Episode 80 – Using Your Vocal Crowbar

For every singer, there are frustrating areas of the voice we just can’t seem to conquer.

The is where your vocal “crowbar” can be your best tool for solving stubborn issues.

By discovering and utilizing your vocal crowbar, you can start eliminating these singing problems quickly and effectively.

Episode Transcript

Episode 80 – Using Your Vocal Crowbar

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. Wow 80 episodes! That’s pretty good for something I just started as kind of a little goof for myself. The podcast has been growing steadily. I so appreciate your sharing the podcast, going and reviewing it on iTunes or Stitcher and just putting the word out there. I really do love hearing from you and just knowing how this podcast helps it’s very edifying if I may use that word. All right, if you have not yet gone to your local Amazon and gotten my book, well go get it. Teaching Contemporary Singing, you can get it on Kindle, you can get it on print and very soon or in print and very soon I will have the audio version. 

I just finished recording it. That was a pretty painstaking, that took a lot of much more work than I thought and what I had to do where I record this podcast at my music Academy, I actually have a little recording studio and so I just set up the mic and I go ahead and talk away and the room set up more for live vocal performance. The room’s little bit live so that there’s, I’ve got some sound dampening on the walls, but the room’s got a little tiny bit of echo, a little bit of liveliness, that’s not bad. It’s fine for a podcast and it’s perfectly fine for doing vocals on the level that we do. We’re not putting out cranking out professional albums, but man for an audio book you can have no echo. So I actually had to create this contraption where I got a box and from target one of those 13inch x 13inch storage boxes. 

Then I put in 2inch acoustic foam and crammed it all in on all sides, put the mic in there and then I put a sound blanket over my head so that there was absolutely no room reflection. I mean this is voice is as dry as dry gets because audible, they will reject your file if it’s not quite enough. So I wanted to make sure, I don’t want to go through the whole thing of waiting two weeks and getting a turndown. So I spent hour upon hour under this blanket, huddled reading my book and then I’d take my Kindle and I bumped the mic or words. I found out there are words that I can type pretty well but are absolute tongue twisters when I speak them. So my next book, I think maybe I’m going to not use words with more than two syllables because it adds just too much work doing the audio book. 

But I’m very excited to get this out. I will be turning this over soon. Just got to get the final edits done, all the little breath noises and everything but I am finished. So look for that very soon. Again, you can get the print version, you can get the Kindle version. I have a small amount of copies available to be signed. If you would like a signed copy of the book, it’s $20 to cover the book and the shipping and handling. I will make it out personally to you and sign it. I will send that overseas for $20. Just send me an email, [email protected] and just put a signed book in the message and what does that mean? The title of the message, what is the subject, I can’t even think of putting a signed book in the subject. You can put it in the message as well and I’ll send you the link to get one if they are still available. 

But as I’m talking right now, I did just get a shipment in so I do have a few again, [email protected]. Okay today I want to talk about your vocal crowbar. Now, what is a vocal crowbar? Actually a very powerful tool to help eliminate certain vocal problems and certainly I found it extremely helpful in extending range, building power and fixing that vocal break and I’ll tell you a quick story about where I really saw how this works, and this is kind of an extreme example, but you can use this as a bit of a motivation just so you can understand how it works. I had a singer come to me and she had been on American idol back in the Simon Cowell days and she had done okay, she got to Hollywood, but she didn’t make it to the final group that then goes on to the live show and she came to me and I realized, although she just had this wonderful voice, she could not sing a note above her chest voice. 

So if you know where the registers happened in the voice that she could get up to the G above middle C in her voice and as soon as that A flat came, which is traditionally where we need to start going into more of that mix or that transfer from the chest register towards the head register, the voice would just fall apart into a whisper. I mean there was really nothing there and what we did, I had to kind of poke around a bit and figure out, I went to more narrow vowels and the vowel I found that could begin to work was E and what I found I could do is get in there just a couple of half steps or semitones to the A flat, the A on an E vowel and then it would fall apart and the next week we could go a little bit further and it would fall apart. 

But by the time after a few weeks, she could get up to the B flat using this E vowel. So I thought okay, we’ll slowly begin to open it. So I opened the E ever so slightly to AE and it fell apart and so we had to pull it back into the E and this is pretty painstaking and she was quite patient and she trusted me, but over and over we would open the E to the AE and then it started to hold and then the AE to the Ah and it started to hold, Ah to Aah it held, A, Ah it held and she ultimately, this took a few months, she found her mix. She was able to start singing up to the E flat, the octave and half E flat five. So you jump in octave above the middle C and then to that E flat. 

So she’d added about a 5th to her range and then the rest of it started to come in and every time we had to get to a tricky area, we would use the E vowel. The E vowel was our crowbar. The E vowel was the one sound that worked and from that one sound that worked, we were able to start, define the other sounds. I recently worked with another singer, in the same situation. The voice would get into that area and it would just flip apart and the sound that is beginning to work is Ooh and from the Ooh, we can gently go to Oh, it’s almost like an O, but through the Ooh lips and then that started to hold and then it’s building from there. This takes a bit of patience on the part of the singer. Sometimes it’s very hard for us as singers to understand that we need to slow down like instrumentalists do. 

