Honoring the Masters. Sharing the Journey.

John Henny

Voice Teacher, Author, Lecturer

Biography

John Henny is a leading vocal coach in the music industry, with over 30 years of experience, renowned for his teaching skills. His techniques are designed to maintain vocal health, improve overall sound quality, eliminate voice cracks, and extend the singer’s range, allowing them to express themselves without limitation.

John Henny is also a lecturer who has spoken at renowned colleges and institutes like USC, Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute of the Arts, and The Academy of Contemporary Music in England. He is also a Master Teacher for vocal coaches worldwide, conducting teaching engagements in Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

In addition, John is an accomplished author, having written five Amazon bestsellers, and a popular podcast host of The Intelligent Vocalist, with over 500,000 downloads. He has also gained a significant following on YouTube, with 140,000 subscribers and 14 million views. As a seasoned online course creator, he offers an extensive library of training courses catering to singers, speakers, and voice teachers.

JohnHenny.com

https://johnhenny.com

Interview with
John Henny

What would you consider to be the main focus of your career, or your “specialty”?

In my teaching, I am often sought out by experienced singers who need focused work on dialing the voice in and getting ready for performance or audition. In recent years, I have moved towards general vocal education, and I enjoy working with voice teachers and singers through online courses and content.

How did you discover your calling for your specialty? How did it start?

Years ago, I attended a Dr. Donald Miller workshop and was introduced to the concept of formant-harmonic interaction. At the time, I knew vowels were key to vocal balance and registration, but his lecture left my head spinning. I had no idea what Don was talking about, but I was inspired to learn more. I introduced myself and immediately purchased his first book, Registers In Singing.

Don’s next book, Resonance in Singing, was more accessible to me, and things started to make sense. I knew the best way to understand a topic was to start teaching it, so I began explaining acoustic concepts to other voice teachers, constantly finding ways to make it easier to understand. I then recorded a video of my explanations and offered it as a download. The demand surprised me. My friend and voice teaching mentor, Michael Goodrich, was getting into online education and marketing and suggested I create online training programs. This has been a huge focus for me ever since.

What do you love the most about your work?

At the most basic level, I love helping people. Whether it’s eliminating a vocal break, getting a dream role, or becoming a successful voice teacher. I also love that I have created a professional niche where I don’t have to be behind the piano for long hours. I am able to leverage my time through content that reaches a large number of people. My podcast enables me to meet and talk with a wide range of brilliant people (not all voice teachers).

In your opinion, what qualities do you feel make an “excellent” Vocal Pedagogue?

Deep empathy, a passion for learning, and humility in service of truth, knowledge, and the student. A highly developed ear is essential.

Can you speak to the importance of having mentors? How have mentors influenced your life/career? Can you tell us about some of your mentors?

Choose your mentors wisely! I owe so much to having great mentors, starting with my first teacher, Eric Fütterer. Seth Riggs was instrumental in my early teaching years. Mike Goodrich provided support and knowledge as my career grew. I have learned so much from Don Miller, Ingo Titze, Ken Bozeman, Ian Howell, and Kerrie Obert. Kerrie has been helping me deal with a vocal tremor and her knowledge and approach is a revelation for me.

The best minds in our business are a book, video, or even a call or lesson away. You will be surprised how approachable these brilliant people can be.

Building Blocks- Questions About Ten Key Areas of Voice

When it comes to breathing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

For me, there is no one correct way to breathe. Of course we don’t want to encourage clavicular breathing, but there are different approaches that are both efficient and balanced.

I find for beginning singers, there can be too much focus on the breath, which usually manifests in over-breathing. I like to keep breathing simple and instead focus on the other factors that coordinate and help the breath, specifically vocal resonance and the feedback of acoustic energy that helps balance vocal fold resistance and airflow.

When it comes to the larynx, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Singers ask me how high or low their their larynx should be, and I don’t have a definitive answer. What I do tell them is you want a tuned larynx, appropriate for the desired pitch, color and intensity level.

The larynx is like your vocal EQ and it is a big lever for controlling resonance values. It’s also where most singers struggle at first.

The first problem I see in singers is the larynx rising involuntarily on higher pitches in an attempt to maintain the acoustic tunings of the lower register.

The next most common issue is singers trying to keep the larynx too low, which creates other acoustic issues.

