The holiday season is officially upon us, and you may be wondering what gift to get that special musical theatre performer, teacher, music director, scholar, etc. in your life. Well, look no further! Below, I have compiled a list of ten great modern books about musical theatre singing, acting, teaching, coaching, music directing, and more. All of these books have different focus points, but they’re all fantastic reads. Give the gift of knowledge this holiday season!
P.S. If you’re not sure which of these books to buy right now, I’m happy to provide recommendations based on your individual interests and goals. Just shoot me a message.
1. The Vocal Athlete (2014)
by Wendy D. Leborgne & Marci Rosenberg
“The Vocal Athlete is the first book of its kind to address the unique vocal and physiologic demands of commercial singing from a sound scientific and pedagogical standpoint. Historical review of classical vocal pedagogy is interwoven and transitioned to current pedagogy of contemporary commercial music (CCM). Anyone who trains singers will gain insight into the current research and trends regarding the commercial music artist. Specifically, promotion and maintenance vocal wellness unique to the high demands of the CCM artist are provided for career longevity. Readers are provided additional resources on the multidisciplinary roles relative to managing vocal injury for this high risk group of singers.
The companion book The Vocal Athlete: Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer is a practical array of vocal exercises and techniques described by experienced CCM vocal pedagogues. This book comes with a CD of the singing exercises to further enhance understanding of techniques and skills used in training these singers. These books are invaluable tools for anyone who uses or trains the singing voice.”
2. Acting in Musical Theatre (2nd edition, 2015)
by Joe Deer & Rocco dal Vera
“Acting in Musical Theatre is the only complete course in approaching a role in a musical. It is the first to combine acting, singing and dancing into a comprehensive guide, combining what have previously been treated as three separate disciplines. This book contains fundamental skills for novice actors, practical insights for professionals, and even tips to help veteran musical performers refine their craft.
Drawing on decades of experience in both acting and teaching, the authors provide crucial advice on all elements of the profession, including: fundamentals of acting applied to musical theatre, script, score and character analysis, personalizing your performance, turning rehearsal into performance, acting styles in the musical theatre, and practical steps to a career. Acting in Musical Theatre’s chapters divide into easy-to-reference units, each containing related group and solo exercises, making it the definitive textbook for students and practitioners alike.”
3. So You Want to Sing Music Theater: A Guide for Professionals (2014)
by Karen Hall
“So You Want to Sing Music Theater covers a vast array of topics. It includes a brief history of music theater; the basics of vocal science and anatomy; information on vocal and bodily health and maintenance, from diet to exercise to healing techniques; advice on teaching music theater to others, with focuses on breath, posture, registers, range, and tone quality; repertoire recommendations for voice and singing types, from female and male belting to classical and contemporary styles; a survey of music theater styles, such as folk, country, rock, gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, and pop; insights on working with other music theater stakeholder, from singing teacher, vocal coach and accompanist, to acting teacher, director, dance instructor, composer, and music director; and finally sage advice on working with and without amplification or microphones, auditioning tips, and casting challenges.
So You Want to Sing Music Theater includes guest-authored chapters by singing professionals Scott McCoy and Wendy LeBorgne, as well as audio and visual examples available from the website of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. This work is not only the ideal guide to singing professionals, but the perfect reference works for voice teachers and their students, music directors, acting teachers, dance instructors and choreographers, and composers, and conductors.”
4. Rock the Audition – How to Prepare and Get Cast in Rock Musicals (2011)
by Sheri Sanders
“Rock musicals are an increasingly dominant force in contemporary musical theatre. Rock the Audition defines what is required of the actor-singer to succeed in the audition room and gives the aspiring performer the tools necessary to interpret rock material with abandon, creativity, and inspiration. This book shows those interested in auditioning for a rock musical how to holistically embody the essence of the show for which they are auditioning. Rock the Audition teaches performers how to: * Pick songs that have or have room to create a dramatic arc * Create their own appropriate cuts and arrangements, and successfully communicate the feel of a song to a pianist for proper support * Capture the essence of the musical they’re trying out for * Understand the vocal styles of different genres and how the styles changed over time * Act a rock song Sanders’s method also helps singing actors refine their physical life in the audition room when singing a rock song, an approach profoundly different from that of the legit musical-theatre auditioner. Rock the Audition shows readers how to interpret the meaning of the chosen songs and how to bring their own unique point of view to those interpretations.”
5. So You Want to Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Guide for Professionals (2014)
by Matthew Edwards
“So You Want to Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll gives readers a comprehensive guide to rock history, voice science, vocal health, audio technology, technical approaches to singing rock, and stylistic parameters for various rock subgenres. Matthew Edwards, assistant professor of voice at Shenandoah Conservatory, provides easy-to-understand explanations of technical concepts, with tips for practical application, and suggestions for listening and further reading.
So You Want to Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll includes guest-authored chapters by singing voice researchers Dr. Scott McCoy and Dr. Wendy LeBorgne, as well as audio and visual examples available from the website of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. This work is not only the ideal guide to singing professionals, but the perfect reference work for voice teachers and their students, lead and back-up singers, record producers and studio engineers.”
