About Judy Malings

Judy specializes in training pop singers and focuses her coaching on contemporary commercial styles. In her personalized lessons Judy works with students on strengthening their vocal instruments, improving vocal range and resonance, as well as song interpretation , stage presence, mic technique and more. Judy works with students of all ages and levels and in particular welcomes children to her studio to begin to learn how to use their voices in a healthy way.

Connect with the Lyrics of the Song – or Fake It!

vocal students PortlandI often chuckle to myself when vocal students tell me that they don’t want to sing a particular song because they can’t ‘connect’ to the lyrics. At the same time, I also see many of my vocal students rip through the lyrics of the songs they are singing without having any knowledge of what they are singing about.

How important ARE lyrics when performing a song?

Do I really have to know what the songwriter is writing about?

Do I have to have gone through similar experiences to really ‘connect’ with the song?

These are questions that come through my Portland vocal studio on a regular basis. My answer is YES, the lyrics are important and you better have a clear understanding of what the song is about! You don’t want to sing a song with sad lyrics with a big goofy smile on your face while tap dancing, nor do you want to sing a song with goofy lyrics and and upbeat message and tempo sitting pensively on a stool with a sad face!

So yes, KNOW what you are singing about! I strongly believe that a vocalists physicality informs their vocal performance and vice versa. But, having said that, I strongly believe that you do not have to actually summon up the exact feeling that each song is trying to convey, nor must have you actually experienced it. It’s called ACTING!

In my professional career as a vocalist, I have had to sing many, many songs that I could not relate to, and many that I flat out just didn’t like! But I was paid to sing them with feeling, so I made sure that the audience always believed me. I have not ‘connected’ with the lyrics of many of the songs I have had to sing over the years. I have not LOVED the lyrics to every song I have had to sing. I simply didn’t have that luxury when I was paid to sing 30-40 songs a night!

I have also performed in musicals, playing parts that were completely different from myself as a person. Again, that’s called ACTING or FAKING IT! If you’re lucky enough to sing a song that you wrote, or lucky enough to sing a song with amazing lyrics that you can connect to, you are in a great position to make the listener believe you. If not-fake it, and keep practicing it until you start believing it yourself!

Connect with the Lyrics of the Song – or Fake It!2017-12-25T04:39:15-08:00

The Different ‘Lanes’ of Vocal Exercises

Vocal ExercisesIn my Portland vocal studio, I always tell my students that there are 2 lanes they can go down with vocal exercises.

The first lane is mainly for technique, but also helps to warm up your vocal instrument. The 2nd lane is strictly for warming up the voice, and may not have as much actual ‘technique’ in it. Let’s take a look at these 2 lanes and find out why they are different, and how they can help you.

First off, let’s be clear. Your voice is an instrument. You must always treat it as such. This means stay away from the obvious voice killers such as smoke, yelling, excessive talking, alcohol and sometimes dairy if it affects you. It also means that you can’t just leave your instrument in its case so to speak and only take it out on special occasions. The voice needs to be well hydrated and well exercised on a regular basis. This is why warm-up exercises are essential for singing. Everyone has their favorite warm-up exercises and I encourage my students to find the ones that they love and are comfortable doing on a regular basis. I have my own warm up routine, but sometimes that routine differs based on the type of material I’m singing. I may do more head- vocal exercises for a certain situation or more belting exercises for another situation. I always start with my base warmups such as the lip-bubble, sirens, some humming and ‘ng’ exercises, some yawn-sighs and then check in to see how I feel before choosing the next set of warm ups.

The 2nd lane of vocal exercises are ‘strictly technique’ exercises’ that are designed to trick your neuromuscular system to respond to notes in a specific way. These exercises help open doors to ‘rooms’ that your voice may not naturally get to on a regular basis . For instance, many singers may need exercises to help them feel what it’s like to sing in their head voice. Or to sing in their chest voice, or to sing in their mix and blend. In the beginning of vocal training, it is essential to do these exercises (with a good vocal teachers assistance) on a regular basis to develop muscle memory. It’s like going to the gym. Sure, maybe you can lift those 15-pound weights with some effort one or two times, but if you keep lifting them on a regular basis, it will start to feel easier and more natural. Vocal exercises do the same thing basically, but instead of building actual muscle, we’re building muscle memory. Regular vocal exercises and repetition is the key. Although repetitive vocal exercises can be tedious, it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize and remember that this repetition of exercises is building muscle memory. Once our neuromuscular system accepts the new sounds and sensations that happen during the exercises, we can then go on to singing songs and applying this new muscle memory within the artistry of a song. However, old muscle memory and bad habits can creep back in once we start singing songs, which is why returning to repetitive exercises on a regular basis is necessary for building and maintaining proper vocal technique.

