Sunday, December 31, 2006

Help for Singers with Tight Throats

Have you had problems ever feeling tight or strained in your throat after singing? Did you know that you can sing almost as loud and long, as high or low as you want without ever having your throat feel pain or fatigue?

First, let's define "the throat": Let's call it the top back of your nasal membrane where the Eustation tubes open, the back of your mouth and the top of your trachea. Trace it by doing this little exercise which I call the 6-way inside stretch:

Expand these areas as you read the words:
  • Nose
  • Eyes
  • Jaw (drop open)
  • Ears
  • Scalp (about where a baseball cap would cover)

If you are doing this, it will probably make you want to yawn.

Now try pulling a word... grab the word by your upper teeth and say it in such a way that the 6-way inside stretch occurs.

Try this slowly speaking (pulling) the words "

Now try doing it faster.

Now try singing it this way. Sing faster. Now that you're laughing... know that you don't exactly have to be this crazy on stage or with friends... BUT... Do try to retain a bit of this animation and try singing it for real.

Does your throat feel more open? Let me know...

For training materials, try my "Power, Path & Performance" cds

I have recently created a single cd condensed me via

Friday, December 29, 2006

Studio Tips from David Pell

Judy would like to thank David Pell for guest posting these studio tips. You can find David on the internet at Now here's David's post:

"So let's make some history today".

Twenty years from now or the day the recording session is completed that recording and performance will be the same. Every session is history. This should motivate not discourage.
You really can't explain to the producer and or recording engineer what you like or dislike unless you have some understanding of the recording process.

I've always recommended that singers invest in themselves not only in vocal lessons but learning the studio since it is an extension of their art.
  • Take a recording class.
  • Read liner notes on the LP,s, CD,s, magazines that describe what microphone, mic pre-amp, recording console etc. were used for that artist. That combination in conjunction with your voice makes a performance average and or special for the yourself as well as the listener / fan.
  • Go and book some time in a studio that has a good microphone collection. Sing the same verse, lyric melody into every mic the studio has. Yes, this is expensive and boring but you will truly hear the difference from microphone to microphone. The expense is well worth it since you'll learn a lot about microphones and studio session time plus a networking opportunity. Who knows who might be in the studio that day.
  • Judy can recommend the best way to chose a verse and or melody to best represent your vocal range for this testing. Make notes of which microphone made you sound good, great or bad. Make notes on what microphone pre-amp, EQ, compressor / limiter they used as well.
  • Regardless if the studio is recording into a DAW or to tape, what you sing into before the recording device makes a difference. Many artist will go out and purchase this equipment and travel with it from studio to studio. Always trying new stuff along the way. I hear the same thing from all artist when they are in the studio for the first time. "Boy, that microphone hears everything"

Other helpful hints:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that is not to tight. cotton is always a good choice. When you move as you are performing your clothes move as well and ruins many a take. You'll find yourself disrobing to lower your acoustic nonmusical noise. This can be a good or bad thing for the recording staff. (Judy agrees enthusiastically!)
  • Jewelry rattles so take it off.
  • Please let the recording engineer know how you hear the track / band and your voice in the headphones. If your voice is to loud, you'll sing too soft and thin. If your voice is mixed way-back in the headphones, you'll sing too loud and you lose the magic of your voice, plus blow it out which in turn cuts the recording day short.
  • P-Pops are bad: Big rush of air before your voice comes out resulting in a big ugly bump or thumping sound on the recording. Consult with Judy on how to correct. (Check future posts for solutions, Judy says)

There is much more to this process and of course it is all subjective. That's a good thing because recording is an art form in its own right. Remember it needs to sound good before it hits the microphone. Don't trust "Fix it when you start mixing." In most cases it can't be fixed in the mixing process if it wasn't there to begin with.

Hope this helps you get a start on better understanding of the recording process.
Go out and make some history! -dp

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Resolutions for the Best Voice You Never Had!

Ok, why not harness the power of the New Year's Resolution to give you the best voice you never had?

FACT: your body/mind/voice are all connected. THEREFORE: if you'd like to be able to take your voice to another level this year, here are some choices, if you follow through, that will really help you gain significant vocal ground:

1. Take better care of your body-

  • DRINK MORE PURE WATER- Half your weight in ounces is a good goal. To limit toxic pcbs, buy one of those thick, ridged, quality bottles to carry with you and don't re-use those thin plastic pre-filled ones.
  • EAT NUTRIENT-RICH FOODS YOU CAN ACTUALLY DIGEST Read books and search internet on nutrition. Schedule an appt to get tested for YOUR optimum diet with a doctor of naturapathy or other trustworthy holistic practitioner (ask around for recommendations).
  • ESTABLISH AN EXERCISE ROUTINE Join a gym, hire a trainer. Buy some inexpensive equipment and a good work-out video. Walk/run regularly with a buddy.
  • GET MORE SLEEP- Find a wind-down routine that you can habituate. Make yourself get 8-9 hrs sleep almost every night, remembering one hour sleep before midnight equals 2 hrs after midnight. Schedule a doctor's visit to deal with insomnia issues and rule out or deal with sleep apnea. Consider a new pillow or a new bed!
  • GET OUTSIDE- Unless you have seriously limiting allergies, (the rest of this list should help with those) turn off your computer & TV - get out in the fresh air and sunshine, there's no substitute for this.
  • GET A CHECKUP- Besides medical docs, try a naturapath, chiropractor, masseuse, accupuncturist, etc. Amazing what may clear up- and your voice will benefit from it all.
  • GET HELP FOR ADDICTIONS- Whether it be food, anorexia, smoking, alchohol, drugs, overwork, pornography, or anything else, admit when it's too big to handle by yourself. Your voice, along with your body, will reward you, I promise and it's NEVER TOO LATE OR HOPELESS! You'll have a lot better songs to sing, too. If you are a family member of an addict, try ALANON meetings. And furthermore...

2. Take better care of your mind

  • LEARN SOME NEW MUSIC- sing something you've never tried before. Take a course in music history, business, or other interest. Explore new cds or dvds by other artists. Analyze why you like or dislike what you hear in their melody, groove, lyrics, production, and vocal performance. Find a new outlet for your creativity... painting, clay sculpting, acting, etc.
  • TAKE TIME FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH- A closer connection with the Creator of your voice can do more for your singing than any other suggestion I could make- and you're heart will be singing better songs, too!
  • CREATE - your own songs, stories, poems, movie scripts... even just journalling will inform your voice for performance.
  • TAKE ACTING LESSONS- truly incredible help for vocal performance. Try out for a part in a play, TV show, movie or commercial. Even auditions help you learn to communicate and perform authentically.

3. Take better care of your voice -

  • TAKE VOCAL LESSONS- Find a good teacher who can assess your strengths and weaknesses and quickly help you make improvements and vocal goals for yourself. (For help choosing a teacher, see my earlier post).
  • BUY GOOD VOCAL TRAINING MATERIALS- There's no substitute for one-on-one teaching, but there are products out there than can really make differences in your technique. I have 6-cd package available at and a new single-cd training course you can purchase by calling 615-834-4747.
  • ATTEND A VOCAL SEMINAR- Check out the credentials of the speaker, then go and participate!
  • ASK QUESTIONS ON THIS BLOG- Put them in the "comments" link on my posts and I'll try to answer your queries!
  • RECORD YOUR VOICE- In my experience, there's no substitute for recording in the studio. You learn so much every time you go in, but even the first one should find you pleased. There are all kinds of projects in all kinds of price ranges- everything from a piano or guitar vocal demo to full tracks master ready for sale. Research reputable producers and studios so you don't fall for any scams.
  • CONTACT ME via email,, phone 615-834-4747, or website for more info & to schedule lessons or recording productions with me.

AND one more thing... have a safe, warm and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A voice to love in hip-hop

Mat Kearney began lessons with me a few years ago as a Christian rapper/songwriter. He learned to find his full, natural voice and last year became a monster hit maker- amazingly signing to major labels in Christian and pop music, simultaneously. His first single, "Undeniable", shot out of the box as the most-added single in the history of Christian Hit Radio (CHR).

He is now also shining in the mainstream secular field. Artists he's toured with include John Mayer and Cheryl Crow. He is EVERYWHERE in the media... check it out on his website

If you want to buy a positive, urban-real, extremely intellegent cd in the hip/hop and alternative rock genre with GREAT MESSAGES, get Mat's breakout cd titled"Bullet", or his new cd "Nothing Left To Lose" They would make a great last minute stocking stuffers, too!

By the way, if you are a hip-hop artist, please know that you will help yourself by singing with the same body language with which you rap. This encourages confidence, staying loose, tall, and communicative.

Oh, and may God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas season with happy memories and great music!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Studio Singing Techniques: Body Language

Ever have trouble getting your vocals as good in the studio as you do in live performance? How you stand at the mic in the studio makes all the difference in the world.