6. Get the Callback: The Art of Auditioning for Musical Theatre (2009)
by Jonathan Flom
“The easy-to-use handbook Get the Callback: The Art of Auditioning for Musical Theatre offers practical advice on all the facets of auditioning, walking the reader step by step through the audition process, explaining what to expect, how to behave, and how to prepare for a winning audition. It also coaches the actor through the ins and outs of pursuing a career in musical theatre. Through his professional and teaching experience, Jonathan Flom presents the material in an easily accessible way. Get the Callback proceeds chronologically through the audition process, beginning with finding auditions and reading and interpreting casting calls. Flom discusses many facets of preparation, including selecting songs and monologues to suit your voice and the audition, organizing and arranging your music, working with the accompanist, and presenting yourself to the directors. He gives a detailed description of the actual audition performance and even offers advice on how non-dancers can survive a dance audition. The book includes valuable information on callbacks and how to field job offers, providing advice on contracts and negotiations. Further information on getting professional headshots, designing a quality resume, and writing winning cover letters is also included, each with examples. Unique to this volume is a chapter on auditioning for college training programs. The book concludes with three appendixes: a list of recommended dos and don’ts, and two lists of appropriate audition repertoire by genre and by actor type, as well as a glossary of terms.”
7. Sing Anything: Mastering Vocal Styles (2012)
by Lisa Popeil & Gina Latimerlo
“Introducing an innovation in voice training: Sing Anything: Mastering Vocal Styles! This exciting new book by legendary vocal coach Lisa Popeil and teaching dynamo Gina Latimerlo will open your mind and your voice to ultimate possibilities. Begin by learning the foundations of vocal control: anatomy, breath control, and resonator shaping. Then receive step-by-step instruction on how to create healthy, powerful, and authentic sounds in Pop, Rock, R&B, Country, Classical, Musical Theater, and Jazz. Sing Anything also guides you through the history, phrasing, emotions, and correct tone for each unique style. Filled with illustrations and diagrams, this book is unique, clear and fun. An accompanying website provides audio samples of ‘pop stylisms’ as well as vocal exercises for each style.”
8. Singing in Musical Theatre: The Training of Singers and Actors (2007)
by Joan Melton (Includes interviews with Elisabeth Howard, Wendy LeBorgne, Joan Lader, Jeannette LoVetri, Mary Saunders-Barton, Neil Semer, Mary Hammond, Penni Harvey-Piper, Gillyanne Kayes, Lisa Ryan-Mclaughlin, Jason Barry-Smith, Debbie Phyland, Jean Callaghan, Pat Wilson, Amanda Colliver, and Liz Pascoe)
“What does it take to be a musical theatre performer? What kind of training is required to do eight shows a weekacting, dancing, and singing in a wide variety of vocal styles? This insider’s look into the unique demands of musical theatre performance establishes connecting links between voice training for the singer and drama school training for the actor. By reading these revealing interviews, performers in every area of theatre can: — Discover what it takes to go from a first lesson to a solid professional technique Consider the requirements for singers in musical theatre today, how they have changed, and where they are going — See how different teachers approach six aspects of voice training: alignment, breathing, range resonance, articulation, and connection Understand the interconnectedness of musical theatre and theatre voice. A foreword by leading Australian actor Angela Punch McGregor personalizes the connective links among trainings as she describes her preparation for Sunset Boulevard. A must-read for anyone who is serious about voice and the theatre.”
9. Music Direction for the Stage: A View from the Podium (2015)
by Joseph Church
“In Music Direction for the Stage, veteran music director and instructor Joseph Church demystifies the job in a book that offers aspiring and practicing music directors the practical tips and instruction they need in order to mount a successful musical production. Church, one of Broadway’s foremost music directors, emerges from the orchestra pit to tell how the music is put into a musical show. He gives particular attention to the music itself, explaining how a music director can best plan the task of learning, analyzing, and teaching each new piece. Based on his years of professional experience, he offers a practical discussion of a music director’s methods of analyzing, learning, and practicing a score, thoroughly illustrated by examples from the repertoire. The book also describes how a music director can effectively approach dramatic and choreographic rehearsals, including key tips on cueing music to dialogue and staging, determining incidental music and underscoring, making musical adjustments and revisions in rehearsal, and adjusting style and tempo to performers’ needs. A key theme of the book is effective collaboration with other professionals, from the production team to the creative team to the performers themselves, all grounded in Church’s real-world experience with professional, amateur, and even student performances. He concludes with a look at music direction as a career, offering invaluable advice on how the enterprising music director can find work and gain standing in the field.”
10. One Voice: Integrating Singing and Theatre Voice Techniques (2nd edition, 2011)
by Joan Melton & Kenneth Tom
“Speak. Sing. Laugh. Cry. Shout. Scream. Whether you’re an actor or singer, your voice is called upon to do many things. But how do you keep your voice healthy and meet the demands and challenges of a career? Joan Melton and Kenneth Tom are uniquely qualified to show us how.
Melton maintains that the training of singers and actors should be similar. Her groundbreaking book outlines a course of study that effectively integrates singing and theatre voice techniques throughout the training process. Kenneth Tom contributes a chapter on vocal anatomy, offering clear and accessible material on how the voice works, along with practical advice on its care. The exercise CD, included with this edition, provides guidelines and detailed instructions for many of the exercises. The physicality of Melton’s approach fully engages the performer physically and vocally and addresses issues of concern to professional voice users in any field.”
P.S. Need help finding musical theatre repertoire to sing? Check out my professional repertoire guides here.