timothy Rehagen from O'Fallon, Missouri wrote:

"I have concerns about the open throat and the six-way head stretch. I am definitely stretching out all six areas. But exactly how much should one stretch them? I can't tell if I'm stretching too much. When I do the head stretch comfortably without straining my facial muscles, I sometimes "crack" or hit a break in my voice when I practice vocal slides up and down my range. So, I try to stretch out further. The breaks tend to go away then, but after awhile, I start to feel a little pain in my facial muscles. It seems that I have to overdo it in order to successfully melt my registers into one. I can't tell what I'm doing wrong. This is hard to explain. What do you think could be the problem?"

I reply:

"Sorry you're having trouble, Tim. All I can say without seeing you at personal lesson is that you should be using your facial muscles like you're communicating the words and the emotions of the song. You should feel a sense of stretch all over your body, all through your range, but DON'T OVERSTRETCH ANYTHING! Talk with your hands, and center your weight on the strong bones of the pelvis and upper legs. This should help take excess effort out of your face. Also... try singing with your heels and head at the wall, staying flexible, tall and animated. When you bring your head back to "pull" your words from the vocal path I teach, pull your head slightly to the side with your chin flexible and level.

Sometimes there are sneaky things you're doing of which you are unaware. You must co-ordinate correct breathing and correct articulation (performance communication) in order to keep your throat open so your voice doesn't break. If you're trying too hard to do the right thing, thinking too much, you sometimes get very stiff. This lack of flexibility can definately cause your voice to break. To help you in your discovery, it would be very good for you to visit and study the vocal technique subjects I discuss in my blog. You should then understand your cds at ever deeper levels as you listen to them and learn the exercises.

Your posture should be tall, flexible, alert & open when you sing or talk, no matter what.
When you truly communicate, you shouldn't have to be thinking about the 6-way inside head stretch. It should become habit to stay open. You can't perform while concentrating on technique. Practice vocal exercises to gain correct habits, then just get real within the song and communicate.

I hope this helps! And again, to all of my readers and purchasers of Power, Path & Performance vocal training cds ...please send your questions my way and I'll be glad to try and solve your vocal mysteries. This helps me as a teacher, makes my training more valuable, and we can share the information with others on this blog!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Music career info, news

Hi everyone...

Here is a very interesting website if you are looking into music careers:

I left a comment after one of the articles on Internet radio residuals. I think Internet radio should pay something for the rights to play people's music, but people can get too greedy. There's got to be a balance! They also bring up the web-neutral concept (not allowing people to buy webpage ranking.) I think it's important to keep the web as independent as possible; keep the playing field level and allowing small business (including indie music) to effectively compete against the majors.

There's all kinds of other useful information on this site... check the sidebars for titles of articles.

If you have sources of info you'd like to share with the community here, please leave a comment on any post. I feel very strongly that it is important to share our journeys with each other. Not just a touchy-feely sentiment, I know from experience that no one makes it alone and sharing successes and setbacks makes the struggles worthwhile.

As for me... I'm busy in the studio this summer with students and clients working on new projects. The latest one was my 15 year old Mississippi girl Jordyn Mallory. We put some awesome vocals on her unusually seasoned voice (for such a puppy). She's got a major Nashville music attorney interested in her. It's only a matter of time.

I'm also working on the big revision of our play "Runaway Home". New script, new songs... and there are some fantastic plans for it. I'll tell ya when it's time...

Happy father's day for all you singing dads out there. I'm going to Mississippi to be with mine. He wants me to play piano and sing the soprano version of "The Lord's Prayer" in his little country church. I told him I will, but that it will undermine all my country credentials :) He said a little high brow was good for them! Coming from my dad, a traditional bluegrass mandolin player, I had to smile. Wish me luck, that sucker gets high and I've never been much of a morning person. You can bet I'll be using PPP techniques!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Singers' Gadgets & Gear

Hey guys & girls... I want to talk about gadgets. Singers' gadgets, that is. Here's my new favorite purchase- it's a dynamite little device that I use almost every day:
  • Sony ICD-SX25 Digital Voice Recorder

I got mine on Amazon for $99... I think it was on sale. It was suggested by my blogging mentors, "The Blog Squad" at They use it to record teleseminars. I use it to create cds!

  • I record a voice lesson or song demo,
  • upload it with the software it comes with,
  • and save it as a .wav file on my desktop.
  • Then I open my Nero Burning program, add this wav file and burn a really clear and amazingly good quality cd!

Its only downside... it won't save the file as an mp3. For this, I use a cheap software called "Mp3 Wav Editor 2.30". I add the wav file from my desktop and convert it to an mp3 file, which can be emailed easily or added to an mp3 player. You might want to look for a newer digital recorder which DOES have the capability to save in mp3 format.

