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.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Development and use of Vibrato

I was asked this week about my thoughts on developing and using vibrato.

It is an important skill; however you can place too much emphasis on it and create unnatural vibrato that's hard to unlearn.

In my professional experience, it has everything to do with developing breath support/control, learning to use a feeling of compression centered in the pelvic floor, AND sending this breath through an open and relaxed throat. Then you find yourself with control of all kinds of vocal choices, vibrato being one of them.

My course (at ) includes an old exercise called "Messa di Voce" in which you hold a tone as richly as you can. Once you master this exercise, you can try backing off the pressure even more and allowing a little controlled vibrato to begin in the middle of the sustain. Then for even more control, you can try and smooth the vibrato out into a straight tone again. Jazz singing requires great control of vibrato; you MUST learn to back off pressure while sustaining support, "spinning" the tone in the back of your head to give ultimate control.

Try this:

Put the back of one of your hands on your tailbone. Stand tall and flexible with head back and chin level. Take a breath into, and sing out of, a spot deep in the pelvic floor just in front of your tailbone. Hold a tone steady. Don't lean forward; use so little forward pressure that it almost seems you're inhaling the tone. Then try THINKING a sweet, even vibrato and just imagine it..."will" yourself to do it. Let it come naturally... it's SO IMPORTANT NOT TO FORCE VIBRATO TO OCCUR. As you gain experience with it, try allowing it to occur without thinking.

IF you don't lean on your voice or push too much air, AND you support your tone, I think you'll find yourself with a vibrato you can control naturally. Above all... DON'T JUMP ON YOUR DIAPHRAGM and try to make vibrato that way.

Another thing you can do is to mime a singer who has the natural and free vibrato you want. Watch out for mimicing bad technique from singers whose vibrato is too fast, too slow and wobbly, or uncontrolled and forced.

I have found that this is all my singers need for the vibrato they want to use. I will, as always, be learning more about the voice and will pass other information to you as I find it useful.

Let me know how effective you find this exercise by clicking "comment" below this post. I also value any of your own thoughts or experiences you have with vibrato and it's control.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vocal problem: How Do You Cure Hiccups?

Hiccups can be a real nuisance when they manifest in the middle of a performance, whether on stage or in recording studio.

I've had to waste valuable studio time waiting for hiccups (and resulting giggles) to go away. I decided I would do a survey and ask this question for the sake of all singers and speakers:

How do you cure hiccups? What has really worked for you???

These are the things that keep me up at night :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Voice of Hank Williams Sr

I had an interesting gig last Thursday. I booked veteran studio vocalist friends Margie Cates and Michael Black to drive out to Hartford, Tn with me and sing on Jet Williams' new album. She is the daughter of Hank Williams, senior. This was contested for quite a while by her brother Hank, but it was adjudicated that she is indeed his half-sister. It was a blast. Bobby Bradley was the engineer who hired us. Bobby is the nephew of the great Owen Bradley, who produced among others Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Buddy Holly.

I was raised listening to my father play Hank Williams songs at our kitchen table to relax after his job as an air traffic controller. It gave me a rush to watch Jet pull out her father 's old acoustic guitar upon which he recorded "Your Cheating Heart". She smiled as I touched the strings. When I turned it over, I could see the worn wood where Hank had held it against him, and there was a scratched place on the front near the bridge where many pick strokes had scraped wood.

She also played us a part of an old radio show that her father sang and did a comedy bit on. This audio ended up in a dumpster at one time. It and many other audio shows were rescued, remastered and will be included in an upcoming Hank Williams Sr. release you will be hearing about in a few months.

This chance meeting with the past reminded me of the first time I ever played the Grand Ole Opry and stood on that worn wood circle they kept at the mic, saved from the original floor. Also the first time I played the Tonight Show and stood behind the curtain waiting to go on, in a spot where so many had waited their own turn in the past.

Hank Williams died way too young, a victim of his substance abuse. But he left a legacy of music that lives on. May we always honor the ones who came before (in every genre), and may we seek to make the kind of music that is good enough to live on, blessing people way beyond our time. If my son remembered his mother's song, I'd say this would be the ultimate in vocal success.

Fyi... is a cool site I've found exploring the web for info you might need. According to their blurb, this site has "Resources for the Recording Musician", including Message Board, How To Guides, Required Reading Book List, Links/Directory, and more. Let me know if you find any good spots!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Originality of Voice

In this post I'm going on a stretch with my blog theme "All Things Vocal". I'm going to talk about vocal originality- in this case defined as "What Do I Have To Say That's Original?". I've been tagged by my blog mentors "The Blog Squad" who were in turn tagged by Mohit Singhania at Best Blog Basket to be part of his project called Be Original. We are asked to share several ways that we create original content for our blogs. So here is a list of how I come up with original content for this blog:

1. Insights from my ongoing coaching experiences. I seem to learn some new way to teach a vocal technique every week... sometimes every day!

2. Experiences from my own performances.
Many times I get a "light bulb" insight from noticing what works (or doesn't) for me when I'm singing vocals in the recording studio or on stage.

