Hello singers and musicians. I’ve decided to start a new blog series that covers the best of the best books, gear, and other products for singers. My first choice for review is the book, Melody to Madness, written by whom I consider to be one of the most unique and individualistic singers to emerge out of the 80s rock era, Ray West from the rock band, Spread Eagle..
Melody to Madness is a “how-to” book that guides the singer along a very organic path to finding their unique sound by telling the personal story of the author, Ray West, and how he found his own unique style among the rock icons of the 80s. Despite the fact that Ray grew up loving artists such as Karen Carpenter and James Brown, Ray was still able to harness his love of soft 70s melodies and R&B rhythms and turn them into a vocal style that was compared to artists such as Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses. As bizarre as it sounds, he made it work and produced some of the most blood curdling screams layered over beautiful vocal overtones with matching harmonies to create songs such as SwitchBlad Serenade, Scratch Like A Cat, and Devil’s Road.
This is the one book that opened my eyes to individualistic creativity, showing me how to hone my own original style by reviewing and rediscovering the rich history of the artists that influenced my love of singing, from the very first voice I ever heard, Elvis, crossing the barriers of genres to include Prince, Wham, Journey, Led Zeppelin, ACDC, and many others until I found, at my core, what made me tick, vocally. By remembering where I came from musically and then proceeding through a series of Ray’s “vocal-discovery” exercises, I was able to let go of my own barriers of who I thought I had to be as a singer, which in all honesty, was confusing, even for a vocal coach of twenty years who had written origians for over twenty-five; In my mind, my student roster, which consisted of bands like Dream Theater, along with my known ability to shatter glass with my voice, led me to believe that I must sing with banshee-like range and power at all times, and live in the land of metal; but not so, because I found my heart in my voice.
While I LOVE metal bands, and mean no disrespect to the genre, I realized as I began to release songs with my songwriting partner, Scott Stith, that many of Ray West’s words and vocal exercises from Melody to Madness were guiding and influencing me. “Let the song be about the emotion, conveyed through tone, painted with harmonies and vocal inflections.” These were the core principles I learned by working through Ray’s program. I no longer felt shelled into the banshee zone, and felt 110% comfortable releasing songs, such as LISA, that focused on the emotion of the song, bypassing range for tone.
It became evident through my own studies of Ray’s program that my unique voice lies more with singers like Prince and Melvyn Riley of Ready for the World, fueld by my love of hard rock. I now feel more comfortable and happier knowing I have at my command a palate of tones, and I am free to layer harmonies in a unique way that gives the Vendera&Stith songs more of a four-part, need I say “boy band” harmony type of appraoch while maintaining the grind and rhythm of a rock band. Oddly enough, Scott tells me I sound like a soul singers in a rock band, and it is what makes us sound like “us.”
I have never been more open about my own vocal journey than I am being now and I am extremely confident that this book will open you too, even changing your view of how you feel you should sound as a singer; Melody to Madness wipes all expectations and shows you how to sing for the moment by capturing the essence of your own artistic passion.
In ending, I want to say that this is THE book for individuals when it comes to developing your unique singing style. I’ve read it through cover to cover at least five times, but I promise you, if you read it just once, and do as the book asks, it will forever hange your voice and change your life.
Get your copy of Melody to Madness by clicking the following links: