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.


Dale S. said...


I heard a story of as famous opera singer (male) wearing a "girdle" to give his breathing a more solid platform. Pavarotti supposedly told him: "Be careful, you may get used to it and become lazy!"

Can you explain what they meant, please?


Judy Rodman said...

Hi Dale- Thanks for the great question! Here's what I think they could have been talking about:

If you squeeze a balloon full of water at the bottom, it will stretch wider at the top. For the singer, a girdle would cause the ribcage to expand, thus allowing more breath in and keeping the diaphragm flatter and more able to control. Pavorotti's caution would be that the singer's abdominal muscle tone could atrophy, depending too much on the firmness of the girdle. Even WITH a girdle, there still has to be some movement within the abdominal cavity to support the actions of the chest and diaphragm above.

Does this help? Thanks again!