3. My opinions on controversial issues. Contests, major label vs indie label advantages and disadvantages, vocal techniques I hear about, even what makes a valid or successful vocal performance are some issues about which I like to argue my point.

4. Teachings from my own trademarked coaching method. "Power, Path & PerformanceTM" is my offering to the body of effective vocal training, and is unique in its focus on the synergy between breath, open throat and communication.

5. Reporting, commentary and review of trends in the current music biz. I glean info from my contacts, media news and Internet sources.

6. News from my clients and students. I like to encourage a sense of community instead of rivalry among voices. I share news of TV shows, songs cut, contest tryouts and placements, awards, signings, live tours, events, recording projects and other news from people with whom I work. I encourage attending each other's performances. We celebrate each other's journey, whether we're up or down.

If any of you have a blog, please consider yourself "tagged"! If you'd like to join the challenge, see this link to learn the "rules" of adding your own list of ways to add original content to your posts:

Now, dear readers of my blog, would you please take a moment, click on "comments" link below this post, and tell me what YOU'D like me to write about? After all, this blog is useless unless it is of use to YOU! Join the conversation and the community! Thank you very much...Judy

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Articulation: Got too much?

OK, so there's a downside to too much articulation. If you "grab" your words too strongly, you will be perceived as:

  • Angry
  • An amateur
  • Insincere (I think it was Shakespeare who wrote "Me thinks he protesteth too much")

Truly over-pronounced words will also cause tongue and jaw tension. You don't want that because it limits your control, tone and range. That's a good way to know your diction has crossed the line.

Here are some tips to help balance the crispness of your articulation:

  1. Give your jaw some flexibility. A slight sideways or circular chewing motion, if not overdone, can free things up marvelously.
  2. Concentrate on communicating with your eyes. That usually helps keep over-pronouncing under control.
  3. BIG TIP: Try singing only on the vowels. Yes this will feel silly, but I think we covered how "silly" can cause miracles in a post not long ago. Notice how much more resonance and range you can muster without the consonants. Now very lightly use the consonants again. Then, make the words feel more normal in your mouth.
  4. Use the consonants and lose them... quickly let go. Think of a throwing a baseball... if you hold on too long you're in trouble.
  5. Record yourself and see if you believe yourself. Be honest <:
  6. Listen to masterful vocalists (a bit of rhythm & blues or soft jazz wouldn't hurt, Emmy Lou Harris is a great example in the country genre) who are clear but don't sound like they are dictating something. "Mime" a song with such an artist, trying to copy their style.

Here is a link to a performance by Jane Monheit, one of the country's hottest jazz artists. You might find it interesting to study how she uses words but doesn't over use them. Notice the life in her eyes. Note... don't be put off by the jazz genre if that's not what you're into. These concepts will work for ANY kind of music.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Articulation- need some!

One of my pet peeves is listening to a song and not being able to tell what the heck it's saying.

I know some people will say they are only into the music and don't care about or listen to lyrics. I remember when my son was little, he used that rationale to protest my veto of music with inappropriate lyrics. (No, hehehe, it didn't work.) But in reality, most people are drawn to a song and to a singer whose message is clear.

What is articulation? A simple definition, for the singer or speaker, is: the forming of words. A synonym for articulation is "diction". I really don't like to use these words a lot in my teaching or in my studio vocal production because they can make people think I want them to speak like an English professor... Which of course is not true. (My apologies to all you English professors!) So I say this instead: Communicate so I can understand you!

All kinds of things are involved in articulation: The mouth, tongue, lips, soft palate, yes. But to articulate not just words but the MEANING behind them involves other body parts such as eyes, nose, even spinal alignment (body language!) For instance, if your eyes are "dead" instead of communicative, I could tell you weren't "with me" - even if you were somewhere I couldn't see you. I would know you weren't really communicating with me in mind. See previous posts for more about the importance of eyes and body language .
Sometimes muddy articulation happens on a recording, but more often I notice it in live performance. The artist gets into the music and slurs through the performance, seeming to just assume everybody knows the lyrics. Hey, even if it's a hit and the audience does know the lyrics, you still need to say them clearly. Why?

When you aren't clear, you are "dis-ing" your audience. Whether or not you are aware of it, you are dismissive and disrespectful. I've heard hugely popular entertainers when they spoke so clearly I could understand every word. I've also heard the same entertainers when I could understand nothing. It was as if they could have cared less if the audience was there or not. An audience is a fickle thing, and my suggestion is to remember that without them your public career becomes a private hobby.

A great way to rev up the clarity of your articulation is to imagine you have a deaf contingent in your audience. Articulate so that a deaf person could read your face and know what the words are. Do this in the studio and the clarity of your performance can amaze you; do it on stage and you may find a connection with your audience that may surprise you. Do it in your next public speaking engagement and you may hear a pin drop because people are actually listening.

Toastmasters is a great organization to join to practice articulation, among other vocal skills.

Next post I plan on discussing: when articulation goes wrong......!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Strange Vocal Exercises That Work

Some of my vocal exercises are, well, strange. Bryan White once wryly observed to me "the more humiliating an exercise, the better it seems to work".