And by the way... you don't have to spend a fortune on an mp3 player. I-pod, schmy-pod... there's a 1G Sansa mp3 player for under $80 at Radio Shack.

OK... please share... what's your favorite gear these days??? It doesn't have to be electric... anything useful for your music will do...Click "comment" below and let us know!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

recording your vocals... how much should it cost?

I have had a lot of fun in the studio lately- I did some vocal production with new artists Catherine Hagen, Memphis Cole & Darby Haas at Ronny Light's little house studio. They were just doing piano or guitar demos, not full track productions, but they all were happy they hired a vocal producer. (And that made ME happy!) The studio can be a strange, disconnected and uncomfortable place to sing, even for people very confident in live performance. They each actually gained a lot of knowledge about studio singing, and gained new vocal opposed to trial and error without any guidance. They also ended up with recordings of their voices that they'll feel confident letting people hear.

When you're considering how much money you want to spend on your studio project, ask yourself:
  • Are you really vocally ready for a master ready-to-sell project?

If not, consider saving your big bucks till later and do your own "artist development" homework...

  • Get some vocal training
  • Buy some cheap gear and experiment recording yourself. When you feel pretty good about your level of ability...
  • Get a simple guitar or piano track made (or get ready-made tracks if you can find what you want).
  • Schedule recording your vocals with a professional who can help jump-start your learning process. Your engineer may be able to help, but make sure he does knows how to direct you.

Another way I recommend highly for getting your project done is this:

  • Pick your producer
  • Write and/or find your songs (your producer should help a lot with this process)
  • Do some pre-production to find your best keys and tempos for each song
  • Get the tracks recorded while doing "scratch vocals" so you're SURE of the tempos and keys.
  • IMPORTANT... don't immediately go sing your master vocals. Wait at least three weeks and work with your tracks (preferably with a good vocal coach). Even though you know your songs, they will feel differently when you sing with your new tracks. Your voice needs to learn the "dance".
  • When you're confident, schedule your master vocal recording dates (preferably with a good vocal producer)

And note that your vocal producer CAN be different from your track producer. Many producers use specialists such as vocal producers as part of the team.

Final note... I know recording can be expensive but how much would you spend on a college education? If you have the right team with you, there will be no regrets. Don't waste your money. My advice is to know what you expect the end results to be and get the size production, and the right team, to make that happen.

I'm happy to answer your questions about recording. Just click on "comments" below or email me:

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Vocal Performance techniques of Power, Path & Performance and the Alexander Technique

OK people, here is the last post in my three part series discussing techniques of "Power, Path & Performance" and the "Alexander Technique".

This one will deal with "Performance", which I teach as "Communication".

Once again, I would like you to open this link to Ron Murdock's amazing article: . This time, begin reading at the top and stop when you come to the paragraph beginning with "What, then, is this vast vocal organ?".

Ron titles his article "Born To Sing" because he believes (and I agree) that anyone can learn to sing- even if you seem to be pitch-deaf. After working with what Ron calls "Tonematching Exercises" and I call "Aiming Practice", I have yet to have anyone come to me who can't learn to sing in tune. If you can talk, you can sing. Your speaking voice will be improved, too, and I soooo enjoy watching (and hearing) the blooming process.

I am always telling my students that singing is like and Olympic event. Like great athletes, singers use every inch of their physical beings. Ron quotes his mentors: In the introduction to their book called, Singing: The Physical Nature of the Vocal Organ, by Professor Frederick Husler and Yvonne Rodd-Marling, Rodd-Marling says, "Singing is a highly physical happening, a unique form of communication produced by muscle-movements set in motion by a fundamentally emotive desire to express beauty."

In Power, Path & Performance I teach the synergy of breath, open throat and communication. When we really communicate, we operate our physical bodies in a different way than when we are NOT really communicating (when our minds are occupied with non-communicative thoughts). This total commitment to giving a message to someone causes our breath to work better and our throats to be more open. It can also cure stage fright.

I agree when Ron says, "It is this exaggerated level of communication of feeling that actually sets in motion and coordinates the vast, complex muscle structures of the singing instrument. This puts a very great physical demand on a professional singer---as great a demand as that of any top athlete."

However, there is a caution: Just like a great acting, great singing will involve RE-EXPERIENCING emotion, not faking it. Don't be surprised if going deep brings tears to your own eyes until you learn to be comfortable being that exposed.

My students hear me say this a lot: Real singing is not for the squeamish! I think Ron would agree.

You might want to try out Ron's great performance awareness exercise. Read where he begins "Sing a song. Any song you know well..."

Also, I totally agree with Ron that we must not put technical singing before emotional singing. Voice teacher Jeffrey Allen says the Italians take their technique on stage with them in their little finger.

