Episode 78 – Dealing with Discouragement

We all have bad days as singers. We can even have extended periods of voice issues that seem never to end.

These setbacks can create feelings of discouragement that pull us from the path of improvement.

In this episode, John discusses how to bounce back from these difficult days and how you can quickly get back on track to achieving your vocal goals.



Teaching Contemporary Singing by John Henny is available HERE.

Outside of the US, search “B07PN6SDZD” in your country’s Amazon store.

Episode Transcript

Episode 78 – Dealing with Discouragement

Hey there, this is John Henny welcome back to another edition of the intelligent vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious time with me. Alright, check this out. What is that? That is me flipping through the pages of my finished book. I’m actually holding a copy in my hands and when you hear this, the book will be available on Amazon and when you hear this, if you want the book, if you’re thinking about the book, you should jump on right away because for the first week I’m going to price the book at 99 cents. Yep! You can own my blood, sweat, and tears of the last six months for just 99 cents. I’m just really excited to get it out there for people to read it. Of course, my target audience is singers who were thinking about teaching or people just beginning to teach voice.  

But I’ve had a number of test readers go through it and I’ve had experienced voice teachers tell me that it’s been helpful for them. Maybe they’re a little more classically based and it’s been good for them to kind of understand contemporary voice teaching. That’s the title of the book I should have said that, Teaching contemporary singing and I’ve had singers say that it’s been really helpful because I really break down how the voice works and how you should think of it as a teacher and Hey, if you’re going to teach yourself it can be good to understand teaching. So go to amazon.com look up John Henny, H E N N Y and then Amazon will probably say is, it’s been saying to me, do you mean John Henry No, not John Henry. I’ve always been called John Henry ever since I was a kid. It’s John Henny, Henny, although now Henny is kind of a cool name because of Hennessy Cognac and people just shortened the name to a Henny. 

So I’ve actually had people ask if that’s my real name. So it went from people not going, what’s your name too Wow, that’s actually kind of cool. So thank you Hennessy Cognac. Alright, so today I want to talk about dealing with discouragement. How does singer come to me recently and he has been dealing with some vocal issues and struggling with the high notes and his frustration is these notes were working previously and through some combination of vocal stress, etc., We’re having to rehab the voice a little bit and build this back up and in a recent lesson I could just tell he was just so discouraged and there was just so little energy in the lesson, that is kind of hard for me to teach him and kinda had to give him a little pep talk / lecture on not allowing discouragement to slow you down even more. 

And what I wanted to do in this podcast is kinda give you the same pep talk because you will face discouragement at some point and the first thing, the first point is you need to expect setbacks. It is going to happen, you are going to be going along, doing gangbusters in your voice and something’s going to happen. You’re going to get sick, you’re going to life is going to conspire to not give you enough proper time you feel you need to practice, music that you’ve been doing won’t be received in the way that you had hoped. You may do a performance or an audition that just goes spectacularly, horribly wrong and those do happen and it’s how you recover. It’s how quickly you get back up. You, if you think that this is going to be a straight line from where you are to where you want to get with your singing goals filled with nothing but choirs of angels cheering you along as you go from triumph to triumph, it’s not going to happen. 

You may as well stop now because you are only going to have heartache and frustration. So you need to expect these setbacks and when they come, you need to practice patience. Patience is a huge part of this and you can actually practice patience. Now my wife will tell you, I am not always the most patient person, but in recent weeks I’ve really been trying to practice patience and in the places where I tend to get most frustrated, grocery stores or a particular trigger point for me, everything from I will find a parking spot that I can easily get in and out of and when I come out almost every time there will be crazy monster trucks parked on either side of me sandwiching me in. So that not only is it crazy hard to get into my car, I can’t see as I’m backing out, I just that drives me nuts. 

Then there’s the person that you always get stuck behind who super slow and who blocks the whole aisle by putting their cart on one end of the aisle and then standing and just casually perusing the items on the other side and that person just seems to be in every aisle I need to go to and checking out that’s always a whole bunch of fun. The person in front of you deciding they have to write a check, which of course they don’t have ready or you feel guilty because you have a lot of groceries in every person that gets behind you as two items and you keep letting them, people go in front of you until you go, I’m going to be here all day. It’s just a maddening experience. So before I digress, which I already did too late. What I do now is I just practice awareness and I will in the grocery store, I talked about it a couple podcasts ago on ear training. 