We really need to take our cues from how people learn to play fixed instruments and the best of them are very slow and methodical and focused. Again, we singers just love to grab a song and run it top to bottom and that’s not how you’re going to improve. You have to specifically focus on an area and figure out how you’re going to improve it and when something doesn’t go right, as I recently talked about, you measure that you don’t waste that event. You look at how it didn’t go right, how far you were from your target. Make an adjustment and re- analyze. So what we need to do is we need to find our own vocal crowbar. There is going to be a vowel sound or a scale, an exercise that is going to tend to work better than all other sounds. Even as you get better and better at the voice, there’s always going to be go-tos. 

Sometimes what we want to do is just get frustrated because it’s Oh great! An ease working, but I can’t sing a song of just all ease and that’s the wrong way to look at it. When you find your vocal crowbar, that tool that’s going to start getting in there with a little tip and start to crank and suddenly create a wide opening and open up the rest of your voice. That is a cause for celebration. You cannot get frustrated with that and just look and go oh man, all I can do is sing an E because I will tell you, if you can get a note on an E vowel, you can get it on any other vowel. It makes sense. Your body, your voice is telling you that it can do this. Your voice can do this. The muscles can pull and stretch and we can get up to pitch and it will hold and hold back the air and compress it. This system will work. It’s just not gonna work on everything yet and then what you need to do is you don’t want to just say, let’s say it’s the, ooh, you don’t want to jump from an ooh to an Aah. That’s too far of a jump. That’s not how crowbars work. You got to get in there and just wiggle and just begin to pry back and forth. So you need to just take one small step wider, ooh, oh and then you can even think aah, but keep the ooh lips ooh and bit by bit you can start to work exercises on that. 

Find scale patterns that are best for you. Find consonants that are best for you. Some people, a G a hard G, some people it will bind them up and just grind up the voice. Other people, other students, it will actually help them start to get some compression. It assists in the holding back of the air, so that’s their crow bar of a consonant. Find your crowbar the three exercise elements are scalar, pitch pattern, your consonants and your vowel. Start finding your Crowbar for each of those and slowly and systematically start to open them up, start to stretch them, start to move. If you’re consonant is a hard G, don’t move to not having a consonant or an aspirin like an S H move your G to maybe a slightly softer G and then maybe a B stay close in the family. If your vowel is an E, open it gently to eh, don’t suddenly go again to aah or ah, that’s going to be too big of a jump. If some of us have trouble with the more closed vowels, the O and the E so maybe an all works better. For me, my Crowbar, was ah, mum was a great crowbar for me on the mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, the 1.5 scale, octave and a half. For some people slightly exaggerated sounds like that little bratty nay, nay, nay, nay. 

That little edgy sound can be a bit of a crowbar and then what you can do is just start to back to the exaggeration from nay to ney to nae. So nay, nay, nay, nay becomes ney, ney, ney, ney becomes nae, nae, nae you get closer and closer to the finish sound. 

But don’t jump from nay, nay, nay becomes ney, ney, ney cause you might just fall over part. You’re not quite ready for it. Take your nervous system on little steps. Let’s stay with the familiar, stay with what’s working. When you go to a song, when you’re struggling in a song, use your Crowbar. Whatever the melody is, substitute the crowbar. All right? So if you’re singing and I will always love you and you’re struggling and I, you can mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom. 

Go to a sound that’s going to help give you success, do on the mum do on the G, whatever it is, the nay, and then sneak back into the text and let’s say it starts working, but there’s only one word that’s still giving you trouble that’s either wanting to grab or fall apart. Then you use the crowbar just on that word. Use baby steps. This all needs to make sense. Don’t just practice blindly. Don’t just try things. Your time, your practice time is very, very precious. It takes a lot, too and I realize that when I’m writing my book or recording the audiobook to set aside a block of time where I am not disturbed by anyone or anything is incredibly hard and when you have that time, don’t fritter it away. Don’t waste it by jumping from one thing to another and causing yourself frustration. Move from small success to the next small success to the next small success. Build this and before you know it, you will have made huge improvements. I promise you. 

All right, I want to thank you so much for listening today. If you want to find out more about me, go to Johnhenny.com. You can sign up for my email list. I send out my thoughts two, three times a day. Oftentimes, these podcasts will start off as an email, rambling that I send to my list. You also get special offers, with my courses. There are bonuses that I will give out that only my list will get and sometimes those bonuses are quite value, valuable. So you will want to sign up for those. If you’re interested in taking any of my courses. If you are interested in studying with me, you can go ahead and click the lesson tabs, on the website o r you can always send an email to [email protected] and Tracy can give you all the information and get that scheduled. I do Skype, Zoom lessons anywhere in the world. I also teach here privately at my studio and I’m always happy to work with listeners of the podcast. Funny how that works, but we do seem to get along and until next time to sing better singing. Thank you so much. Bye-bye.