So You Want To Sing Rock ‘N’ Roll is part of a “So You Want To Sing. . .” series created by the National Association of Teaching Singers. It features Matt Edwards as the primary author, but also includes chapters by Scott McCoy, Wendy DeLeo LeBorgne, Katheryn Green, Christina Howell, and Jonathan Flom. This collaborative, series approach represents one of the books strengths, and NATS is to be commended for their concerted approach to delving into varied singing styles.
In So You Want To Sing Rock ‘N’ Roll, Matthew Edwards proves to us why he is a leading CCM voice educators. His clear explanations and logical organization provide a window into the highly successful program he has developed at Shenandoah. Edwards approaches his potential readers (presumably, self-taught rockers) with the respect of a colleague, and the loving care of a parent, and as such, creates permission for the learner to explore and shape their experience. He is sensitive to the varied stylistic approaches and attention to desired individual intention that drives vocalists in rock genres, and he creates appropriate pedagogic opportunities for his readers. One of the gems that this book offers begins in chapter six, where Edwards illuminates the electronic elements most important to amplified singing, exploring with crisp precision the basic essentials singers need to know in order to begin to appreciate the added influence of amplification. Other notable elements include a concise history of rock, a breakdown of vocal ornaments often found in rock singing, stylistic descriptions, exploration of communication habituation, and a tutorial on establishing business practices for self-employed artists. Chapters 5-9 add a wealth of knowledge to the singing and voice teaching canon.
This series is an important step for NATS, and the CCM world if only for its efforts in explaining the technique involved in varied singing styles. As an early attempt for these communities, it is necessarily dependent upon past training. Certain aspects of it feel more important for teachers of western classical technique than for people interested in performing rock music. In a way, the book acts primarily as an ambassador for those classically trained teachers who have cross-over students.
As such, the book suffers from its adherence to past models in several specific instances. The chapter on breathing relies on technical explanations of past pedagogies, all of which have problems in today’s teaching realities, not the least of which is the inherent conflict found in the “many different methods” explanation. After explaining this confusing and often inapplicable history, the author tells the rock musician that none of it applies to them. She should have begun with that paragraph, and then expanded on why none of it applies to any singer today. It’s time for the voice world to get over outdated approaches to breath, and there is no better place to start than with CCM singing. Further, since this book was published, significant discoveries in acoustics have been illuminated that call into serious question the laryngeal-registration focus presented in its pages. There is enough information on acoustic registration now to encourage the development of clearer language for the oversimplified head/chest metaphor complex . We can hope that future versions of NATS books will avail themselves of this learning, and help singers and teachers change this outdated paradigm.
I would read this book to learn process, with an understanding that some of the scientific information about the voice is complicated by new discoveries. Even without the benefits of contemporary acoustic registration knowledge, Edwards creates options for singers and teachers to explore applicable sounds in measurable procedures, all while encouraging a systematic, healthy approach to habilitation. Where he excels, Edwards provides the reader with a credible map to success as a rock singer. By doing so, he offers encouragement and purpose to aspiring singers, and opens a wide door through which the classical voice world can walk into the future.