I think the reason a correctly executed weird exercise works so well is...
that it bypasses the tenacious but counter-productive vocal habits of the conscious mind by trickery. The Feldenkrais method used by some chiropractors does the same thing... a slight touch can suggest possibilities of movement that the conscious mind hasn't considered possible, and then amazing healing can take place.

Here's a prime example:

Memphis Cole, a young man who is has been studying with me for a few months, came in to his lesson this week with a grin. Memphis has been growing vocally by leaps and bounds, and has really developed his style, his sound and his confidence. Anyway, he entered his first Nashville contest- "The Grand Ole Opry Country Vocal Challenge"- just to get some experience with competing. In the male category he joined about 46 fellow competitors.

Before he went on, he was doing his "Forrest Gump" imitation of "Life is like a box of chocolates", a vocal exercise he learned from the Power, Path & Performance cd vocal training course he bought to go with his private lessons. One of his competitors started laughing and taunting "what are you doing, man?" Memphis shot back "I'm loosening up my jaw". The guy kept laughing and so Memphis started doing it silently instead of out loud.

Memphis got the last laugh: He won the contest! The other guy... he was eliminated rather quickly.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SILLY VOCAL EXERCISE! Be willing to ditch a little pride, and you may find a strange and weird sense of ... VOCAL FREEDOM!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Vocal Performance: Reveal... don't display!

There is a classical voice training textbook series by Van A. Christy called "Expressive Singing". In the Third Edition, Volume #1, Christy recommends this excellent suggestion for any performance in any genre:

"Meaning must be REVEALED, never DISPLAYED in a theatrical manner."

I can't tell you how very much I agree with this. There is a fine line between over- and under- acting. If you REALLY want to sing or speak in such a way as to cause an emotional response from your audience, learn how to master authentic delivery- the kind you can't fake!.

Authentic delivery balances several things:
  • Vocal technique is definitely a major factor.
  • The message (song or monologue) is a huge factor.
  • Other factors include: The size and feel of the venue or room, the state of your own inner self, the cheeseburger you had for lunch, the label rep in the audience. Hey, it's amazing we can focus at all :)

Nevertheless, there must be such a balance in your mind-body-voice connection that you make it look almost effortless to get and hold the attention of the listener.

Here's an example to help you understand the power of revealing instead of displaying meaning:

When I was a recording artist on MTM Records, Alan Bernard (the CEO) let me in on one of his secrets at "meet & greet" events. Alan had been around. Among other things, he had managed Andy Williams and Dusty Springfield. Instead of going up to people to introduce himself and begin a conversation, he would often just sit or stand alone. People were drawn to his cool confidence, and soon were coming over to where he was to meet HIM.

Now think about this: Alan quite openly revealed who he was to people who had been drawn his way. He didn't put on a forward display to try to gain attention. I think this is a psychological tool we need to understand as performers.

Bottom line: Draw people in. Don't be a space invader! Reveal by... being real.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vocal "Breaks"... how to eliminate them

There are times you want a vocal "break"- such as when you want to yodel or "flip" a little vocal cry (think Emmy Lou Harris). However, most of the time these breaks are unwanted and happen when vocal strain and tightness impede smooth movements in the vocal apparatus. In these cases, your chest voice gets thin, loud and harsh and then finally when you go a bit higher, you find yourself in a weak, useless head voice.

Here are some tips to smoothly blend your chest and head registers so that you seem to have one rich, mixed vocal register without breaks (those unwanted cracks in your voice):

  • Try "pulling" your words from your nose when you're in middle voice. Then when you cross over to your upper register, "pull" your words from your mouth. This may seem unnatural, but will serve to mix your registers together so you can't tell from listening where you "crossover" from chest to head.
  • If you can't remember to do this at the right time, try touching your nose when in chest or middle voice to remind you to pull from your nose. Then when you cross over to head voice, touch your mouth to remind you to pull from there. Pretty soon you will be able to do it without having to touch your face.
  • Try the blending steps exercise in my Power, Path & Performance course at . You will sing three notes in chest, the same notes in head voice, then the third time you'll sing the same notes in what I call a "land between the two registers", or a blend of head and chest. Do this at least once a day.
  • BACK OFF THE PRESSURE!!! You can't blend your voice if you're singing too hard. How can you tell if you're doing this? YOU CAN FEEL YOUR THROAT STRAIN! Back off pressure, then add passion (crisply form words with the right emotion).
  • Make the beginning of the yawn kick in right before you think the break will occur. You should feel eyes, nose and sinuses expand.
  • Touch two fingers VERY LIGHTLY to your larynx. Now sing the phrase, but don't allow any tension near your fingers. If your shoulders, jaw or tongue gets tight, you will become aware and will be able to relax much faster with your fingers here. Notice that you WILL feel your larynx move... if it's working without interference with outside tension, it will actually tilt up and back allowing a smooth and unbroken vocal line.
  • Bobble your head on your shoulders. Think James Taylor, Aretha, Alanis Morrisette, Christina, Wynonna. Part of their vocal magic comes from flexibility at the neck and shoulders. This also allows the larynx to tilt.
  • Be sure to "lift the lid" but "leave the pan on the stove". What I mean by this is: Lift the inside of your soft palate and back of your nose, but don't lift your shoulders or tighten neck muscles. When you lift this way, you will actually feel your neck getting longer- not shorter. "Talk with your eyes" with relaxed shoulders you will help yourself do this.

