Jazz Singing 101


Authored by Jan Shapiro


Course Code: OVOIC-242

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Singers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra have left an indelible mark on American popular music through their jazz vocal stylings, fusing a conversational delivery with rhythmic and melodic improvisation. Jazz Singing 101 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.

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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 jazz vocalists 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 nova
  • Improve your stage presence and use of microphone
  • Identify your vocal range most comfortable for singing jazz
  • Distinguish characteristics of early blues singers and their influence on jazz
  • Apply good breath management and tone while singing in a jazz style
  • Strengthen your articulation of song lyrics
  • Use vocal inflections and dynamics appropriately
  • Alter the melodic and rhythmic phrasing in a song
  • Better hear chord changes within a song
  • Identify song forms common in jazz
  • Sing introductions and endings effectively

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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: What Is Jazz Singing? 

  • Vocal "Lingo"
  • Finding the Right Key
  • Comparing Jazz to Other Vocal Styles
  • Characteristics of Early Traditional Blues Singers

Lesson 2: The Roots of Jazz: The Blues

  • Blue Notes
  • The Blues Scale
  • The Blues Chord Progression
  • Hearing the Chord Progression

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

  • Singing with Good Technique
  • Vibrato
  • Belting
  • Song Delivery

Lesson 4: Rhythmic Phraseology

  • Changing the Rhythmic Phrase
  • Feeling the Groove
  • Listening with a Big Ear
  • Rhythmic Phrasing Practice

Lesson 5: Melodic Improvisation

  • Knowing the Chords of a Song
  • Changing the Melody within a Song
  • Call and Response
  • Improvising with Words and Syllables

Lesson 6: Interpretation

  • Articulation
  • Vocal Inflections
  • Dynamics
  • The Message of the Song

Lesson 7: Slow Tempos: The Ballad

  • Characteristics of the Ballad
  • Song Form
  • Introductions
  • Endings
  • Performing the Ballad

Lesson 8: Medium Swing

  • Characteristics of Medium Swing
  • Internalizing the Pulse of the Song
  • Melodic Improvisation Review
  • Singing and Swinging

Lesson 9: Fast Swing

  • Characteristics of Fast Swing
  • How Fast Is Fast
  • Articulation of Lyrics
  • Singing Up Tempos

Lesson 10: The Bossa Nova

  • Characteristics of Bossa Nova
  • The Rhythm
  • Applying Jazz Phrasing and Improvisation to the Bossa Nova "Feel"
  • Singing Bossa Nova

Lesson 11: The American Songbook

  • American Songbook and Composers
  • Song Repertoire
  • The Microphone
  • Singing with Stage Presence

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

  • Jazz Vocals Review
  • Improvisation Guidelines
  • Final Performance


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory 101 and Voice Technique 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have a healthy voice and be able to match pitch.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Students are required to capture their performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (required if multitracking and/or input monitoring)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need an XLR cable, microphone stand, and pop filter.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu 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


Jan Shapiro


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.

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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. Read Less

Daniela Schachter


Daniela Schächter started early her musical career: by her mid-teens was already performing publicly in Sicily, Italy, as well as doing studio session work. After her classical studies she moved to Boston MA as recipient of a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where she studied with Phil Wilson, Joe Lovano, Hal Crook and Joanne Brackeen. Daniela has won many prestigious awards, such as the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition 2005, The Sister in Jazz Competition 2002, the Betty Carters Jazz Ahead Competition 2002, the Terri Lyne Carrington Endowed Scholarship, the Tindari 93, Prize for the best jazz duo with her brother Davide and also she appeared in the Jazziz magazine collector's CD (July 2001). The musicians that had the most influence in her music are Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Paul McCandless, Thelonious Monk, Bela Bartok, Maurice Ravel. Daniela has performed at the Brass Group Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Fest, the Cape May Jazz Festival, the Cleveland Jazz Fest with the Rainbow Big Band, the International Trumpet Guilt Conference, the Kennedy Center, the Sarasota Jazz Festival, the Cape Cod Jazz Festival, The Blue Note with The Tiger Okoshi Quartet, the Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops and Patti Austin, the Ravinia Jazz Festival with the Count Basie Big Band and the Hollywood Bowl. Daniela has performed with John Clayton Jr. and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, John Dankworth, the New York Voices, Terri Lyne Carrington, Patti Austin, Kevin Mahogany, Carmen Lundy, Regina Carter, Christian McBride, Ingrid Jensen, Tiger Okoshi, Shirley Horn and Al McKibbon among others. She has also been conducted by Quincy Jones, Patrick Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, John Clayton Jr., Elmer Bernstein, Bob Brookmeyer, Justin DiCioccio and Phil Wilson. Daniela Schächter was guest artist of the prestigious Marian McPartland Piano Jazz radio program, the Java Jazz Festival and the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival in 2006. She is currently leading her group in several venues in New York and Boston, where she resides.

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Her fourth album “Vanheusenism” A Tribute To Jimmy Van Heusen was released in October 2016.

Daniela is Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music Boston MA since 2008. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Jazz Singing 101 can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


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

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