Get it?? hehehe

Next time you have a song to communicate, Go For It. I bet you'll breath better for it, and your throat will be more open, too.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Throat opening techniques of Power, Path & Performance and Alexander Technique

Hi everybody... sorry it's been a week since my last post; I've been busy with a showcase on the Yantz sisters, studio background and vocal production work and bunches of voice lessons, as well as new musical revisions to the play "Runaway Home". Lots of news to come... but meanwhile...

This post, the second in a series, will relate vocal technique of the "Alexander Technique" to that of my method "Power, Path & Performance" on the subject of how to keep an open (not tight) throat. I am deeply indebted to Ron Murdock, who has kindly contacted me and furthered my understanding of his article and the Alexander Technique. I have edited my first post based on his communication; you might want to re-read it.

First question to ponder: Why do you need an open throat? Well, among other things-

  • To keep from straining or damaging your voice
  • To get rich, beautiful resonance
  • For pitch control
  • To raise lower and upper limits on your range
  • To eliminate vocal breaks
  • So you can concentrate on communicating, not on hard notes!
Now that I've got your attention...

Please click the link to Ron Murdock's wonderful article at Scroll down about 1/5 of the way and begin reading at the paragraph that begins "What, then, is this vast vocal organ?, just before Fig. 1. Continue reading until you come to the paragraph beginning with the words "The breathing organ makes up the other half of the singing instrument."

Now focus on illustration (Fig) 2. Wow!! Do you see all the things that are connected to your vocal aparatus? Let's list them-

  • The top of the chest
  • The tongue (hyoid) bone
  • The jaw (via the tongue)
  • The soft palate
  • The head
  • The gullet (esophagus)
  • The shoulder

Allow me to quote Ron Murdock: "All these muscles form what Husler and Rodd-Marling called an "elastic scaffolding" or suspensory mechanism around the larynx."

This illustration clearly shows how important it is to balance the stretch connecting the vocal aparatus in all directions.

In "Power, Path & Performance", I use the imagery of a hook-shaped vocal "Path" suggested by voice teacher Jeffrey Allen, which I've found to be an incredibly effective way to get the anatomy working right. The way I teach this path is to get a vocalist to PULL words and sound from a path which begins in the pelvic floor, continues to a point above and behind the head (i.e. the balcony), and then finishes by using the word to pull the sound toward the audience. OK- here's a practical application- imagine you are a hip-hop artist (if you are one, you don't have to imagine:) Use a silly sarcastic attitude and say "Yo, sucker" or "Yeah, right!" That's the feeling of pulling your voice. It's tall, flexible, confident, fearless, powerful and strain-free.

Here are some habits you need to keep your throat open:
  • Pull, don't push, your words out
  • Stand or sit tall and flexible (yeah, that helps with breath, too!)
  • Flexibly balance your head on your top vertibrae
  • Don't lean your head forward or stiffly back!! (For help, try singing with your head against a wall)
  • Keep jaw loose; use a slight sideways chewing motion if your throat starts to get tight- expecially on "e" and "oo" words
  • Relax the base of your tongue
  • Keep your chin flexibly level - not lifted or dropped
  • Form consonants in the front of your mouth, vowels in back
  • Use the feeling of the inner smile
  • Let your soft palate "fall up" instead of trying to make it lift to forcefully

Note: One caution I'd like to reinforce is this: Don't try to make your head go straight back. Move it a bit to the side instead. If you do it right, it should actually cause your ribcage to open. Which helps with the breath, of course! Notice how the Power and Path connect for optimal vocal use...Cool beans!

Look for the next post in this series... it will be relate Alexander Technique to PPP on Performance. Alexander was an actor, so this will be good. Again, my thanks to Ron Murdock for his excellent article and his thoughts on these posts. And as always, your comments and questions are welcome!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Breath Techniques of Power, Path &Performance and Alexander method for singing

OK... are you ready for some serious vocal technique study?

Vocal technique methods, if correct, should lead a singer to the same optimal operation of the voice. The imagery may be different, but the anatomy is the same.

In the next few posts, I would like to discuss Power, Path and Performance vocal training method techniques in relationship to the "Alexander Technique", which is a tremendously important study of connecting the body and mind to the voice. I am going to give you a link to a very informative article from teacher Ron Murdock on the Alexander Technique which I encourage you to read as you ponder the following techniques I teach in "PPP". This post will concern "Power"... of the breath. .

Please click the following link: and scroll about 1/3 of the way down. Begin reading where the paragraph begins "The breathing organ makes up the other half of the singing instrument..."

