Episode 112 – Absolutes in Singing

Learning about the voice can be a confusing journey, especially online. Teachers will tell you to “always” do one thing and “never” do another and why other methods and instruction are “wrong.”

Much like our current political climate, nuance is often left wanting as more extreme arguments are better able to cut through the clutter and noise.

In this episode, John discusses how to approach online content and find the gems of information within the posturing and opinion.


New Science of Singing 2.0 Course

Episode Transcript

Episode 112 – Absolutes in Singing

Hey there, this is John Henny. Welcome back to another edition of The Intelligent Vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious listening time with me. Hey, today’s a pretty big day for me. I just sent off the manuscript for my brand new book to the editor, so I’ll probably get it back middle of next month. As I record this, we’re looking at the end of August, so middle of September, I should get the manuscript back then. I gotta do a little bit of cleanup, rewrites, and then get some test readers. If you are interested in being a test reader for my book go to my website, johnhenny.com and get on my email list. You can see how to sign up there. And I send those opportunities out to my email list. This book is specifically for voice teachers and it’s kind of a companion piece to my first book, which is entitled Teaching Contemporary Singing.

This book is tentatively titled Voice Teacher Influencer. And the focus of this book is for voice teachers who want to grow their teaching, their studio, their influence to a wider audience. And I’ll go into things such as social media, Facebook advertising, blog writing, how to do video, how to set up your website to attract the students you most want to work with, how to create a product and get some passive income. All those things that will give you a wider reach as a voice teacher. So I’m really looking forward to that coming out. I’m gonna try and have this out. I’m gonna really push. I’m shooting for October but it’s probably going to be closer to November. I hate to hedge my bets, but it’s probably going to be in November. But if I make it for October, well, yay me. Anyway, it is at the editor. I’m very excited to push that off of my to-do list.

I’m going to do a podcast on this coming up on productivity, but in doing these projects, I’ve come up with a system that is enabling me to get quite a bit done in a short period of time. And I’ve taken things from different methods and kind of composed my own. So I will share that coming up for not just voice teachers but you singers, songwriters who want to get more stuff done. Looking forward to that. Hey, if you are interested in voice science, my sale on the New Science of Singing 2.0 is coming to a close this week. It ends at the end of this month. So go to the show notes, johnhenny.com/112 for this episode. I’ll have a link for it there and you can find out more about it, but you can get everything. You’re actually saving quite a bit with this sale going on.

All right. Today I want to talk about absolutes in singing. Absolutes, such as always keep your notes for your episode in front of your face. I got a little bit of a floppy brain from all the writing I’ve been doing. Anyway, absolutes and singing. And this really comes from just kind of pecking around YouTube and watching some of the instructional videos. And I’m going to say there is some, there’s some good content out there. 

And YouTube is a bit of the wild West out there, and there is some good content. And even some of the teachers who are putting out good content, sometimes they will frame things in a way that I don’t totally agree with, but I understand why they are doing it. If you’re putting content out there as a voice teacher, you’re usually not doing it without an end in mind, without a goal in mind. And if you are just throwing random content out there, you actually should have a goal in mind. Whether it’s just getting people to go over to your website to consume more content, or get on your email list, you should be getting something back for your hard work. But some of these really savvy YouTube marketers, they will tend to put things a bit more in extremes than they need to be.

And I started off in my teaching life having a bit more absolutes and I was in a training system that had some absolutes, never do this, always do this. And as I get older and the more experience I’ve gotten as a teacher and the more I’ve just reached out and studied other systems and what other people are doing, there really are no absolutes. If that can be an absolute, I almost never say never, which I think is a James Bond movie of some sort.  Never say never again. But the reason that people will use absolutes is because when you go to Facebook and you start looking at singing videos or YouTube, and the YouTube algorithm is recommending videos to you, you just have a split second to choose what it is that you want to watch next and nuanced positioning, nuanced opinion is a pretty tough sell.

If you see two things on ‘the subtleties of developing your range’ or another video entitled ‘never make these mistakes when trying to sing higher’ or ‘never do this when trying to sing higher,’ that’s the video you’re likely going to click. That’s going to grab your attention because your brain is going to go, What if I’m doing this? What if I’m doing the thing that you should never do? And as a teacher on YouTube, if they take a contrary position, if they kind of stake their claim as to this is the way it must always be done and you should never do X, Y, or Z that’s how they can start to pull themselves away from the somewhat densely concentrated pack of voice teachers competing for your attention on YouTube. And oftentimes the more contrarian of a position that you take and the more attention that you can get, it is a well known and well traveled path to create an audience, to be the person that’s calling out the status quo.