Let me know what works for you! Click on the comment button below this post to leave your thoughts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Music Videos... Do you really need a professional shoot?

Here's an interesting bit of info I came across for those of you needing to make a music video. This is pretty much a requirement these days for getting your music and your face out into the public awareness, but it's an expensive undertaking. You can and should definately shop around before settling on a video production team.

BUT... for those of you thinking about a do-it-yourself project and using it professionally, this guy sums it up: DON'T!

Why? Quality, Quality, Quality... oh, and INSURANCE!

Read more at:

Have you had experience with a good video team you'd like to recommend? Please click comment below and tell us who and where we can reach them. Do you think music can get before the public just fine without an accompanying video? Let us know what you think. Thanks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kayla Morrison teaching Power, Path & Performance voice

Judy says:

Kayla Morrison has taken voice from me for several years. As I've gotten to know her, I've come to love, trust and respect her skills in many areas. She has managed several artists through the years, and in fact manages my vocal seminars. Kayla herself has covered lots of miles as a vocalist, group leader and vocal arranger in Christian music ministry. She knows what it means firsthand to have max voice available (OR NOT) for the road or the studio.

I have mentored and approved Kayla to be an official Power, Path & Performance teacher. I don't give this approval lightly; I want any associate teacher of PPP to be truly effective at teaching this method, with rapid results in vocal improvement of students. And so she is!!

Today Kayla graciously offers this guest post concerning her experience with teaching the PPP method.

Kayla says:

After studying Judy Rodman’s Power, Path & Performance myself and observing her as she worked with students in her private studio, the recording studio and through her intense vocal seminars, I have been anxious and excited about the opportunity to use the tools with my own students. I have witnessed so many people being set free by the methods Judy has developed, tested and successfully proved.

Just today, I worked with a new student, 13 years old. She has had three years of vocal training, but had never been taught about anatomy and its relationship to breathing. After I explained the information using the illustrations and props that Judy suggests and provides in her complete cd course, it began to click and make sense to her.

I am thrilled with the effectiveness of this course. My first concern as a teacher is to give my students information that will safely take their vocals and performance to the next level. I am confident that Judy Rodman’s Power, Path & Performance is the key to successfully accomplish my goals as a teacher, and as a performer. My students are excited, too!

Contact Kayla Morrison at 615-315-5519. For information about becoming a Power, Path & Performance teacher, contact Judy at or call 615-834-4747.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The concepts behind "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method

According to Proverbs...a three stranded cord is not easily broken! (Read: broken, damaged voice.)

The idea for the "PPP" method came to me after I began giving a couple of years of vocal lessons, using all the information I'd gathered through years of professional singing and producing other singers. My professional vocal coach was Gerald Arthur, who is a legendary teacher in Nashville. He was known to be a healer of damaged voices, as was mine. That's what I wanted to do- pass along Gerald's heart and truly affect healing in other voices.

So I began noticing what really, really worked in helping vocal students gain ground. And I found that I could classify everything that was important into three overarching categories: Breath, Throat and Communication. I used some alliteration and changed the words to "Power (support and control of the breath), Path (imagery created by vocal teacher Jeffrey Allen leading to an open throat), and Performance (physical and psychological aspects of articulating communication).

And I found that these three areas actually affect each other in an amazing synergy. If you breath correctly with support and control, you are less likely to have a tight throat. Then you can relax into telling or singing the story because your throat doesn't hurt. If your performance is a true communication TO someone, you breath more correctly naturally because your posture is more confident. You also will have a sparkle in your eyes, communicating in such a way as to open the throat without even knowing you're doing it. I use acting techniques to help students get real and connect authentically. You can learn to pull Power and Path into allignment by authentically communicating.

If you are missing one of these three areas, it will show in the other areas. Put them together and your voice becomes powerful, controllable, effective and passionate, but strain-free.

Great teaching leads students to the same place. There are many ways to teach voice; I have found this to be a great way to teach voice holistically, and I love the way it works- for me and for you. When you sing and speak your best, you are using these techniques automatically. However, you may wish to learn how to make purposeful vocal technique choices on days you are not feeling so confident. If your throat hurts when you speak or sing, take heart... there truly is help.

If your voice is important to you, learn more about it. This will give you both protection and maximum use of your instrument. If you're interested in checking out Power, Path & Performance method, visit

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Importance of THE WORD to vocal technique

The articulation of the word to the voice is like the ring in a bull's nose.

Let me explain:
There is a lot that goes into making your best sung or spoken vocal communication. In my training method, I teach you to learn to properly apply concepts of breath ("Power"), open throat ("Path") and telling the story ("Performance"). Your vocal instrument can be considered to include everything from your heels to the top of your head, and extend to the end of your outstretched hands. In other words... your whole body is involved when you are purposefully speaking. Some parts are active, some parts just barely involved and some parts must stay tension-free.

It can get confusing. Think of it like flying a plane. You need to be trained in what all the lights and levers are for, how to diagnose a problem, what to adjust for maximum operation. But it would be hard to fly the thing this way (manually). Sooo... you mostly run the thing on autopilot. Flip one little switch and you can relax (though alertly!)

The switch that should cause your voice to line up and operate properly on autopilot is... THE WORD (lyric)!! BUT.... you have to know how to use the word to make this happen.
  1. The word should be defined as "communicating something specific to someone specific"
  2. This involves being present with the consonants, vowels, meaning, emotion, and if singing, the pitch with which the word is communicated.
  3. Form the consonants in the front of your mouth (not in your jaw)
  4. Shape the vowels in the back of your throat (thus keeping it open).
  5. Put expression in your eyes (this communicates the meaning of the word!)

Try this and see if the word doesn't feel like it starts at your heels and connects your whole being to communicate a performance that gets through. AND... makes your voice feel great! Let me know how you do by clicking the comment link below.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Spinal movements and the voice

The spine holds incredible secrets for singers. If you know how to say the magic word....

Actually, if you know how to bend the thing!

First of all, there's C-1, or cervical vertebrae one. That's the top of your spine, the bone upon which your skull hinges. If you bring that vertebrae back ever so slightly (without raising your chin), you can double the space at the back of your throat or vocal tract. Especially if you raise your eyebrows in an "I don't think so!" type of facial gesture. Try it... I bet you feel your nose flare.

Then there's the spot in your upper back just below your shoulder blades. You can open your whole ribcage by pressing this spot and moving it inwards. This gives your diaphragm room to hold back, or control, breath. Students of mine often get a hoola hoop lesson to help them literally loosen up so this spot becomes more flexible. According to my chiropractor, Dr. Dwaine Allison, , this spot is in fact the accupressure point for the diaphragm, and so affects nerve impulses to the diaphragm as well as physical space. I highly recommend this doctor, by the way.

And lastly there's the lumbar spine. Think of the diaphragm as having a mushroom-like shape. The outer edges are connected along the bottom of the ribcage. The "stem" has fibers that attach to the lower vertebrae of the spine, which sit above the tailbone. It's important to think of the lumbar spine as support. If you bend too much here (at the waist), such as in a sway-back stance, you can cause breathing problems (as well as back problems). Flexibility in unlocked knees will keep the lumbar in a better position to support the voice from the pelvic floor and still allow much needed flexibility in the upper mid-back, as described above.

Here is a site you may find interesting about anatomy and breath. Notice, however, that they are talking about regular breathing, not singing- which requires more control and thus a lifted and open ribcage during phonation.

I try to visit my chiropractor before every major vocal. I found that a spinal alignment could make a significant difference when I needed maximum voice. Also, feel the dance in your spine, the beat in your legs, sway the groove with bent knees, etc. what it takes to let flexibility into your spine. You might be surprised at how much this can help your vocal cords! (the hip-bone's connected to the jawbone... eventually!)

Do you have trouble with flexibility? What helps you loosen up? Click on "comment" below.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Recording Studio Vocal Producer...Do You Need One?

What is a vocal producer?
Do I need one?

These are questions which should be asked by everyone needing to record a voice. Period. Why? Because it can make SO MUCH DIFFERENCE to the final outcome.

Ok, I know this may be a bit self-serving, because I am one (a vocal producer). But sometimes you truly do NOT need one. Here's how you can tell:
  1. Does your vocal quality really matter that much in this recording? If you are just putting a quick song down that won't be heard by the music industry outside your inner circle, maybe it doesn't matter. Included in under this heading would be: songwriter worktapes (rough recordings to put the song down), pre-production recording (to experiment with vocal style, find the best key for your voice, see if the song really fits you, etc.) , casual or non professional recordings where you don't need to sound your best.
  2. Is the producer of your recording project really a good vocal producer as well as an instrumental track producer? Sometimes they are both instrumental and vocal producer rolled into one. Quite frankly, this is rare. There is a difference between KNOWING WHAT TO TELL SOMEONE TO DO when they sing and KNOWING HOW TO HELP THEM DO IT! For example, Tom Paden is a great producer and artist developer who is wise enough and caring enough of his clients to suggest they hire me for vocal production. They are not always quite sure why they need this, but after they record, they are amazed and very happy with the results they can get with a vocal producer. They also gain vocal instruction which helps them improve their voices immediately.
  3. Are you a veteran of the recording studio? Hey, sometimes even YOU need objective feedback from someone with a qualified ear who knows how you sing at your best. This is especially true with "master" vocals, which are "final vocals" you intend to sell, or with which you intend to pitch yourself or your song to the music industry. Assessing your own vocals while singing is never a good idea anyway. It scatters your focus. It IS best for you to make the final decision on whether to keep the vocal or to re-record it, but get another team member to help pull out your best as you record.
  4. Can you afford it? If you can't, try to at least find a recording engineer who knows some things about the voice. If you just get a great "techie" who is not a singer or musician at the board, you're on your own :) I love working with these techies because I can trust them to record the vocals right; when paired with a good vocal producer it can make for a great recording team. I have an engineer I've worked with who has decided to take vocal lessons from me to understand how to better serve his clients who can't afford another recording team member. How cool is that?

