Jazz Voice

Author: Jan Shapiro | Course Code: OVOIC-242

Singers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra have left an indelible mark on American popular music through their vocal stylings, fusing a conversational delivery with rhythmic and melodic improvisation. Jazz Voice is designed to teach you the unique characteristics of jazz singing and how you can apply these characteristics to create your own sound. You will learn jazz phrasing, how to integrate good technique into jazz song styles, and how to sing with a number of time feels and grooves.

The course begins by comparing jazz vocal styles to other contemporary styles, as well as exploring blues artists and their influence on jazz. It then focuses on jazz vocal technique and delivery, including use of vocal inflections, dynamics, articulation, and interpretation, and how to improvise through rhythmic and melodic phrasing. You'll then apply these concepts to jazz tunes in various tempos and grooves, including ballads, medium swing, fast swing, and bossa nova. You'll move on to learn important considerations for effective stage presence and use of the microphone, too. The course combines video demonstrations with listening examples and audio analysis, and you'll work with rhythm tracks recorded with a live band. The course features artists such as Ma Rainey, Lonnie Johnson, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, Abbey Lincoln, Lou Rawls, Kenny Rankin, Luciana Souza, and Jane Monheit.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

sing jazz standards in various tempos, including ballads, medium swing, fast swing, and bossa novaimprove your stage presence and use of microphoneidentify your vocal range most comfortable for singing jazzdistinguish characteristics of early blues singers and their influence on jazzapply good breath management and tone while singing in a jazz stylestrengthen your articulation of song lyricsuse vocal inflections and dynamics appropriatelyalter the melodic and rhythmic phrasing in a songbetter hear chord changes within a songidentify song forms common in jazzsing introductions and endings effectively

Lesson 1: What Is Jazz Singing?

Vocal "Lingo"Finding the Right KeyComparing Jazz to Other Vocal StylesCharacteristics of Early Traditional Blues Singers

Lesson 2: The Roots of Jazz: The Blues

Blue NotesThe Blues ScaleThe Blues Chord ProgressionHearing the Chord Progression

Lesson 3: Sounding like a Jazz Singer: Vocal Technique and Delivery

Singing with Good TechniqueVibratoBeltingSong Delivery

Lesson 4: Rhythmic Phraseology

Changing the Rhythmic PhraseFeeling the GrooveListening with a Big EarRhythmic Phrasing Practice

Lesson 5: Melodic Improvisation

Knowing the Chords of a SongChanging the Melody within a SongCall and ResponseImprovising with Words and Syllables

Lesson 6: Interpretation

ArticulationVocal InflectionsDynamicsThe Message of the Song

Lesson 7: Slow Tempos: The Ballad

Characteristics of the BalladSong FormIntroductionsEndingsPerforming the Ballad

Lesson 8: Medium Swing

Characteristics of Medium SwingInternalizing the Pulse of the SongMelodic Improvisation ReviewSinging and Swinging

Lesson 9: Fast Swing

Characteristics of Fast SwingHow Fast Is FastArticulation of LyricsSinging Up Tempos

Lesson 10: The Bossa Nova

Characteristics of Bossa NovaThe RhythmApplying Jazz Phrasing and Improvisation to the Bossa Nova "Feel"Singing Bossa Nova

Lesson 11: The American Songbook

American Songbook and ComposersSong RepertoireThe MicrophoneSinging with Stage Presence

Lesson 12: Now's the Time: A Review and Beyond

Jazz Vocals ReviewImprovisation GuidelinesFinal Performance

Jan Shapiro

Author & Instructor

Jan Shapiro is the chair of the Voice department at Berklee College of Music. She has presented vocal clinics around the country and toured extensively, performing in jazz clubs, hotels, and supper clubs in Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York, St. Louis, and Boston. Her latest CD, Back to Basics, features jazz standards with her own unique arrangements.

Shapiro has performed as a studio vocalist, recording advertising jingles, TV spots, and demos, including recording with Len Dressler of the "Singers Unlimited" for the Broadway musical Copperfield. She was the guest vocalist for the Boston Globe Jazz Festival in 1987 and 1990. Prior to teaching at Berklee, she was a faculty member in the Voice department at Fontbonne College in St. Louis, Missouri, and in the Jazz Studies department at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois.

In addition to singing, Shapiro plays flute, electric bass, piano and keyboards, as well as percussion. She composed the score of "Tales of Toyland," a children's production of Bob Kramer's Marionettes of Saint Louis, which toured nationally. She began her music studies at the Saint Louis Institute of Music and then received her bachelor's degree, graduating Cum Laude, from Howard University, and her master's degree from Cambridge College.

Music Theory 101 and Voice Technique 101 or equivalent knowledge or experience. Students should have a healthy instrument and be able to match pitch.


PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current version
Windows XP, Vista or 7Intel Pentium 4 or higher1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommended256 color monitor / 800x600 pixels resolution or betterSound card
OS X 10.7 or higherIntel Mac2 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommended256 color monitor / 800x600 pixels resolution or better
A printer is recommended, so that you can print out music examples used in the courseSpeakers or headphones for your computerA built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface).


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Next Term Starts June 27

  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

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Sample a Lesson