Essentials of Teaching Contemporary Voice


Authored by Clare McLeod


Course Code: OVOIC-245

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


In Essentials of Teaching Contemporary Voice you’ll investigate teaching and learning voice and explore practical strategies for facilitating singers’ learning to produce sound effectively. This course will expand your knowledge of voice, developing your ability to see voice through a functional and artistic lens, and protecting the health and integrity of the vocal learner.

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We will begin and end this course by examining the professional aspects of teaching voice, which includes how to set up a teaching studio, establish pricing policies, and identify your ideal student.

You will examine anatomy and physiology with a focus on efficiency and consideration of differing requirements across genres. You will also learn how different components of vocal sound (vocal fold contact, resonance, articulation) are utilized by singers to support their artistry in specific ways. You will apply that knowledge to facilitate change when addressing practical issues singers commonly encounter.

We will also discuss acoustics and use voice analysis software as singers learn to hear and feel their voices. This software will enable you to see and demonstrate measurable changes in sound.

We will also address pedagogical issues for teaching voice. These include types of instruction, lesson structure, effective feedback, assessing students, choice of exercises and repertoire, motivation and support of student goals, and more. Throughout the course, you will develop and refine a philosophy to use in your future teaching.

This course will cover current research and will emphasize a variety of genres and a diverse set of singers and voice users. This course will not only help you become a more effective voice teacher, but a more knowledgeable singer, equipped with tools to meet the range of vocal tasks.

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

  • Identify the structures of the larynx and vocal tract
  • Describe the contribution of the structures of singing to vocal function
  • Apply knowledge of vocal function to vocal goals of students
  • Interpret common vocal terms through an evidence-based approach
  • Interpret acoustic information and acoustic measures
  • Demonstrate effective teaching strategies
  • Set up a teaching studio and develop business strategies, including setting prices and policies and marketing and recruitment
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Teaching and Listening

  • Your Teaching Awareness
  • Cultural Context
  • Values: Context, Society, and Musical Traditions
  • Values: Singers’ Development and Identity
  • Listening
  • What to Listen for in a Voice?
  • Anatomy: Laryngeal Structure
  • Assignment 1: Listening and Reflection

Lesson 2: Student Background, Goals, and Lesson Structure

  • Student Background
  • Student Goals
  • Types of Goals
  • Lesson Structure and the First Lesson
  • Check-In
  • Warm-Ups, Explorations, and Exercises
  • Song Work
  • Wrap-Up: Ending the Lesson
  • Anatomy: Introduction to Muscles
  • Names of Muscles
  • Assignment 2: Intake Questionnaire

Lesson 3: Motor Learning, Types of Instruction, and Feedback

  • Motor Learning
  • The Stages of Motor Learning
  • Implicit and Explicit Knowledge
  • Types of Instruction
  • Direct Instruction about Singing
  • Feedback: Why Is Feedback Important?
  • Teacher Feedback
  • Amount of Feedback
  • When to Give Feedback
  • Anatomy: Intrinsic Laryngeal Muscles
  • Assignment 3: Teaching Observation

Lesson 4: Song Selection, Assessing Music, and Interpretation

  • Selecting Songs
  • Putting Together a Song Portfolio (Repertoire List)
  • How to Find Music
  • Assessing Music
  • Assessing Lyrical Content
  • Assessing Musical Elements
  • Methods for Learning a Song
  • Interpretation and Authenticity
  • Identity
  • Exploring Musical Expression with Singers
  • Anatomy: Extrinsic Laryngeal Muscles
  • Assignment 4: Interpretation - Performance Description and Comparison

Lesson 5: Explorations, Warm-Ups, Exercises, and Cool-Downs

  • Introductory Explorations
  • Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs
  • Working with Exercises
  • Multi-Purpose Exercises
  • A Word on Fatigue and Exercise
  • Anatomy: Vocal Tract Components
  • Tongue
  • Soft Palate, Pharynx, Lips, and Jaw
  • Assignment 5: Lesson Exercise Outline No. 1

