How does this retro classic stand the test of time?
Item: The Rock-N-Roll Singer’s Survival Manual by Mark Baxter, published by Hal Leonard.
Price: Amazon.com: 13.37 USD / Amazon.co.uk: 12.95 GBP
Mic rating: 4.5/5
At a glance: It does what it says on the tin! This book plunges us right into the hazards of life onstage and backstage, and as a result seems more like an existential guide or real life mentor. At the time, this book was a breakthrough text for promoting health in rock singing and is still a classic text today, responsible for reminding hard rockers to look after themselves. Mark Baxter is a renowned vocal coach who writes from experience and shows us how to look, feel and sound like a bonafide rock star.
High notes: Everything in this book feels like common sense. He shows that breathing, technique and song interpretation is actually very simple and intuitive. Problems only arise when we over think things. He encourages the reader to trust themselves and the laws of nature that govern their voice. The glossary and FAQs section can be reassuring for a singer who hasn’t quite got to grips with terminologies and concepts just yet.
Off pitch: There is some outdated stuff in here – for example, he says that under no circumstance must you raise your larynx to reach a high note. Although it is true that the swallowing mechanism can be a side effect of a raised larynx, it is now common knowledge that the ‘belt’ voice (which is predominant in rock singing) requires the larynx to rise. Time for a second edition?
Review: This book was published almost 2 decades ago but it’s pages are still packed full of relevant and useful techniques and tricks for when a singer is put through their paces. His explanation of breathing is so clear and concise, and his advice on health is matter of fact without being preachy. No matter what problem you are having, or where you are at, this book may have the answer – particularly for busy gigging singers. It’s an easy read too, suitable whilst commuting or waiting around for sound-check – I even took it on holiday! However, it would be more convenient as a smaller handbook rather than it’s current A4 size. It has been a core text of many Popular Music institutes for years now, and may it remain so for years to come.