2019 was a year of explosive growth for The Intelligent Vocalist. The monthly downloads have tripled in just the past 12 months alone.

John looks back at this past year and recaps the ten most popular episodes.


Dr. Reena Gupta

Episode 153 – The Top Ten Episodes of 2019

Hey there. This is John Henny. Welcome back to another episode of The Intelligent Vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious listening time with me. Today, I thought I’d do something a little different. I’m going to do a retrospective look back at the 10 most listened to episodes of The Intelligent Vocalist in 2019. And I just checked the other day, I’d actually forgotten how long I’ve been doing this podcast, and I started this in October of 2015, which is now a long time ago. I did not realize that I’ve been doing the podcast for over four years, but this past year has been rather remarkable in the listenership, which actually was great and I was happy for the audience I had. It’s tripled in the last year. So I really thank all of you who are regular listeners, who share it with their singing friends, who post about it on social media. If you’ve left a review, I do really thank you. You’ve been a huge part of the growth of this podcast. So 2019 was a very exciting year. So I looked back at the downloads, the listens of each episode, and I came up with the 10 most listened to episodes, and so I thought I’d do the good old Casey Kasem countdown. If any of you are old enough to remember that, I used to love that as a kid. It was always exciting to try and guess what number one would be.

Here we go. At number 10 is Episode 96, The Key to Vocal Power. I really enjoyed this episode because there’s just such vital information there, and I talked about a concept called MFDR (Maximum Flow Declination Rate). And that podcast got me ready to do an upcoming lecture that I did last summer at the Osborn Head and Neck Institute Vocal Masterclass, and that was put on by Dr. Reena Gupta, a fantastic ear, nose and throat doctor here in Los Angeles, as well as Mindy Pack, who’s a fantastic voice teacher who I just interviewed for an upcoming podcast. So you’ll have to listen to that one because she’s just a wealth of information. But this maximum flow declination rate is quite fascinating. It talks about how quickly your vocal folds close after opening. You know, your vocal folds are in this cycle of opening and closing. And when they close, they’re compressing the air. When they open, they allow the air out. But one of the keys to power is how quickly the vocal folds come back together and close, and there are some fascinating reasons for that. So go back and listen to Episode 96 if that interests you.

Coming in at number 9, What is Falsetto? Falsetto is a question I get asked about a lot, and there’s a lot of confusion about it because, again, in singing, the terms often fail us, and falsetto’s just become this blanket term. It’s almost a term in search of a meaning, because there’s so many different shades of falsetto, questions if women have falsetto. So I delve into that one deeply there. So go listen to Episode 103 if you’re into falsetto.

Episode 91, Effective Straw Exercises. I love the straw. Mindy and I just talked extensively about utilizing straw. She’s got a new product coming out into the straw world. I love seeing all these vocal straws coming out. She’s worked very, very closely with Dr. Ingo Titze, who did a lot of the research on the straw. And so she has a product that approaches it in a new way that we’ll be talking about. But straws, they really are so effective for singers, not just for warming up but for basically getting your vocal folds in your larynx into an optimal position for singing, and straws can make that happen instantly. You don’t have to go through all kinds of warming up and and working your voice and voice lessons. You just know a little bit about how to use a straw and you can start finding that optimal condition for singing, so I go into the straw exercises on Episode 91.

Coming in at number 7, one of my absolute favorite ones to do and was actually, I believe, the first guest that I ever had on The Intelligent Vocalist. Before this episode, it’s just been me babbling. So I thought it might be interesting to bring in another person to babble along with me, and I brought in Chris Johnson of The Naked Vocalist, which is a fantastic podcast. It helped inspire my podcast, although I realized my audience would prefer me to have clothes on. But Chris, I’ve known Chris since, I think, he was just starting off as a teacher. I was lecturing in the UK and met Chris there, and he is just a fantastic mind and intellect who really embraces all sides of singing from the artistic to the science to different methods, and he really kind of has that Bruce Lee mentality.

