Our show was ushered in with some soulful jazz from Australian Darcy Callus. He’s ridiculously talented! Please go and support his music and channel!
Let’s not waste any time. Here’s John Henny!
Todays show is a cracker. We are lucky to have John Henny – the vowel master!
John works with many singers in pop, theatre and TV in the Los Angeles area. He was a master teacher with Speech Level Singing for 20 years but has now carved out his own brand of teaching through specific vowel training.
And here he is to talk about it!
It all began when the thought hit him…
Why can I sing the same note easier on an UH vowel compared to an EE?
In research of this phenomenon, John had worked his way through papers from eminent voice scientists like Ingo Titze and Donald Miller. Obviously these papers were quite technical, so Johns’ new mission was to simplify it enough for the average singer. Mission accomplished!
So, what is the quickest way to improve your singing?
John recommends one change for quick results in singing. He has used this method with many singers and swears by it. So here it is…. right here… it’s:
That’s right. One vowel. The essence of the technique is to pronounce everything as if it has an UH (as in mother, or the first vowel in about) underneath it. This is predominantly when you’re in, or through, your vocal break or bridge.
Well, the UH vowel lowers the larynx ever-so-slightly. This keeps the throat a little longer and more open, which assists in singing. By having a slightly lowered larynx you are more likely to let go of the strain that is associated with an [accidentally] high larynx. It also helps to tune the throat and vocal tract into the pitch and resonate the voice better. Hello vocal ease!
Applying this principle can be very helpful on the very closed vowels like OO (as in food) and EE (as in feet). Imagine your throat and mouth are like little amplifiers or resonators. They’re taking the relatively weak sound wave that is emitted from the vocal cords (which would subsequently sound like a dull buzz… true story!) and giving it a boost. As we change the shape of these resonators we change the amount of boost we give to higher or lower parts of the sound wave. The effect can be similar to EQ on a stereo mixer.
As we round the lips we reduce the energy in the higher parts of the sound wave and shift it to the lower parts. Too much of this effect can result in too much energy lost, and closed vowels like OO can easily cause a flip at the bridge.
How do you get around this?
John likes to pull the OO vowel more towards the UH vowel when singing higher up, in a type of vowel blend. This changes the boost of the sound wave, or the EQ, and can return some energy and stability to the note. This principle also applies to vowels that are very open, like A (like cat), and needs to be monitored and adjusted for different vowels depending on the pitch.
Won’t I sound stupid?
Interestingly, in your speaking range, if you make the UH change to your vowels it will sound like you’ve “taken a punch to the head”, as John says. But because the relationship between the harmonics and resonators change as the pitch goes up the vowel sounds actually remain purer. Also, when a pitch rises fewer vowel sounds are possible to pull off well. Some vowels are plain not possible without adjustments from their spoken form.
If you want to use a strong accent in your songs, like Lily Allen for example, then you would better elect to do that lower in your range. If you try and maintain certain accents and vowels sounds high up in range then it becomes increasingly difficult without stressing your instrument.
Singers have an age-old tendency to let the larynx move with the pitch; up for high notes and down for low notes. This messes with the stability of the system somewhat, and so by trying to keep some form of consistent vowel underneath you are encouraging a more consistent and stable system.
More about John and his projects…
John has a passion for educating teachers around the world. In his efforts to continue serving the globe he has put together a site for teachers to train and grow with. The site includes hours of training video on teaching techniques, voice science, styles (such as distortion with scream coach Jaime Vendera), musicality, managing your business, piano skills and everything you’d need as a teacher.
John has been kind enough to offer an exclusive to listeners of The Naked Vocalist if you want to try out the service. The offer will get you 2 weeks subscription for $1 and can be obtained here:
If you like it, the regular rate is $97 per month. If you don’t like it then there are no problems with cancelling.
Note: For honesty The Naked Vocalist receive a one off fee from John if you sign up for the full rate. This will cost you no more than the normal sign up fees. This contributes to us being able to provide more services at the podcast and not to our income. If you’d prefer us to not benefit from you signing up then feel free to sign up through the Voice Teacher Bootcamp home page.
If you would like to reach out to John with any questions about the show then here is his website:
A quick mention of a special offer!
Before we go, we just wanted to say how excited we are to go to VocalizeU Artist Intensive in Los Angeles this month. If you happen to want to jump onboard last minute then here’s a sweetener. The guys at VU have offered our listeners an exclusive discount of 15%! Just enter VUAI15 in the coupon box to take advantage. You’d be mad not to!
Enjoy the lovely summer singers! We’ll see you in a few weeks for the Brad Lazarus interview.
- MFDR – Four letters that help explain vocal power! - July 6, 2017
- Voice Metaphors – Why They Work & Why They Don’t! - April 21, 2017
- The Bottom End – Training Chest Voice & The Low Range - December 22, 2016