The Different ‘Lanes’ of Vocal Exercises2017-12-25T04:39:15-08:00

Let Your Favorite Singers Inspire You, Not Mold You

Vocal Coach PortlandEvery day in my Portland vocal studio, a student will want to sing a song by one of their favorite artists. They may have chosen to sing this song for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the message in the lyrics moved them or perhaps the melody caught their ears. As a vocal coach, I strongly believe that as a vocalist, you should try to find a connection with the material you are singing if you wish to present an authentic emotional rendering of the song. However, many singers get caught up in trying to sound like the singer of the song they have chosen to sing. I tell my students that this can be a slippery slope. When Adele first hit the charts, I had a lot of young girls who idolized her and wanted to sing her songs. I couldn’t believe how all of a sudden these girls were sounding like they were from across the pond with their British accents! I appreciate that they were inspired by Adele and her music, but as their vocal coach, I had to step in and tell them to sing in their own accents and voices.

I am a huge fan of Adele as well as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and have enjoyed singing their songs over the years. But the enjoyment only happened after I first released the idea of trying to sound like these world famous singers, and then when I tailored the songs to my own unique voice by changing the keys, perhaps changing the arrangements, and firmly making the song an interpretation rather than an exact copy. I’ve sung in cover bands where it was important to sound similar to the singer, but unless one is being paid to be in a tribute band, each singer should try to make the song fit their own voice, not the other way around.

When I first began singing jazz, I immersed myself in the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and other great jazz singers to really ‘feel’ the style. At the same time, I listened to as much instrumental jazz as possible to really hear the horn lines and other improvised instrumentals to get the feel of where I could go within a jazz song. Although I have never copied any of these singers or instrumentalists, I have used their original work as inspiration and as a template for finding my own original style. This is what I do for my students as their vocal coach at my vocal studio.

Let Your Favorite Singers Inspire You, Not Mold You2017-12-25T04:39:16-08:00

Singing Lessons for Kids-How Young is ‘Too Young’

Singing Lessons for KidsAs the owner of a busy vocal studio in Portland, I see singing students of all ages and levels on a regular basis.   I am often asked by prospective clients who are looking for singing lessons for kids, how young a student will I take.

Good question!

I’d love to say I have a tried and true age restriction on studying singing, but in all honesty, I don’t.

The short answer is that if the child has the desire to sing and can be focused and engaged for a 30 minute lesson, they are ready.

The real key for me is the DESIRE to want to sing and to learn how to sing better. I can teach any student at any age, if they truly want to be there. In other words “ I can’t teach them, if I can’t reach them”! This holds true for students of all ages.

I truly believe that good singing technique can be taught at an early age. Healthy singing habits, development of the head voice and chest voice and learning how to bridge the two together by creating a mixed register, are invaluable techniques that can only enhance the young singers voice.

Too many young singers (like myself, back in the day) only know two ways of singing “LOUD” or “BARELY AUDIBLE”. In other words, they are encouraged to “BELT IT OUT” and sing “LOUDER” in their chest voices, which can cause damage to sensitive vocal cords, or they attempt to sing high notes without a healthy development of their head voice, and only end up whispering notes, which also can cause damage.

In my vocal studio, I start with the basic techniques, encourage the students to practice the exercises at home (even for 10 minutes a day), and I choose songs for my younger students that are in their correct keys.   I also encourage each student to find songs on their own that they want to sing. I encourage a feeling of ownership when learning a song. Of course, I also make sure they are picking songs with age appropriate lyrics, and I always check in with the parents to make sure they sign off on the song choices.

I have successfully trained many young singers of contemporary voice, from age 6 upwards.

I have also had to release a few students of various ages because they did not have the desire to be there.

When making the decision to start singing lessons for a child answer these questions:

  • Does my child have the desire for singing lessons?
  • Can the child stay focused for a 30 minute lesson?

If your answers are yes, then you should give singing lessons for kids a try.

Find a teacher who regularly works with young children such as myself, and ask them for a trial lesson.

Singing Lessons for Kids-How Young is ‘Too Young’2017-12-25T04:39:17-08:00

Finding your voice, your key and your song. What a good vocal coach can do for you!

finding-your-voiceSo many of my voice students come to me with what they think is ‘the perfect song’ for them. They have come to this conclusion because the song is sung by one of their favorite artists. An artist who may be of a different gender, or simply sing in a higher or lower register than they do.  The students can’t figure out why they can’t jive with the song, and it’s up to me, the vocal coach, to clue them in to reality.

We all have styles that are better suited for us than others, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to have a varied repertoire of songs at our disposal. But let’s face it, some singers voices are more suited for gospel and R&B , while other singers voices are maybe more suited for country or pop. Then there is the issue of the key signature. Sometimes, all it takes is bringing the key up or down a few steps to make the song easier to sing.
I am amazed at how many inexperienced singers don’t know this.Singing in the wrong key is like trying to fit in a pair of jeans that are too small! Just get a bigger size…or just change the key!!! Those judges on American Idol have been pounding it in our brains for 10 years now … PICK THE RIGHT SONG!!! A good vocal coach will do that and that is what I am here for. Picking the best songs, in the best key , that best show you off as the best singer you can be!
Finding your voice, your key and your song. What a good vocal coach can do for you!2017-12-25T04:39:18-08:00

Singing ‘riffs and runs’ and why you need to control your voice

control Your Voice - Judy Malings Portland Vocal Coach“Riffs and Runs”, that catch-all phrase that describes singing many notes, often on a blues scale, on a single word or vowel.  Riffs and runs are used commonly in gospel singing and in R&B singing-think Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Beyonce.  Listen to the control that these singers have over their songs.  The SINGER is controlling the song, not the other way around. How are they controlling the song? By controlling the things that they as singers, have in their power to control: Breathing ( just the right amount of air),   balance of air and compression of the vocal cords, and the shape of their mouth. They also practice the runs so they know exactly what note they are starting on and ending on each time they approach the run.  Precision is key, as well as having an emotional connection to the phrase.  If the run gets too technical, then it can sound mechanical instead of soulful.  Every note that comes out of a singers mouth needs to be in control and balanced.  Remember, there may be 200 notes in a song, but if you sing 198 of them perfectly, and 2 of them imperfectly, you will be remembered for the 2 imperfect notes.

In my vocal studio, when I am working on songs with singers who want to sing riffs and runs, we work on precision by slowing the riffs and runs down and isolating each note in the sequence.  We then gradually speed the notes up until we are in the correct tempo of the song.  We modify vowels where it’s needed, and sometimes sing the riffs and runs on sounds such as ‘doo doo” or “no no” to work on precision.  I want to make sure that each singer I work with knows the starting note and the ending note of the run they are attempting to sing.   Then we drill the run over and over until it becomes imbedded in their muscle memory.

Our goal as singers is to be able to control the song, not have the song control the singer!  With good vocal training and practice, we can achieve just that!  You CAN control your voice.

Singing ‘riffs and runs’ and why you need to control your voice2017-12-25T04:39:19-08:00

You’re never too old to learn to sing

Adult voice students Judy Malings Portland Vocal CoachHaving recently moved to Portland, Oregon from San Diego, I can honestly say that one of the best changes that I have enjoyed is the higher ratio of adult voice students at my studio.  In Southern California, most of my singing students were children or teens. As much as I enjoyed teaching them and watching their talents blossom, there sometimes was the prevailing feeling that  some of these students lives were so over-scheduled that they really couldn’t fully engage in the process or find time in their busy schedules to practice during the week. Not knowing what type of student clientele I would get when I opened my voice studio in Portland, I was pleasantly surprised to fill my roster with mostly adult singing students.  Most of these students have full time jobs, and many of them also sing professionally, but quite a few of them have always wanted to sing for various reasons, and are now at a point in their lives where they can make it a priority. 

They REALLY want to be there!

There is no question that teaching kids and teens is a very rewarding experience, but I can see how I have been missing out on the rewarding experience of teaching more mature students.  It gives me great gratification to listen to these adults as they find their voices from within, and learn how to express themselves through song.  I am teaching a 70 year old retired gentleman who would like to sing at family functions, a 48 year old male who used to sing professionally and wants to get back in the game, a 45 year old mom who wants to repair her damaged voice, an office worker who needs to build up her confidence, and others who are committed to the task of training their voices.  Yes, it takes daily practice….not just checking in with me once a week, and these students are willing and ready to take on the work.  They know, as I do, that it’s never too late to find joy in music and song..no matter what your goals may be.

You’re never too old to learn to sing2017-12-25T04:39:21-08:00

Why singing students need performance opportunites

guyandgirlsingingThis past weekend, my most current Glee Group “Vocal Intensity” had their performance in front of their friends and families. This was an amazing group of 11 girls, ranging in age from 7-14, and ranging in experience from NEVER ever having sung before, to seasoned pros. At first, this combination may seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but what did happen is the older girls mentored the younger girls, and the more experienced singers were cheerleaders for the newbies! The biggest challenge is getting over performance anxiety, and the only way to get over that hurdle is to jump off the bridge and do it!

Once those girls saw the audience smiling at them, once they heard the roaring applause, and once they realized that all their hard work was really paying off, they were hooked!! It just takes one time of feeling that adrenaline rush to become addicted to performing. Or, maybe it just takes one time to know it’s not the right direction for you. Either way, this is why I strongly encourage all of my singing students to perform on a regular basis. It builds confidence which only helps make you a better performer as well as spilling in to other areas of your lives.

I will keep you posted on my next “Singers Showcase” in my new city of Portland, Oregon!  I’m expecting a lot of ‘converting’ to happen that day!

Keep singing !


Why singing students need performance opportunites2017-12-25T04:39:22-08:00