Have you had experience with or without a vocal producer? If so, click on the comment link below this post and share your thoughts!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Vocal challenges in Children

Are you a parent, relative, teacher or friend of a little singer- or are you a little singer? This post's for you!

Here's an email I just got from Ellen Dockery, a dear session singer friend of mine who has begun teaching piano and voice:

if i could rely on your expertise for a second...i have a 6 yr. old piano/voice student. she's a great little singer-do you have any advice or precautions for a child her age?
i look forward to getting your cd!
thanks SO much!
love and many hugs,
ellen :-)

Here is my advice for little singers:

First of all, check and see if they are straining when they sing. Unfortunately, well-meaning choir directors and school teachers can sometimes encourage volume and power that little voices are not ready to generate. Add the stiffness and uniform stillness that is often encouraged in the posture and you have a recipe for disaster. Hey...sometimes the kid just decides to sing too loud out of the sheer passion!

  • How can you tell if they are too loud? Does it sound like yelling? It may be cute now, but it may truly damage their voices. I had a girl who developed little blood blisters (the beginnings of nodes) by a few days of singing too loud. I've read that it is possible to develop this damage from just 20 minutes of over-blowing your vocal cords. (Hear that, little cheerleader??)
  • Another way to tell... can you get them to make NON-BREATHY sounds in their head voice? Ask them to mimic Mickey or Minny Mouse. Then have them sing some little tune in head voice and see if they can clear the breathiness up. If not, they may need to be checked out by a doctor- preferably one specializing in the vocal apparatus, like the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic in Nashville.
  • If they are yelling, the first thing to do is get them aware that their throat is feeling strained. Many times they don't know there is another way. Have them sing at the wall with their head and heel against the wall so they can't lean forward. Encourage them to stay flexible and to keep the chin level and floating. If they go for a high note and strain, suggest to them that they back off the volume so it feels better. Maybe put a book on their head so they won't lift the chin too much. ASK THEM TO SING FROM THEIR EYES! Make it a game... keep them having fun.
  • Teach them the Power, Path & Performance technique of "pulling" words. For help, check my training cds.

Another common problem of children is having a weak voice. Shyness of personality, fear of being heard, and a dislike of the feeling of a tense throat can cause this.

  • First of all, talk to them and LISTEN TO THEM. Many times a child just needs to know his or her voice is valid and that someone wants to hear what they say or sing. This fosters a good relationship where they will trust what you ask them to do.
  • Next, have them pretend to sing to a stuffed animal or their real pet. Have them "sing a story". (Try to make sure they choose songs they can relate to!!)
  • Teach them to open their arms out wide and take a breath in their belly. Then teach them to squeeze a horse or pillow with their legs for power. This tends to crack them up and is great fun. It will teach them to use the correct area of pelvic floor for power, while not squeezing in at the chest or throat.

And then there are children who seem to be tone deaf. I will state unequivocally: Tone deafness is a myth. Anyone with ears can learn to sing on pitch. I once taught a girl who had sustained 70% hearing loss when she was very young. She was determined and I got resourceful and by "pitch target practice" she learned to sing on pitch just fine. I would play a note, she would listen (think it) then mime it, then sing the pitch and I'd tell her if she was right, or if she needed to move it up or down. She also learned to feel and count rhythm.

Here is a website full of wonderful ideas and suggestions for child singers:

And finally I'll reiterate... HELP THEM CHOOSE GOOD SONGS! Encourage them to write their own! They need to learn that singing is communication. And that what they say counts.

Do you have or know a child singer? I'd love to hear from you... what seems to be the vocal challenges in that child? What works? What doesn't? Click on the "comment" link below this post.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Runaway Home- New Musical wraps up first run

Well, it's either over or it's just beginning.

Runaway Home the Musical finished its first run today. It was a spirited performance by eleven actors I have come to love with all my heart. We hope to take it to New York's Fringe Festival, we hope to get it distributed far and wide, but I tell you the truth... if this was it, it was more than worth the time, travel, money, songwriting, track producing, vocal teaching and music directing I had the great privilege to do. (Thank you for trusting me with this music, Darren!)

My students Maria Standing Rock and her mother Esther Brown, Michelle Bunch and her husband and Kendall, my husband John and my son Peter were in the audience, which gave it the standing O. Michelle has done a lot of major theater. In her words, "This belongs on Broadway". Your mouth to God's ears, Michelle! Thanks to everyone of my friends and students who made their way to Decatur, Alabama to see this October 2006 thru February 2007 performance run. I am honored to share these memories with you.

The play benefitted greatly by the revisions made to the script and the music during the workshop performances. It was an awesome experience to see the play undergo such transformation. The actors always brought fresh fire. This last performance, I believe, was the best. What a cast.

In an emotional after-performance meeting, Darren Butler (the play's book writer and acting director) gave us all plaques with some of his journal notes during the making and workshoping of the play. Two of our precious actors spoke of how the play had changed their lives. Darren and I were presented by the cast with two stuffed teddy bears. Upon squeezing an arm, the song "Runaway Home", began to play, recorded in a bathroom by the cast at the store where they bought the bears. My bear will sit in my studio, where he will listen to students, and sing to me from time to time.