I did a recent podcast on this Bruce Lee idea of looking at everything and just taking what works for you. And Chris has done a fantastic job of that, and it’s always fun to talk to Chris. He’s just fantastically funny. And just a wonderful person. So that’s Episode 88.

Number 6, Episode 90, Understanding the High Belt. High belt is one of those things that students will often come to me for, and it’s a very tricky area to sing because it is fraught with danger. It is a danger island because if you don’t belt correctly, you can hurt yourself, and it’s one of those things that you have to approach correctly. And I believe understanding what’s going on and really understanding how to do it is helpful. You just don’t want to take a swing and a miss at this one. And what I talked about there inspired my Boldly Belting course, where I created these little mini songs with very specific words and vowel sounds to ease the singer into it, and so you’re not jumping just from exercises into a song, and this serves as a pathway going from exercises through these, what I call, lyricizes and then you can work it to sing whatever song that you want. But I discuss the concepts of belting and how to do it correctly in this episode. So Episode 90, Understanding High Belt.

All right, number 5. Coming into the top five, Episode 83, What is Placement? Placement is one of those terms that drive singers crazy. And you will get sometimes from a voice teacher telling you to bring it forward or place it back, place it up, and that’s a tricky way to work the voice. It absolutely works for some people and some people are really in tune where they feel the voice, but other people need to focus more on the mechanics of what is creating that. You know, placement is actually a result. You use controllers to get you there, breath pressure, resistance at the vocal folds, the shaping of the vocal tract for the vowel that influences the resonance. Certain configurations of those will give you the sensation of the voice being up on top of the pitch or more forward or more back, but placement’s a little more esoteric. So I go into the idea of placement and how you can– you actually should use it as a singer, because it becomes what you’re shooting for. But it’s something that needs to be developed, and you want to work more on what you control first. So if that one interests you, that’s Episode 83.

Number 4 is Episode 73, Your Vocal Color Wheel. This is a real passion of mine, and it just really goes into all the nuances of vowels. Vowels have an almost infinite variety in the different shades of vowels, in intensity levels, and just the color. And great artists will utilize this color and they really get into the sound of words. And words in song, words in music are so much more important beyond the story they’re telling or the emotion they’re invoking. But the sound of the word is so very, very critical. And it can make or break a song. The Oasis song, Don’t Look Back in Anger, when they sing the soaring chorus, “And so Sally can wait,” is such a big anthemic sing-along and if they had words like, “and that’s why Sally can wait,” I don’t think it would have been as big of a hit because the audience would have struggled with the ‘AH’ sound. The ‘O’ is much easier for people to sing and it just soars and it’s such a warm sound whereas the ‘AH’ would be this brighter, in your face– and I think the strength– well that song has a lot of strengths. It’s a brilliant song. But the ‘O’ vowel is so vitally important in the color of that, and that’s what I get into in Your Vocal Color Wheel, is just how you can play with the shades of words to help enhance your artistry and even your songwriting.

Alright, number 3 is another fantastic guest. This is episode number 87, and this is Dr. Reena Gupta. Dr. Gupta. It’s actually a two part 87 and 88. As is the Chris Johnson– when you listen to the Chris Johnson episode, there’s another one following. But Reena is such a brilliant ear, nose and throat doctor, and she’s just so tied into singing and high level performance and what performers go through, and she’s such a gift to the singing community because she shares her knowledge so freely.

I really encourage you to listen to that episode and really check her out online. She just will share videos and case studies, and your understanding of the voice will be nothing but enhanced by following Dr. Reena Gupta. And you should also get her book when you go. I think it’s the OHNI Voice Book. Oh, I’m blanking. I should know this. But if you go to johnhenny.com/87, I have all the links to follow Reena there. But definitely check out that episode. And if you’ve listened to it before, listen to it again because there’s just so much good information there.