I just listen to all of the sounds and I try and see how much I can hear at once and then can I pinpoint specific sounds and it just becomes this game and it helps with my patients. The other thing that I do is I’ve just been reminding myself that someday will be the last day I ever go to a grocery store. It will be the last day I ever stand in line and I don’t know when that is, but that day is coming and I need to appreciate what I have in the moment. The fact that I am conscious in this moment is the greatest most beautiful gift there can be and I just have to realize this, having this idea of patience and also gratitude so that when you are working on your voice and it’s not going as well as you would hoped or you feel like you’ve had some setbacks in or you’re frustrated that you don’t sound as good as you did yesterday or two days ago. 

You have to remember the day is coming. That will be the last day you ever saying, there will be the last day that you ever practice and you need and it’s a finite number and you need to really, really realize how precious every day of being able to sing is because there are those who have lost their voice or really lost their ability to sing and we give anything just to deal with some annoying little setbacks or not sounding as well or your notes cracking on a song that you weren’t cracking on the day before. So keeping that gratitude, the next thing you need to do is you need to control your emotions, which is building upon, getting more patient, having more gratitude. You cannot allow yourself to get frustrated in the practice room. One of the worst things that I see students do is I will give them an exercise. 

They will attempt to do the exercise and it won’t be to their liking and you just see it in their eyes and they just go, Oh, that was terrible and I remind them, you know what? You just wasted that event. The only way to get better at something is to have a goal. Let’s say you’re shooting golf balls. Okay and you’re trying to obviously put the golf ball towards a pin or towards the hole and you take a swing and you have to watch where the ball lands. Now if you just go oh that sucked and then hit the next ball, you’ve learned nothing from that event. What you have to do is see where the ball landed and then make an adjustment based on that result. Then hit the ball again, analyze the event. Did it get better or worse If it got better, keep moving in that direction. 

If it got worse, change direction. You got to do the same thing with your voice. If you go to sing and exercise and it doesn’t go right and you just go oh, that was terrible, you’re not going to get better. How are you going to correct terrible? You have to go that felt like I over muscled. Why did I over muscle? Maybe that vowel went a little too wide or maybe I’m trying to sing a little too loud right now. Maybe I’m not really ready to do that exercise or maybe I need to warm up a little bit first. Whatever the answer is, you need to make an adjustment and then analyze again or you’re just going to start spinning your wheels. The next step you gotta work smarter, you really do it. Working smarter will keep you focused and one of the things I go through in my book is this system I call the teaching triangle. 

And the teaching triangle is a way for the teacher or the student to track what’s happening with the voice and how to consistently get the voice back on track, back on track and the first part of the triangle, the top of the triangle is the condition or what is happening in the voice. And there’s little elements of that. I go into how to break that down and from the condition you go into the consider phase and the consider phase is let’s say you’ve got, Hey my voice is cracking. That’s your condition. Consider is why is my voice cracking and you have to stop and think, Hmm, was it the vowel did I push too much air? Am I just letting go at the muscle? Because whatever, when you consider, that’s going to give you the answer for the consult and the consult is giving the exercise back to the student or giving the exercise back to yourself. 

You’re consulting and then you try that new exercise. But the idea of the triangle and it breaks down into smaller parts in each corner of the triangle is to have a system so that it keeps you focused so that you’re working smarter. It’s very easy, especially if you’ve been studying singing for a while to become rather mindless with your singing and you’re practicing, singers also make the mistake of when they’re working on a song, they’ll just sing the song top to bottom at full speed and then they’ll go back to the top of the song and just sing the top song at full speed and they’ll just keep doing that over and over. Rather than working like musicians work. Musicians will isolate the hard parts, slow them down and go over them and over them again and again. You would be better off if you’ve got 10 minutes to work on something, to work on a song rather than just singing the song three times. 