If your hands hang limply at your sides, your face frozen in a zombie stare, your voice doesn't know what to do. If you were speaking or singing to the one to whom the lyrics of the song is directed, you would probably use a much different body language- the LANGUAGE OF COMMUNICATION! You would probably make facial expressions, use your hands, even your legs and spine would move with the groove. Technically, this tells your voice what to do in three areas: breath (your arms are connected to your spine, your spine works your ribcage), tone (moving your face and eyes make differences in your vocal resonators), and real-ness of your vocal performance. Heck, it gets YOU into your own song.

Think about it this way: Someone listens to your recorded voice on their cd player. You should affect them like a great actor who pulls you into their performance. At the mic, use body language like you naturally would if you were talking or singing the song in live performance. It's a great way to make your cd listener feel something.

In my experience ...Move it... or lose em!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When mucous membranes go wrong

A couple of tips for allergies and thick mucous membranes of the nose… First one:
try using a “Neti Pot” filled with saline solution to wash the allergens out of your nasal passageways. For some sufferers, this can work miracles. Get the Neti Pot and the non-iodized salt you must use for saline solution at your local health food store.

Second one was sent to me by recording engineer Ronny Light. He tells me this tip is listed in Wikipedia under Vomer. It's under the heading Trivia.
“Clear your stuffed nose!”

“Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you'll feel your sinuses start to drain.”

Also- Ask about the many herbal preparations to boost the immune system as well. DRINK A LOT OF WATER!!! Half your weight in ounces is a good amount to shoot for. If you can, put ceyenne pepper in everything you can think of - food and drink.

A wonderful throat soother is a glass of water with a heaping tsp lemon juice, heaping tsp honey, and a dash or three of ceyenne... just have something handy to blow your nose with! :)

And lastly- I had great results by drinking a very diluted pineapple juice and water mixture when I was sick and had a loooooong day of recording sessions to sing.

Let me know if you have a favorite remedy for singer's crud!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Breath work for singing- WALL WORK!

Ever had trouble having enough breath to singing?

Try this: Stand with your back to the wall. Keep the back of your head and at least one of your heels firmly planted against the wall. Put your finger on your chin so your chin stays level- DON'T LIFT YOUR CHIN!. Now try singing that song again.

Let me know how it works for you!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Vocal performance: it's not about you

Ever been nervous about your vocal performance? Perhaps it is because your voice doesn't understand what you want it to do. Here's a paradoxical truth: YOUR GREATEST SINGING IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

When you make vocal performance all about yourself it leads to self-consciousness, numbness, stage fright, bad vocal technique and disconnection to the audience.

YES, anytime you sing or speak publically, you need to send out your presence and claim the room- but direct your voice TO the one the lyrics speak to and do it FOR the audience and you'll be amazed at your confidence level. Study your favorite singers and see this principle at work. My recording artist clients all use this to great effect both in the studio and on the road.

Here's a current example: My student Maria Standing Rock just graduated Suma cum Laude from Belmont University and did some Karaoke at her graduation party. She sang several great songs but her shining vocal moment came when she sang a song to her mother. She was emotional, but not nervous. Her dad passed away a couple of years ago, but his spirit must have been listening to his daughter and smiling.

Gifts are for giving. That's how they shine best!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Vocal teachers- How to pick the right one

Vocal instruction is an art as well as a science. Every good voice teacher (actually, every good teacher of anything else) I've ever known or read about has their own unique way of teaching. All voice teaching, however, should lead singers to the same basics of vocal production. After all, the human voice in everyone operates by the same anatomical principles.

BUT- singers have unique strengths and weaknesses. I would coach someone whose voice was thin and reedy differently than I would someone who was hooty and hollow sounding. Teaching voice has to be a creative and co-operative team effort on behalf of student and teacher, not just a curriculum of "one fits all". And I learn new ways to communicate healthy vocal principles nearly every day I teach.

Here is the criteria for assessing a vocal teacher's method. it should make your voice feel and work better!! and initial improvement should be rapid. You should not leave a vocal lesson with your throat hurting. End of story.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: does the teaching help you sing with less tension? Do you have enough breath to do what you want to do? Does your throat feel better with less strain? Does it increase your range and your accuracy of pitch and give your tone more resonance? Does it give you more vocal endurance? Do you communicate better to your audience?

If the answers are yes, go with it. If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, be careful. But before you change teachers, be sure that you really understand what the teacher is asking you to do.

There is no substitute for personal vocal lessons and/or someone who is a real vocal producer in the recording studio. But there are good products out there that can help, cds and books you can train with (others as well as mine-I'll be commenting on them on future posts) which can be better than an ineffective or incorrect vocal teacher. No training is better than bad training!