Stanley Hammer Harmony

       I am doctor.  I am not a singer.  However, a doctor can be trained to be a reasonable part singer.  There are many different methods.  I chose the Stanley Hammer method.

        I can already hear you.  “What in the world is the Stanley Hammer harmony method, Doc?”  

        This is a free blog.  I don’t have a patent on my theory for voice training, and you are most free to use it.  But I hope if you learn to sing by this method you will let folks know how you came about it, ’cause I might have invented it.

        Several years back I went to a bluegrass seminar.  It was in Roanoke, Virgina, and put on by an outfit called Accutab.  They are in the music instruction business and specialize in bluegrass.  It was a fine session.  My wife studied bass under Marshall Wilborn, and I split my time between mandolin and harmony vocal workshops.

        My vocal instructor was  guy named Don Rigsby, who is not only a fine touring musician, but teaches traditional music classes at Morehead State University.  Believe me, the opportunity to sing harmony with Don Rigsby in front of a small group of musicians is a bit intimidating, but a wonderful learning experience.

        Mr. Rigsby thought my work was good overall, but he is a pro, and there was plenty I could learn from him.  My singing was, as you have heard before, good for a Doctor.  (As in “Good, Doc, but don’t give up your day job.”)

       On one chorus I held a line he approved of without change.  “Doc, he said, “I especially liked it when you hit the seventh on the word ‘home.’  Nice touch.”

        “Thanks.  That was my Stanley hammer note.”


        “My Stanley hammer note.  We practice in Moose Dooley’s garage, and there is a Stanley hammer on the pegboard.  When I sing, I fixate on that hammer and think of the pitch I want.  In fact, I go up and down the tools on the pegboard to hit all six notes in my range.  Moose is very meticulous and always hangs his tools in the same spot without fail, so I was able to train my voice to match the pitch by visualization of the position of each tool on the pegboard.  The vertical space in between the tools represents the intervals between the notes.”

        He was quiet for a moment.  “Doc, he finally said.  “I’ve been around this business a long time.  I got admit that is first time I have heard of that method.  I’m gonna have to think on that one.   But if it works I can’t argue with it.”

        I figure it is a bit akin to Roy Huskey’s thought process.  He thought of different notes in term of colors.  ‘That was a blue note, or a green one,” he’d say.  If you are just starting out, I’d recommend Roy’s method over mine; he was a far better musician that me.  But if you can’t get it by that method, and especially if are are one of these obsessive compulsive types such as a doctor or an accountant, you might give the old Stanley hammer voice trainer method a whirl.   If does have a few pitfalls which I will explain in my next post, but you still might want to try it out.

        If you do, and it works for you, the next time you run into Mr. Rigsby tell him you love his his singing, and it sounds like he has studied the Stanley hammer method.  I am certain he will not know what to say.

        On by the way, Marfar’s birthday is this week.  Like Jack Benny, she is perpetually 39, but unlike Mr. Benny is still as cute as a teenager.  (Don’t worry Mr. Benny, you were the best comedian ever.)  Y’all wish her the best.

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “Stanley Hammer Harmony”

  1. That is definitely an interesting method, Dr. B. As soon as I begin taking voice lessons [finally] I will see if I can make good use of it, as I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive about things as well – so perhaps this will work for me!

  2. drtombibey Says:


    Oh, I wish I had taken some voice lessons. You are doing the right thing.

    Better clear the Stanley method with your teacher- you might wind up sounding like an old Doctor!

    Dr. B

  3. newt221 Says:

    I thought your method was/is a very good method too. I had a similar experience with playing the piano. My brother took piano lessons and practiced very faithfully every afternoon. After his hour of practice, I was able to go and sit at the piano and play what he had played. Everyone thought that I was the next Liberace (not sure how that would be spelled to be feminine). Actually, all I had was a good ear and the ability to put it to use. Once they began trying to teach me the notes….well, I learned but I was not Liberace…..

    Tell the Mrs. Happy B-day for me. Mine is coming up. February was a busy birthing month for my family.

    By the way, I got a job! I will be working in a large animal vet’s office. First at the desk. Then I get to help out with the animals (if I work out that is). I am on a trail basis for amonth! Keep me in your prayers that I pass my trial…..

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    Big time congrats on the job- hard to come by in today’s enviroment. As much as you love Ranger you are a natural for that one.

    Ah, the piano, the bedrock of western music. My parents wanted me to take but at the time it was all baseball for me. I wish….

    Off today to celebrate. Ms. Marfar loves birthdays and any kind of celebration.

    Dr. B

  5. Parson Bob Says:

    Remember the old comment, “It takes what it takes”? That came to mind as I read your encounter with Don Rigsby, and recalled my own experience with Pete Wernick at one of his Jam Camps. He had this theory that if you (I) really wanted to jam bluegrass you (I) would have to sing along. Not necessarily real loud, and not necessarily in a fancy jam, but well enough to do two things at once!

    In this particular camp we were working on “Two Dollar Bill”, and I fiddled and sang that dad-blamed song and never did get it right! Either I finished singing before I finished fiddling, or vice versa. So I learned that I can sing and I can fiddle, bur I sure can’t do both at the same time! He would always rag me about that, and I’d tell him I’m going to revoke his “Dr Banjo” credentials.

    Give Marfar a hug, and hope all the candles get blown out the first try.

  6. drtombibey Says:


    I guess we all learn in whatever enviroment we have, and our art is shaped accordingly. I learned mine in a garage, so I don’t know what that says about me. Country I guess.

    Pete is a good’un isn’t he?

    Yep, at only 39, she’s still just a young’un. The candles are no sweat.

    Dr. B

  7. Ted Lehmann Says:

    I thought (reference: Oliver Sachs) that seeing notes as colors was a form of mental illness. Now I can’t say one way or the other about Roy Husky, but I’m more than a little suspicious of the idea you can hear colors or see sounds. Even though Bottom could. – Ted

  8. drtombibey Says:


    If it had been anybody besides Roy Huskey I might have had my doubts, but that guy was some kinda bass player. Whatever he said I have to take seriously.

    Dr. B

  9. Kim Justesen Says:

    I think visualization is an excellent method to acheive all kinds of results. I’ve used it for writing, for singing, and for a dance class I took almost 20 years ago. Besides, I’m a firm believer that if it works, that’s all that really matters; right?

    Kim J.

    P.S. – I’ve been listening to a local blue grass band called LoFi Break Down. If I can ever figure out this new computer, I’ll copy the CD and send a sample to you.

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Kim,

    When you get down to it, art, regardless of genre, and science are two different matters, huh?

    Yeah I’d love to hear LoFi Break Down. I am all about local and regional bands. (I’m in one!)

    Dr. B

  11. susan Says:

    Dr. T,
    I thought Accutab was some kind of prescription drug.
    Go figure. 😉

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Ms Susan,

    For me, the mandolin DVDs are close to being a drug, so you aren’t too far off there!

    Dr. B

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