Singers should develop the ability to control (not over-control) the larynx to facilitate smooth registration and balanced singing.

When it comes to the vocal folds, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

The complexity, speed and coordinations of the vocal folds are beyond the singer’s perception. Many vocal issues come from putting too much of the burden of singing on the folds.

The main job of the vocal folds is to chop the air and create the disturbance of low to high pressure shifts. The vocal tract then does most of the real work of creating what we recognize as the voice.

My vocal tremor caused my body to compensate by squeezing at the folds. My work with Kerrie Obert showed me how to move this tension to other parts of the vocal tract so I could stabilize the tremor without undue pressure at the folds.

When it comes to acoustics/resonance, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

I encourage singers to understand vocal tract resonances and how they can directly tune the first two. I have singers view vowels not as a single unit but a combination of resonances. Ken Bozeman’s chiaroscuro whisper is very helpful with this.

I encourage teachers to study Dr. Ian Howell’s Theory of Absolute Spectral Tone Color as well as Perturbation Theory.

When it comes to registration, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

The trap is assuming a change in sensation equals a change in voice quality. We need to map and negotiate changing sensation as we ascend in the voice.

Registration is not just physical but also acoustic. Registration is a continuum and ultimately each note is its own unique register. We often conflate similar and same when thinking of registers.

To paraphrase Frank Zappa, talking about singing is like dancing about architecture. Our definitions and models all fall short. Don’t get hung up on labels of M1, chest, mix, etc. Focus on each note and every vowel shade, color, intensity level and effect possible on that unique note.

When it comes to vocal health, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Hydration is vital but it’s not only water. The foods we eat also help or hinder our hydration levels. Increased hydration a few hours before a performance will help with surface mucous, but we also need consistent long term hydration at the cellular level. A whole-food, plant forward diet is my personal choice and recommendation.

Foods directly affect the gut microbiome, which affects overall physical and mental health. Food is one of the most powerful medicines you put in your body and singers should go out of their way to avoid processed, chemical laden foods.

I also recommend mindfulness to calm the nervous system and get in touch with your body and being.

Prioritize sleep, hydration, exercise, stress reduction and consistent vocal practice.

When it comes to style, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

I find one of the main stylistic tools that define the truly great singers is a deep understanding of rhythm and phrasing. There are musician jokes about singers and our lack of rhythmic skills.

It makes sense because we don’t physically interface with our instrument the way guitarists and drummers do. Singers need to spend time ingraining the inner clock, learning how to precisely subdivide and create rhythmic accents, and listening to great singers like Sinatra, Ella, and Streisand play with time.

Vowels are the music but consonants are our vocal percussion, especially in contemporary styles. Popular music has become less harmonically and melodically dense and rhythm has risen to a level of increased prominence. I suggest singers learn to beatbox and rap on a basic level in order to fine tune their rhythmic and percussive music and language skills.

When it comes to posture, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Proper posture energizes the body and prepares us to sing. I am inspired by Jeremy Ryan Mossman and his work with body fascia and the concept of one thing moves, everything moves. Movement and body informs so much of our singing.

Poor posture is a collapsed structure, which will cause other parts of the body to overwork in order to compensate.

When it comes to teaching methods or communicating complex ideas about singing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Analogies are powerful. Einstein famously said “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” I personally break this rule. I will oversimplify the science for a student or use models that are less accurate, such as the lower resonance is associated with the throat and the brighter, higher resonance is in the mouth. This is not accurate but it can be helpful.

Final Thoughts (Words of Wisdom, Resources)?

Every teacher knows something you don’t, no matter their level. When confronted with something you don’t agree with, take a moment to see if there is indeed a truth hidden there.

Read books, watch videos, take courses, study research papers. Carve out time every day to learn and study.

Another key area is ear training. I currently use Lalal.ai to isolate the vocal track in recordings and then feed this into VoceVista. VV is incredibly powerful and combining the visual element of spectrum analysis along with focused listening can train your ear to hear various resonance strategies.

The beauty of what we do is that it ultimately is a wonderfully complex mystery that connects to the very essence of humaneness and emotional connection. Stay passionate but never take yourself or what we do too seriously.

I am often reminded of what my son told me when he was twelve, “Dad, you just have people make baby noises for a living.”

Please note that John Henny is not affiliated with VocalPedagogy.com and we do not disclose contact information. We hope you enjoy the interview!

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