All right, number 2 is a statistical tie. I think there were only one or two downloads separating them, which is quite amazing because these episodes will get into the thousands of downloads. But these two were so neck and neck, I’m going to call it a tie. The first number 2 is Episode 92, Common Exercise Mistakes. And in this one, I just go through what I see happening with students when they’re approaching an exercise and using it wrong or maybe overusing certain exercises that aren’t right for their voice. And we’ve all done it. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of a routine when we’re working our voice, and sometimes we like to just hang on to exercises that are easier for us but they may have overstayed their welcome. So this is a really good episode to listen to, if you might need to shake up your practice routine and to look at some other ways of working your voice and to see if maybe you’re falling into some of these traps. So that is episode number 92. Now– Oh, look at that, I somehow– I must have said something that sounded like “Siri” because my phone just went off. So be quiet, phone. Now, that brings up this– okay, I didn’t even plan this. This is how genius this is. Episode 72, Distraction is the Enemy. And this phone has never gone off while I’m doing the podcast. As a matter of fact, I usually banish the phone to another room, and Distraction is the Enemy is all about how these devices are stealing your attention and stealing your time, and I am so heartened, I’m so pleased that this episode got so many listens.

Because when I recorded it I thought, Oh man, this is just, you know, the old man yelling at the clouds. I’m just railing against something that people don’t care about. And the fact that people care about this, the fact that you realize that your attention is the most precious thing you have. It’s not time, because time is precious, but even more precious is what you pay attention to in the time you have. That makes or breaks the quality of your life, the quality of your attention. And this podcast is me railing against these devices that have been created by brilliant people who know how to steal your attention.

The fact is, just as we have optical illusions that fool our eyes, even though we know that it’s not real, that it is an illusion, we still see the illusion, right? We can’t unsee the illusion. We are hackable. Our brains are hackable in terms of our senses. Our brains are hackable in terms of our attention. And these people, social media, etc, they know how to hack your attention, and they are constantly bombarding you to steal and sell your attention. And they are distracting you from what you really want to do. You really want to sing well, you really want to express yourself, you really want to build your voice, and yet you find yourself scrolling Instagram, and looking at nonsense. And so this episode is, for me, one of the more important ones that I’ve done, so I encourage you to listen to it again. That’s Episode 92. Because the fact of the matter is you don’t ever escape this. Distraction is constant and you need to consistently remind yourself not to fall into the trap.

Alright, that brings us to number 1. And this episode was number one by quite a healthy margin, and it’s no surprise. It is Episode 1-1-1, Episode 111, and it’s my interview with the one and only Natalie Weiss. Natalie is well known on YouTube for her “Breaking Down The Riffs” series. She’s a brilliant singer, brilliant performer, fantastic vocal coach, and she posts her coaching online on YouTube. She’s recently been coaching Katharine McPhee, who’s in Waitress on Broadway, and she shared those online. And Natalie was just an absolute delight to talk to. She’s such an instinctive singer, and singing is just so deep within her body that it’s– it was refreshing for me, because sometimes I will get fascinated on the science side of things. And it’s just great when someone is just such a gifted singer, but is able to articulate how they found themselves there. She struggled with her voice when she was younger, and we talked about that. But she’s just absolutely wonderful. She’s got a huge fan base, and I really loved talking with her. So if you want to hear my interview again, that is Episode 111.

All right, that’s the Top 10 episodes of 2019. I will be fascinated to see what it is you all listen to this time next year. I plan on making this an annual event. I think it’s good to look back at what I’ve talked about. Also, please feel free to reach out to me if there’s topics you’d like me to cover, guests that you would like me to have. I do like doing the guest format now as well. Again, that’s something I started this year. My email address [email protected], that’s [email protected]. And please visit my website and get on my email list. I love sending out emails, letting you know when there are new episodes, when I’ve posted something new to YouTube, when I have new courses come out, when I plan on launching new courses this year. And my email list are the very first to be able to get into my courses, usually at a discount. So go to johnhenny.com, you’ll see how to sign up for my email list. You can get my free straw warmups course there.

And if you’re interested in learning to be a voice teacher, you can click on the tab at the top that says teacher training and you can get information on my Contemporary Voice Teacher Academy that has been growing this year, which is just fantastic. I love doing that. That’s a big passion project for me. And until next time, to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye bye.