That’s the brave voice in the wilderness. That everyone else is a fraud and they don’t know what they’re doing, and I’m the only one that can teach you. And if you do this exercise, you’re going to destroy your voice. And it’s just simply not true because the exercise that they say is destroying a voice may actually be a very appropriate exercise for a specific singer. I remember a voice teacher and I actually, I got some criticism on a article I did many years ago for Backstage West– or Backstage Magazine. And it was, I think they had me write on my 10 favorite vocal exercises or something like that. And I put as one of my favorites exercises with a hard G or a ‘guh’ sound or I just actually just said G, I didn’t differentiate it being hard, but I said, if you’re breathy and tending to fall apart and have some weakness, you’ll get a little more assistance in resisting the air, that you’re giving a little help to the vocal folds.

And I remember somebody took that article and kind of pulled it apart and really said that what I was suggesting was dangerous and it can bind voices up. And they’re right, if a voice is completely jammed up and you don’t want to give them a GUH and make it even worse. So in that instance, they’re right. But they took it as an absolute, you should never do this. This is just harming voices. And it’s actually not true. It can be a useful exercise. I saw a recent argument breakout online where someone was advocating working a voice from the bottom up, this is going to cause too much vocal weight. You should work top down, work lightly. And you know, they’re both right, but just not in absolutes.

It depends on the voice. It depends on the singer. So when you are going around the interwebs and you’re consuming this content, just remove the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from just about anything people are proclaiming. I want you to see through the, it’s not even so much hype, it’s kind of what teachers need to do to get an audience. I know one teacher in particular, he started off, no one knew who he was and so he just began to viciously attack other voice teachers. And of course he upset the status quo greatly. And I kind of braced myself for one of his attacks, which actually never came. I think I found something where he said something rather complimentary. If he attacked me, I missed it. But he, as I looked at his content, I looked through the kind of bravado and attacks and I went, you know, this guy is actually really sharp.

And he since changed his brand. He got some notice and he’s changed his tact on YouTube. And now he’s one of the most– he’s incredibly popular and does reaction videos, and he’s just a really sharp guy. But the attack videos got him some attention and I know voice teachers that were fit to be tied. I mean, people were just so upset by this young guy and it was like, you know what, let’s all just relax. I mean if he takes a swing at me it’s cool. I can handle it because I could actually see through the kind of bigger statements and the controversies and it was, there’s actually some good understanding here and there’s some really good content. Obviously I’m not a fan of the negative aspect of it, but if you can just be aware of when a voice teacher is using bravado and attention-getting tactics, staking out a claim, attacking another method, these are just ways of just segmenting and building an audience and to get like-minded people. What I do on this podcast, I really don’t have extreme views on anything. So my audience has been a slower build. I’m quite happy with the listenership I have and I’m just really happy with the people who do enjoy this podcast.

They tend to be people who are just a little more nuanced and thoughtful and really just want to see the big picture of singing and be open to just the vast amount of knowledge and experience that’s out there. I mean there really is no world’s greatest voice teacher, and I know great voice teachers, but even they have areas where I’d have to give the nod to another voice teacher as to having superior skills in that area. And then you start bringing in a voice coaching and just working through style and all of those things. And there’s just so much to know and so much to learn that you really just can’t just focus on one person.

And I’m telling you that straight out, you know, just don’t focus if you’re a fan of mine. There’s a lot more out there. There are people who know things I don’t know and I know things they maybe don’t know so well, and you just need to absorb so much of what’s going on out there. Just be a lifelong student. Just keep your passion for singing and just avoid the never/always trap.

Hey, if you’d like to know more about me, go to my website, johnhenny.com. I do have my book, my first book is currently out on Amazon. It’s called Teaching Contemporary Singing. And if you are interested in learning to teach, you can go to my website and click on the teacher training tab in the menu and there’s information there on my Contemporary Voice Teacher Academy. And that’s a whole certification course and teaching contemporary singing. I’m also in there answering questions within the lessons. And if you get in now, you can get access to my CVTA Elite, and that is a separate forum, private forum I just created where I will get in there and work with your student. I will critique your lessons, and I will even personally one-on-one coach you in your business to help you grow your studio. I really enjoy doing that. And hey, until next time, to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye.