I have used dozens of vocal training products over the years, all of them varying in quality. However, one CD has always been my favorite; ‘Sing Like An Idol’ by Mark Baxter. I began working with Mark personally for lessons back in April of 2003, and have always loved his approach to teaching voice. With ‘Sing Like An Idol’, you get it all; entertainment, information, and effective exercises. This hour long CD is by far the funnest vocal training product on the market.
The 10 tracks of this CD are divided into 10 lessons, all covering very important topics. In this review, I will go track-by-track and give a little summary of watch each lesson holds.
1.The Warm Up
The first track of the CD gives a basic but effective vocal warm up. Each exercise is intended to kick your voice into performance quality right away. Mark does a good job of explaining the purpose of each exercise and coaching you throughout to keep from practicing bad habits.
Expanding range is all about gaining access to your higher registers. Through these exercises, you will learn to safely sing higher than you have ever been able to before. Baxter places great emphasis on staying relaxed throughout the course of the exercises. A big part of his technique is to let things happen reflexively; if a note is not yet ready to be in head voice, let it stay in falsetto. Through time and practice, you will learn the proper coordinations and you will be able to sing your falsetto notes in head voice.
This is an extremely overlooked area of singing. You may have perfect intonation and a large range, but if your tone sucks, no one will want to hear you. The exercises provided here will help you gain control over how your tone sounds throughout a song. Once you have practiced this track for a few days, you’ll start to notice your ability to change up your tone from note to note.
So far you’ve warmed up your voice, opened up and strengthened your high notes, and have gained control over your tonal quality. Now, the next step is to add more power. Through these challenging staccato exercises, you will quickly develop effortless power in all ranges of your voice.
5.The Right Key
In the first 4 tracks, you take on technical aspects of your voice. Now, Mark coaches you on exactly how to change a song to get it sounding perfect for you. Once you listen to this track, you will have learned exactly how to change the key of a song and how to communicate with other musicians when it comes to a key change.
This is my favorite track of the CD. Mark coaches you through exactly how to do 4 basic style points; vibrato, vocal fry, vocal riffs/runs, and vocal rattle (distortion).
On this track, you learn how to sing behind the beat and improve your phrasing in a song. You learn a song, and the different ways to manipulate the timing to make it more interesting to your listeners.
On this track, you are given a verse/chorus of a ballad, and coached on how to make it your own. Ballads are generally harder to sing because theres more space to add all kinds of things into, but this can be a bad thing if your performance is sloppy.
This track is all about motivation, and getting rid of stage fright. It is more of a motivational speech to get you into motion and start making progress than it is an exercise. Listening to his advice will make you want to get out there and start performing.
This final track is again full of advice, this time on giving the audience exactly what they want with your performance.
Throughout this CD are songs sung by Mark himself that can be used as an exercise as well. If you sing along applying everything you’ve learned, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your voice.
Some people are born to sing. Mark Baxter was not one of them. Undaunted, he studied, probed, inquired, explored, practiced and applied his findings until he achieved the voice he had always wanted (all the voices in the intro to this web site were Mark’s). His value as a vocal teacher is unique in that he draws equally from his stage experience, some 3000 gigs and counting, and an unusually diverse training. After receiving formal training in music at The College of New Jersey, Mark hit the road with various bands and got a real education.
“There’s no better motivator than poverty. When you’re singing for your next meal, canceling is not an option. Before training, each night I slugged it out and hoped for the best. Now I can control my voice without holding back. This transformation is what fuels my enthusiasm for teaching. While I would have preferred to have been born with a ‘gift,’ the struggles I went through allow me to empathize with my students. I know first hand what it’s like to deal with vocal problems, and the difference lessons can make.”
Mark has completed hundreds and hundreds of voice lessons, exploring various methods, and attended countless seminars including: Vocal Pedagogy by the Functional Voice Foundation of West Germany, Neuromuscular message, nutrition, The Alexander Technique, acupressure, reflexology along with various psychological and visualization techniques. Even though he is now considered a leading authority in his field, he continues to research with a passion.
“I don’t think I’ll ever tire of learning about the voice. I’ve read every book out there and continuously look for related subjects. Lately, I’ve been attending symposiums at the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education, covering topics such as Physiology and Acoustics of Vocal Production, Aerodynamic Assessment of Vocal Function, Medical and Surgical Management of the Performing Artist. Phonomicrosurgical management of Benign Lesions and Injured Vocal Cords and Laryngopharyngeal Reflex. Many of the singers I work with have vocal damage. The medical courses allow me to speak freely with doctors and then translate their findings into singers’ terms for my clients. As a performer myself, I know exactly what it feels like to sing in the worst conditions. Combining my understanding of anatomy with stage experience allows me to help others reach their potential… and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”