Did I cry? Duh. Yeah. I squeezed my sister's and my neice's hands (they were part of the cast) and whispered "This is why it's worth it".

Here's what I say: Sing. Write songs. Act. Make music, and every other kind of art you feel called to pursue. It is my firm belief that if we act upon our talents with all the excellence we can muster, we can trust God to make it mean something.

I'll let everyone know if and when "Runaway Home the Musical" is performed again. If you came to one of the first run workshop performances, please leave a comment by clicking on "comment" link below this post.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Master Tonic Remedy

As a singer myself, I have grown to loathe the common cold, not to mention (shudder) the FLU!

Respiratory illnesses usually turn into laryngitis for me. My immune system is quite strong, but this weekend I started feeling that awful sensation in my throat that told me I was catching this terrible cold that has been going around in my area. So when my sister sent me this bottle of strange brown liquid and told me it would deal with most anything that ailed me, I decided to try it. OH MY GOSH- my eyes bugged out when I just lifted the lid... BUT... I AM WELL- after only one dose. So I will pass it on to you-

If you are REALLY serious about wanting to stay healthy, check this time tested remedy:

"The Master Tonic"- (aka "The Flu Tonic)
Chop or blend equal parts of:
  • Habanero Peppers
  • Horseradish
  • Gingerroot
  • Hot Onions
  • Garlic Cloves

Cover and blend with

  • raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar

Let it sit for a couple wks, shaking it regularly, then strain and use as needed

My sister offers this recipe to make it tastier:

  • 1 tsp master tonic
  • dash of worcestershire sauce
  • couple of ice cubes
  • fill glass with tomato juice
  • top with squeeze of lemon

Read the complete directions for making the tonic, and dosage recommendations at:

Here is another chat room with some practical info:

Another chat room discussion about this tonic:

Here is another website which advocated taking it "straight" (a serious zing!)

Another site advocating this remedy:
Natural Tonic: Richard Schulze

The Importance of Resonation

Resonation is your key to effective communication. If you say or sing something, what your listener "hears" is determined by the WAY you do it...

Let me explain:
If your throat is somewhat closed and/or your airstream (power) is not supported and controlled, your resulting sound will not be perceived as important or confident. Your message will be "I'm not sure about this", "Don't eat me for saying this" or "It's ok if you don't listen to this".

Here is an example:
I was listening to NPR this morning and there was a hilarious bit about the note "Bb". There was an experiment someone did (this person may need a life) near a pit of alligators. He played a Bb on a tuba, and the gators started roiling and splashing around because they thought they heard a big rival intruder coming. No note except a Bb did the trick. Follow this link for more of the story.

Now I'd like to see a further experiment. I bet if the guy played a Bb on a kazoo or flute, the gators would have ignored it. The resonation caused by the tuba communicated the message they "heard" that made them go nuts.

Conclusion: If you want your listener to "get your message", do it with an open throat. Your vocal cord buzz will then be able to reach all your resonation zones, and your sound will be rich and full. For help with resonation, check out my vocal training course at

ALSO: if you're near a gator pit, don't voice a low "Bb". Do it in falsetto :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Are You Really Communicating?

When we speak indistinctly, it doesn't communicate. Only common sense, right? Funny how a desire to communicate something can get scattered like a flashlight beam.

It's like there's a disconnect between your mind and your voice. It can happen for a lot of reasons, such as-
  • You're not quite sure that the object of your message really wants to hear it. Hey, and sometimes, they don't! It's your job to change their minds...
  • You don't really want to communicate- you're going through the motions while thinking about something else (don't you hate it when someone talks to you and you know they aren't really "present" with you?
  • You are wondering how your voice sounds, how you look, what they think about you, what the judges will conclude(which has absolutely NOTHING to do with communicating)
  • You may be afraid your voice or your message isn't good enough. (This is where you may need some help with vocal techniques and songwriting/selecting)
  • You are, for whatever reason, INSECURE. Could be a temporary condition, or a chronic state.
  • Or... You're actually only rehearsing for the real thing! Try this... count to 5 in a zombie-like voice (rehearsal). Now look at a point of your choosing and count with some kind of attitude... try mad, happy, amazed, confused, etc.

Communication problems can also be caused by a disconnect between your body and your voice.

Vocal training can provide life changing help to people who think that the voice only comes from the throat. Consider this...The best communicators have rich, musical voices with dynamics and flow. Guess what? If your voice is not like this, it's only that you don't know how to access all of your instrument. Much more than your throat, your voice involves your whole body. In fact, when operating optimally your voice should never feel like it's coming from your throat at all (unless you put your hand on your larynx and feel the vibration)!

To help connect the body and the voice, I have a saying: "act as if and ye shall be". In other words, what would your body language be (how would your posture be, how engaged would your eyes be, how well would you form your words) if you WERE secure about your voice and determined to communicate? OK, fake it till ya make it. Have faith in your voice... use a confident stance and delivery, and your voice will then clearly understand it's chore. Before you know it, you really ARE secure about your message, and someone is truly listening.

