In addition to her own long and flourishing career in recording, performance, and voiceover work, Judy Rodman is voice teacher, coach and producer to many of today's finest contemporary singers. She is the creator of the Power, Path & Performance vocal training method. Judy's blog, All Things Vocal, is a source of great information for singers of all stripes - her recent post "Over-thinking Vocal Training..."Trying" instead of "Letting" could easily have been written with classical singers in mind.
What inspired you to become a voice teacher?
Professional singers I worked with would ask me questions about how to hit notes. Since they believed in my ability to help them, I started doing some deeper research. As soon as I "hung out my shingle" as a vocal coach I started getting students, and it became a natural transition to use my experience for the betterment of other vocalists. I then went on a serious learning curve, finally developing my own practical, synergistic and holistic vocal training method trademarked "Power, Path & Performance".
What kind of singers do you work with?
I work with literally all kinds of singers and public speakers…from absolute beginners to veteran professional recording artists and performers. I train choir members, preachers, business people, songwriters, Karaoke and other talent show contestants, people with vocal dysfunction and breathing problems, people with psychological issues who need to find their voices. I work with all ages but mostly concentrate on teens and adults, or children who are mature enough to be serious about their training.
Do most singers specializing in contemporary styles study voice? Do all of them need to?
I think that more contemporary style singers train their voices than used to, because the benchmark for vocal ability has been raised by those who DO study voice. I believe that anyone who is serious about their voice needs to at least touch base with a vocal coach who can assess them, correct their weaknesses, encourage their strengths, protect their vocal apparatus and maximize their vocal impact.
What sort of warm-up/practice regimen do you recommend for your students?
The warm-up/practice regimen I recommend for my students depends on their vocal goals and their immediate vocal engagements. On a regular basis, I recommend doing vocal exercises for 10 to 30 minutes at least three times a week, along with singing full voice for at least another 30 minutes. If they have an upcoming gig or tour, I recommend more strenuous practice: 30 minute warm up followed by one to three hours of full voice singing, using the material they are to perform. And this should be done for at least four days, preferably two weeks, before the gig or the start of the tour.
How can a singer develop their own unique style?
A singer develops uniqueness by first mastering other great singers' styles. Then he or she should experiment to find the phrasings, vocal embellishments and genres of songs that best suit his or her own voice. Lastly the singer must learn to take a song and deliver it from the singer's own personality, life experience and heart. There is no competition with originality…because no two people have the same life experience. Vocal uniqueness is all about delivering an authentic message, from the singer's own soul and from the person's own healthy, free instrument…which, with training, will afford the singer many more options to pull from for unique, engaging and impactful communication that can elicit an emotional response.
Will a contemporary singer studying technique risk sacrificing the qualities that make their sound and style unique?
Not unless the teacher is a fool. Even the most "talky" styles can be so much easier, smoother and agile with vocal training. In truth, if the training is correct, the listener should not be hearing a singer's vocal training…but instead be moved by the delivery of the song.
What advice do you have for classically trained singers who want to switch or crossover to popular styles?
Train with a vocal coach who knows how to help you find a conversational, contemporary sound without "throwing the baby out with the bathwater", making you flatten out your soft palate, for instance. Finding a more contemporary sound has a lot to do with re-thinking the goal of your vocal efforts. This kind of singing is more about moving someone with the message than with large, sonorous vowels. Popular, or contemporary, singing is more like talking…and usually involves a microphone. This means you also need to train for mic technique, and that you no longer should go for the classical resonance that can fill a concert hall unamplified…this will sound pompous and fake for popular singing. You'll need to articulate differently as well, and will need to focus your sound from a slightly different place.
Judy Rodman teaches in Nashville, so if you happen to be in the neighborhood and would like some of her expertise first-hand, here is how to get in touch .
Thanks again, Judy!