When you've read the paragraphs concerning the breathing apparatus, please focus on Illustration (Fig) 15.
Notice the intricate scaffolding connecting and suspending the diaphragm to the bottom of the ribcage... AND to everything from the neck to the lumbar spine. Looking at this, we can see how important it is to be flexibly tall, not allowing the chest to collapse inwards. Support and control of breath truly is dependant on balancing the weight of the body on the strong leg bones, lumbar spine and pelvic bone (which I refer to as the "Power of the pelvic floor"). The importance of lengthening the muscles between the neck and pelvic bones, The importance of freeing the head upon the neck are also clear from the illustrations. This information also shows why it is important to:
  • Stand or sit tall (like you do with your back to a wall)
  • Stand or sit flexibly (as when you dance or feel the groove)
  • Don't stiffen legs, ribcage or neck
  • Think of the diaphragm as a space invader and stay the heck out of it's way. Allow the diaphragm to have a wide, flexibly suspended area at the bottom of the ribcage and let it support and control the breath naturally with no conscious manipulation. (also ... see note below)
  • Correct, tall and open (not slouched) posture, weight balanced at the tailbone, allows for the correct sense of power coming from the pelvic floor.
  • A silent, deep and wide (but not huge) breath which you let "fall in" instead of trying to "suck in", allows the correct inhale. Open nose mouth and torso and air will rush in to fill the vacuum created in the chest.

One note of difference: In my personal and teaching experience, I have found it universally better to inhale through both nose AND mouth... not just the nose. Most people tend to suck air in too high when trying to get air in only through the nasal passages. There are times when a person needs to focus on the nose, especially if sinuses feel stuffy, but it is imperitive to ALLOW BREATH TO FALL IN instead of sucking it in. Notice that Ron Murdock also mentions this in his article.

I have found that if you pay attention to just one small area in the upper spine, about an inch below the shoulder blades, you can cause the chest to open and the diaphragm to have the correct "tonus". Put your hand behind your back and press this area forward. You should notice an automatic inhale, caused by the opening of the chest. Keep this point flexible and forward (as it would be with you standing against a wall) when you sing, and the chest will not collapse. You must be careful not to allow your lower back to become "sway-back" when doing this... the lumbar spine should stay steady, tailbone tucked a bit inward. Flexible knees should make this happen. This is why feeling the groove in your spine and legs is so important.

Another issue this article doesn't address (though I've received a comment from Ron and he agrees) is the importance of having "life" in your arms and hands, to keep them from causing the chest to collapse, as I discussed in a recent post.

My next post will compare my "path to the open throat" to the Alexander technique. Your thoughts, as always, are most welcome. Is this post interesting to you? Do you undertand it? lemme know by clicking "comment".

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Recording "Studio Hands"

I just got back from 3ABN studio in West Frankfort, Illinois. I had the pleasure of working with the awesome husband and wife team Reggie and Ladye Love Smith. During the sessions, I shared a quick vocal technique with them that really made a difference in our singing- and we all needed it- me as well. I call it "studio hands". If this was helpful to such great seasoned singers as Reggie and Ladye, it can work for ANYONE.

What is the technique I call "studio hands"? (I was hoping you'd ask :)

It is simply using your hands in a way that causes the bottom of your ribcage to stay flexibly expanded. This gives your diaphragm the ability to stay taut and to control your air pressure. You see it in great singing of all genres- classical to hip hop. There are many ways to do it, and I recommend trying them all to see what works best for you.

For vocal control, for high or low notes, for sustains (holding notes out), for more volume, for subtle licks, etc... (For just about any vocal chore you'd like to accomplish):
  • Clasp your hands together, classical style, at the bottom of your ribcage. Press your hands into each other for vocal power and control.
  • Alternately, Lace your fingers together in front of your ribcage. As you "go for" a difficult note, press your fingers into each other. If you're doing this correctly, you'll notice your ribcage just got wider, your butt & abs tightened.
  • Or, try touching your fingertips together, again in front of your ribcage. Press your fingertips into each other as you sing.
  • Another way: Squeeze your fists to expand your ribcage. Caution: don't squeeze your ribcage when you squeeze your fists. Keep the squeeze only in your hands. Your ribs should go OUT, not IN!
  • Or, try "talking" actively with your hands. Sometimes this is all you need.

What to avoid:

  • Don't hand your hands and arms stiffly at your sides. Your arms can easily become "rib anchors", causing your ribs to tighten. This will truly screw up your vocal control. If you leave your hands and arms at your sides, be sure there is "life" in the muscles, making them feel weightless.
  • Don't press your hands into each other at hip level. This can cause the opposite of what you want... it can make your ribcage tighten. Make sure they are at chest level.

We talk with our hands. Why on earth do we make ourselves sing without them??????? Next time you record something... try using some "studio hands"! Let me know how it comes out... and by the way, Reggie and Ladye have an incredible new Christian music project. I will let you know where to find them when their new website gets up and running.