Lesson 6: Learning Songs, Effective Practice, Assessing Progress, and Technology in the Studio

  • The Process of Learning a Song
  • Approaches to Learning a Song
  • Considerations for Learning Songs
  • Effective practice
  • From Lessons to the Practice Room
  • Mistakes
  • Practice: Additional Considerations
  • Practice Environment
  • Practice Problems
  • Assessing Progress
  • More Formal Assessments
  • Technology in the Studio
  • Visual Biofeedback
  • Assignment 6.1: Lesson Exercise Outline No. 2
  • Assignment 6.2: Teaching Practice Reflection No. 1

Lesson 7: Articulation, Acoustics, and Breath

  • Articulation
  • Coarticulation
  • Diction Myths
  • Acoustics
  • Breathing
  • Breath Support
  • Anatomy of Respiration
  • Muscles of Respiration
  • Abdominal Muscles
  • Thinking Beyond Muscles
  • Assignment 7.1: Lesson Exercise Outline No. 3
  • Assignment 7.2: Teaching Practice Reflection No. 2

Lesson 8: Vocal Health, Pathophysiology, Motivation, and Performance Anxiety

  • Vocal Health
  • Vocal Injury
  • Pathophysiology
  • Some Common Voice Disorders
  • Voice Problems Requiring Medical Attention
  • Common Problems
  • Motivation
  • Facilitating Behavioral Change
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Performance Preparation
  • Assignment 8.1: Identifying a Voice Care Team
  • Assignment 8.2: Teaching Practice Reflection No. 3

Lesson 9: Lifespan of the Voice

  • Childhood
  • Teen Singers
  • Gender-Diverse Singers
  • Terminology and Continuing Education
  • Adult Singers
  • Senior Singers
  • Assignment 9: Recommendations for Singers across the Lifespan

Lesson 10: Stylistic Considerations, Extended Vocal Techniques, Improvisation, and Musicianship

  • Stylistic Considerations
  • Extended Vocal Techniques
  • Extended Vocal Techniques in Rock
  • Polyphonic/Overtone Singing
  • Improvisation
  • Musicianship
  • Rhythm Syllables
  • Sight-Reading
  • Applying Musicianship to Arranging in Various Styles
  • Assignment 10: Improvisation Skill Building

Lesson 11: Developments in Voice Teaching and Voice Research

  • History of Vocal Pedagogy
  • Current Thought Leaders in Contemporary Pedagogy
  • Types of Knowledge
  • The Scientific Method
  • Voice Research
  • Other Research Methods
  • Evaluating Research
  • Current Challenges in Voice Research
  • Generative Questions
  • Assignment 11: Voice Research in Action

Lesson 12: Professionalism, Operating an Independent Studio, and Career Next Steps

  • Professional Standards
  • Professional Associations, Conferences, Publications, and Resources
  • Operating an Independent Studio
  • Promoting Your Teaching Services
  • Scheduling and Pricing
  • Tips on Small Business Set Up for the Voice Teacher
  • Additional Services: Organizing Studio Performance Events
  • Career Next Steps
  • Assignment 12: Final Project - Your Teaching Philosophy


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Students should be able to read music notation in order to assess and demonstrate vocal exercises with proficiency. Performing and recording experience is an advantage, but not required. Experience teaching is not necessary.


  • No textbooks required


  • One of the following (discounts will be available for each after enrolling):
    • VoicePrint
    • Voce Vista
  • Word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs (free), Apple Pages, Apache OpenOffice (free), etc.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Clare McLeod

Author & Instructor

Clare McLeod, Harvard EdM, is an Associate Professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music, where she is the principal author of the Minor in Teaching Contemporary Voice. A certified Estill Master Teacher, Clare also trained at the National Center for Voice and Speech, and is a member of the Voice Foundation, the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Pan American Vocology Association. In addition to teaching at Berklee, she presents voice clinics regularly around the world and continues to contribute to developments in voice research.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Essentials of Teaching Contemporary Voice can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Major


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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