Spend the 10 minutes just going over two lines in the chorus again and again, taking away the consonants, just working on the vowels, working on the blending from vowel to vowel on your vocal balance, on the vocal colors, on your dynamics, all of those things that you really do some focused work. That’s how you work smarter. Don’t waste this time and then the final part of it is set realistic goals. You are not going to learn to sing in three months. You’re likely not going to become an incredibly successful singer in six months. You’re not going to be writing great songs if you’re just starting writing in a year. Everything takes time. Now that doesn’t mean that you waste time. You need to have a sense of urgency, but the goals need to be realistic. I remember when I was first starting teaching and a gentleman came to me and the first lesson he’s telling me he wants to sing all of these journey songs, these really high songs, and he’s just absolutely struggling. 

And I said to him you know, maybe we want to wait before we tackle this and he said, no, I’m in a band and I’m the lead singer and these are the songs we’re doing. So he obviously was in the wrong band and they were picking the wrong material, but it was just setting him up for failure. So your goals have to be realistic and the other thing even in terms of your practicing, it can become very tempting to say well, you know, I’m a serious singer, so if I don’t have at least an hour to practice, I’m not gonna be bothered practicing at all and the fact of the matter is, even if you have just two minutes to phonate through a straw, do some lip glides, do some vocal exercises in those two minutes. Let’s say your, you’re waiting to leave the house and your significant other is taking a little bit of extra time getting ready, do some quick vocalizing, work on some vowel adjustments. 

Spend some time learning a song. Find time in the margins. Don’t waste any time. Don’t waste any day, especially a day where you’re vocally healthy, cause you’re not going to be vocally healthy everyday. But if you do these steps and you can keep yourself out of discouragement. Discouragement and disappointment, if you allow it to begin to eat at you, it will just start to destroy your goals. You have to, have to believe in yourself and that is the final, final step over all this. You have to believe that you can learn to sing and I’m telling you, everyone can learn to sing to some level unless there is some type of a physiological damage with the instrument. If they’re less, if there’s something wrong, then okay. But if you have a healthy voice, you can learn to sing like you. Again, you have to figure out the best version of you, but you have to believe that you can do this. 

Singing is not easy and don’t be thrown that. I’ll take a little bit of that back. When you’re singing correctly, it’s really easy singing. When you get all the technical stuff dialed in, it’s almost like magic when the voice is working right It’s so, so easy and when you see people making it easy, you think, Oh my gosh, they just have this natural gift and while some people do, I will tell you in my experience, natural gifts are, they don’t always come fully formed. And the danger of the natural gift is the singer can ride on their natural gift for awhile and that eventually starts to poop out and that starts to have its own problems. If you don’t have this great supernatural gift for singing, there’s a little bit of a blessing in there because it’s going to force you to work harder. 

It’s going to force you to believe in yourself. It’s going to force you to really push and when you develop that work ethic and when you push and when you really learn how your voice works, you are going to be set up so much better because you will be able to weather the vocal storms that come into everyone’s life and you’re going to have a tool set so that you can diagnose and fix yourself. It don’t despair if it’s hard work for you. This is a good thing. It really is. Just embrace the work, do the work, stay in the moment, believe in yourself, keep analyzing work smart, have a system that works for you and you will improve. I really do promise you and if you want to learn a little bit more about how the voice works and all this stuff, I’m babbling about a little sprinkle of a vocal signs that explained rather easily. 

Well then you can get my book Teaching Contemporary Singing at Amazon there you go. There’s your sponsor for today’s podcast me and if you liked the book, I would love for you to leave me a review. Leave an honest review and if you don’t like the book, you can leave a review. Any feedback is helpful, although I really do like the positive reviews better. But I so look forward to reading the book and if you want to get on my email list, just go to Johnhenny.com. I realized I was checking my website and I had email signups on the blog and the podcast page is my front page I didn’t, so I’ve added it there. You can just, click on the little button to get on my email list, put in your email address and you will get my ramblings a couple times a week and also special offers on my products things like that, little exclusives and hey, thank you so much for listening. I do so appreciate it and until next time to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye bye.