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 http://www.judyrodman.com/blog.htm ! :)

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 place...my second blog, which will be at my new website! By the way, please take a moment to check out the new website www.judyrodman.com 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, July 3, 2007

Jordyn Mallory wins another contest

I always caution everyone to take contests with a grain of salt... however, it doesn't mean we can't celebrate when someone wins something! Jordyn Mallory has won another preliminary contest for the Colgate Country Showdown.

The press at http://www.breezynews.com/cgi-bin/weather/hamweather.cgi reports:

"Griffis Motors of Philadelphia and the Pearl River Resort presented the 26th Annual Colgate Country Showdown Finals Saturday night at the Beach Club at Clearwater Key. Jordan Mallory of Houlka was the judge’s favorite as she was picked the winner from nine area statewide singers. Mallory will head to the Mississippi State competition in October at the Mississippi State Fair where she will represent Kicks98. Congratulations to Jordan Mallory and the contestants in this year’s Colgate Country Showdown."

Rumor has it that she thought about singing with a famous entertainer who loves mandolin riffs to gather the passion for her performance! hehehehe... - hey whatever works!!

Congrats Indeed! (but remember how wonderful an artist and songwriter you are no matter how the next level contest goes, dear Jordyn!)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Don't Sing From Your Diaphragm!

...at least not consciously.

You hear this phrase a lot in vocal lesson circles... "Sing from your diaphragm." The problem is, what the heck does that mean??? The diaphragm is located at and connected to the bottom of your ribcage. It does have other connections in the upper and lower spine, as well as the clavicle. But how do you sing from it???

OK, lets imagine you have this horse you want to ride. You somehow communicate to the horse something you've heard... that it must run from it's hamstrings. So the ever obedient horse starts to think about and focus effort on it's hamstrings instead of just letting them work, as they naturally will if the horse stretches itself out to run.

What's likely to happen in this situation is that the horse will over-concentrate on its hamstrings, over-tensing them, and the horse will become un-coordinated and use much more effort to accomplish less... oh, and it will have totally forgotten where it is supposed to be going.

How does this apply to the voice? Well, the diaphragm is, indeed, the major organ of breathing. What people mean by the phrase "Sing from your diaphragm" is that you shouldn't breathe by raising and lowering your shoulders. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but that's pretty much it, as I understand it.

But in my experience, focusing on the diaphragm can cause a squeezing there, which is totally horrible for breath control. It causes a person's body-voice connection to become uncoordinated, and it takes away the mental focus necessary for true communicative performance.

Instead, I have found it's best to:
  • stretch out your ribcage by "feeling tall", lengthening and flexing your spine (upon which the ribcage hinges),
  • apply squeeze to your tailbone area (PPP method calls this the power of the pelvic floor)
  • use the imagery of pulling your voice from a spot above and behind your head, causing your top vertebrae to move back slightly, which opens both the diaphragm and the throat

... and this will give your diaphragm have all the space it needs to do it's thing: relaxing & contracting, moving up and down in the chest - which moves and holds back air. It's movements will be directed by the automatic nervous system once you've decided to aim a particular sound in a particular direction.

So to summarize, I say... Don't sing from your diaphragm. Get tall, balance your head on your spine and Sing From Your Butt! Then your diaphragm will do the right thing automatically, and your horse (er... your voice, which won't get hoarse) will be so happy!

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!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Music career opportunities, PPP client news

Want more work???

Here is an awesome service for musicians and singers looking for employment opportunities. You can sign up for FREE!! at http://www.rickryan.com/musicianreferral .

Here is a blurb describing it: "TheReferralList.com is a web-based Musician Referral Service, Online Recording/Collaboration site, and networking for musicians, engineers, producers, artists, and other music industry people that work professionally within the music industry." It now includes a "For Sale" section. I highly recommend it.

I take contests and TV shows with a grain of salt (hey even the award shows have their share of, shall we say, negotiated wins and losses). But having said that, in the spirit of community, I also want to encourage the sharing of good news among you all. Sooooo...

Here's some Power, Path &Performance client news:

Jordyn Mallory just won the Colgate Country Showcase preliminary in "Geyser Falls" venue, which is located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She will head for the second round competition soon.

Elizabeth Runde, placed in the Carthage Tennessee Colgate Country Showcase, and is set to try out for another contest at Loretta Lynn's ranch.

Gretta Ferguson just finished performing the role of "Mazie LaBird" in "Seussical The Musical", production at Florence High School, Alabama. She previously played the part of "Gracie" in the first workshop run of "Runaway Home, The Musical" and has now been cast in "Beauty And The Beast". She's received rave reviews for all performances, both for her singing and her acting.

Jenni Schaefer is speaking and singing June 21st – 24th, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Ben Franklin Institute-Summit for Clinical Excellence1st Annual Eating Disorder Conference (for mental health care professionals). For more information, log onto http://www.bfisummit.com/

There are labels looking at and talking to several of my students concerning record contracts; I'll share news as it's confirmed.

Oh... and be sure I know what's up with YOU that I can share with the blogosphere! Email me your news at judyrodman@comcast.net or call me at 615-834-4747.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Music career info, news

Hi everyone...

Here is a very interesting website if you are looking into music careers: http://musicians.about.com/.

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 http://www.buildabetterblog.com/. 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 ability...as 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: judyrodman@comcast.net

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: http://www.cursa-ur.com/articles/BornToSing.htm . 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.