Remember that true communication has a purpose and an object. If it's worth saying/singing, then commit and communicate!!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

What to do for your Speaking Voice

I had a comment on my last post that was a question about the speaking voice. Because I figure most of you may not click on the comments to see what is said, I thought I'd put the info in this new post, with a bit of elaboration.

I remember when I was on the road as an artist, I used to dread interviews before shows. It actually affected my singing voice to do a lot of talking before I sang, so I tried to have them scheduled after the show. Now I can talk all day long, 8- 10 hours a day and my voice never gets tired! (The rest of me does, but not my voice.)

Vocal sound quality and volume - whether speaking or singing- comes from resonation; your vocal cords just create the initial buzz when air moves through them. That buzz needs to reach reverberating zones in your head, throat & chest (some teachers even add your back and tailbone). That's how your speaking (and singing) voice can become much richer, more melodic, and yes, louder. Without adequate resonation, you end up pushing too much air through your cords trying to work up enough volume. Here are some tips for you:
  • This advice alone will make immediate improvements: USE YOUR EYES WHEN YOU SPEAK!!! even on the phone!

To convince you, try this little exercise: keep your eyes very still and count to 5 moderately loud. Now count again, but move your eyes very animatedly while you speak, (check the mirror because sometimes your brain really doesn't know what your eyes are doing- your eyebrows should be active).

Your eyepads and eyebrows are very connected to what's going on inside your throat. You'll notice your voice is more melodic and can reach more pitches, and it's richer. It feels like you're pulling your voice out of your head by the word, with no forward "push" pressure. For practical application, just know it's important to communicate with your eyes while you are speaking- imagine your audience is deaf and needs to read your face for the message. Or imagine talking to a child. Use animation. ESPECIALLY on the phone, we tend to speak without expression on our faces.


Don't be a talking head...Speak from your pelvic floor! Keep your ribs open by your posture, and you'll have compression power for your voice. This is another thing we do when we're on the phone... slouch. Then the voice feels like it's disconnected from the body. When standing, your voice needs your legs (which your voice considers butt extentions). Another power point: Whether sitting or standing, even on the phone, talk with your hands. It helps your ribs stay weightless and gives your diaphragm room to control the airflow to your cords. Keep your back flexible and keep your head from going forward of your shoulders. All tension can and should be relegated to butt and legs.

  • WARM UP your speaking voice, too!

As many voice-over artists and actors know, it is very helpful to warm up the voice for speaking as well as singing. The tissues and muscles involved in your vocal apparatus need to get blood flow and flexibility increased.

  • Get a list of tongue tanglers and say them a few times till your tongue and jaw get loosened and flexible, your face starts working, articulation gets animated and fluid... and you don't get your tongue tied behind your eye teeth when you practice (OK, it's a southern phrase, but you get the pic). I have pages of them for my clients...Try these three:
  1. red leather yellow leather
  2. you know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York
  3. eleven benevolent elephants
  • A great way to warm up is to make noises like a siren or ghost. You have to become somewhat fearless as to what people may think if they hear you.
  • Humming, bubbling and tongue trills are great voice starters, too.


  1. Warm up your voice
  2. Talk with body language- especially eyes and hands
  3. Keep your chest open, head back, chin level and your back flexible.
  4. Loosen your jaw and form words distinctly.
  5. And one more time... talk with your eyes!

If you'd like to check out the exercises in my training method Power, Path & Performance, go to my website where you'll learn how to order my 6-cd package or my single cd condensed course.

Happy talking!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More thoughts on vocal pitch problems

I want to add some thoughts to my previous post:
Slowwww Dowsnnnn when you try the target practice exercise. Take plenty of time to:
  1. Hear the music- the note(s) you play
  2. Intend to hit that pitch dead center (focus your mind in a purposeful aim)
  3. Support your aim (use your breath support centered in the pelvic floor to lift your voice into the right placement)

You can go a bit faster only when you are consistantly accurate in hitting pitch at the slower speed. This slowing down is vitally important... don't shortcut training the automatic nervous system. If you are used to being inaccurate with pitch it may take some time to re-train yourself and to trust yourself to sing in tune.

Before long your singing won't be like a game of vocal pin-the-tail-on-the-pitch. Your ears will be wide open and you will have begun habitually AIMING your voice at the right pitch!!

Another suggestion having to do with studio singing... don't think the recording engineer can make your vocal all it should be with vocal tuning. This technology is used, in my humble opinion, FAR TOO MUCH in today's recordings. The human voice sounds and communicates to the heart better with natural variences not usually allowed by those who over-tune vocals. Flying the same chorus everywhere can backfire and sound BORING!

Not to say vocal tuning and flying should not be done. On the contrary, sometimes it's wonderful to keep a vocal that has just the right magic but needs a slight pitch tweaking. And sometimes the chorus really is the same. It depends on the genre you're going for. Ask yourself (or someone whose opinion you trust) if you sound like a machine. If so, swallow your pride, get out your checkbook for studio time and sing a couple more passes of that song !!