Pop and Rock Vocals


Authored by Didi Stewart


Course Code: OVOIC-241

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Singers who have a rich pop and rock vocal background have a distinct advantage over their competition. The wealth of techniques at their disposal, such as a professional command of dynamics, emphasis, nuance, and inflection allows these singers to have a more personalized approach to the genre, provides them with increased confidence as a performer, as well as a richer, more resonant tone.

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Starting with the blues and country roots of 1950s rock 'n roll, Pop and Rock Vocals proceeds chronologically through instruction in important subgenres, including pre-Beatles pop, folk-rock, punk/New Wave, and 1980s dance-pop/mainstream rock, concluding with the modern-day indie rock influenced by these earlier styles. Through guided study using video demonstrations, audio clips, and informative historical narrative, you will learn the technical and interpretive vocal skills necessary to master the styles of pop/rock greats, such as John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Madonna, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Tori Amos, Gwen Stefani, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and many others.

The course explores breath support and management to facilitate pop and rock "belting," interpretive and "storytelling" techniques to heighten a song's emotional impact, and ways to increase flexibility and create a balanced tone. The course also addresses the visual as well as vocal aspects of pop/rock performance, focusing on audience communication and effective use of the stage area. Throughout the course, you will record sing-along track assignments for instructor feedback. High and low keys for both male and female vocalists will be provided. You will learn to perform everything from "classic hits" pop and rock to singer-songwriter styles to contemporary indie rock in an authentic way.

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

  • Use breathing, projection, and articulation to achieve a more powerful, dynamic pop/rock sound with less effort
  • Perform an impressive variety of vocal styles ranging from lyrical pop to hard rock
  • Use communication devices such as eye contact, hand gestures, and point-to-point onstage traveling
  • Utilize devices specific to pop and rock vocalizing, including the concept of "sung speech," the minimizing of vibrato, and the use of tension/release to create exciting verse-chorus transitions
  • Preserve vocal health while singing more challenging forms of rock and pop
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Belting Techniques: 1950s Pop/Rock Roots

  • The Great American Melting Pot: Pop/Rock Roots
  • The Pentatonic Scale
  • Country Music
  • Pop Music Roots
  • Spotlight: Notable 1950s Pop and Rock Vocalists
  • How Pop/Rock Vocalizing Differs from Classical and Music Theater Styles
  • Technique of the Week: Breath Support for Pop/Rock Singing and Belting

Lesson 2: Flexibility, Melisma, and Vibrato: Early 1960s Pop/Rock

  • Early 1960s Pop/Rock Styles
  • The Conversational Tone
  • Melisma
  • Vibrato
  • Falsetto
  • Technique of the Week: Practice Schedule of Warm-Ups for Pop/Rock Singers
  • Spotlight: Notable Early 1960s Vocalists

Lesson 3: Dynamics, Attitude, and Rock 'n Roll Role-Playing: The British Invasion

  • British Invasion Artists and Styles
  • Spotlight: Notable British Invasion Vocalists
  • Dynamics
  • Glissando
  • Attitude
  • The Concept of Tension/Release
  • Technique of the Week: Jaw Relaxation

Lesson 4: Communication in Performance: Folk-Rock

  • Folk-Rock Artists and Styles
  • Spotlight: Notable Folk-Rock Artists
  • Technique of the Week: Eye Contact and Facial Expressiveness
  • Dealing With Stage Fright: It's the Song Not the Singer
  • Observation of People in Conversation

Lesson 5: Vocal Stylizations, Phrasing, and Hand Gestures: Motown, Stax, and Muscle Shoals

  • Motown/Stax/ Muscle Shoals Artists and Styles
  • Spotlight: Notable Motown, Stax, and Muscle Shoals Vocalists
  • Phrasing
  • Improvisation
  • Technique of the Week: Hand Gestures and Stationary Body Movement
  • Mirror Exercises

Lesson 6: Projection and Enunciation: Psychedelia, Progressive Rock, and Art Rock

  • Psychedelic, Progressive, and Art Rock Artists and Styles
  • Projection
  • Enunciation
  • Spotlight: Notable Psych/Progressive/Art Rock Vocalists
  • Technique of the Week: Forward Placement

Lesson 7: Breath Management and Resonance: Country/Roots Rock, Soft Rock, and Power Pop

  • Country/Roots Rock, Soft Rock, and Power Pop Artists and Styles
  • Country-Rock Vocal Characteristics
  • Creating Resonance
  • Technique of the Week: Breath Management

Lesson 8: Interpretation: 1970s Singer-Songwriters

  • Singer-Songwriter Artists and Styles
  • Interpretation
  • Nuance
  • Inflection
  • Connecting with Your Lyrics
  • Storytelling
  • Journaling Songs

Lesson 9: Register Balancing and Singing with the Whole Body: 1970s Hard Rock, Glam, Punk, and New Wave

  • Hard Rock, Glam, Punk, and New Wave Artists and Styles
  • Register Balancing and the Hard Truth about Hard Rock Singing
  • Spotlight: Notable Hard Rock and Punk/New Wave Vocalists
  • Singing with the Whole Body

Lesson 10: Syncopation, Emphasis, Movement: 1980s Rock and Dance Pop

  • 1980s Rock and Dance Pop Artists and Styles
  • Spotlight: Notable 1980s Rock and Dance Pop Vocalists
  • Syncopation
  • Technique of the Week: Basic Movement—Responding Physically to Your Music
  • Traveling: Moving from Point A to Point B

Lesson 11: Unconventional and Virtuoso Vocal Sounds: Alternative Rock and Diva Pop

  • Alternative Pop/Rock Artists and Styles
  • Character Devices Common to Alternative Pop/Rock
  • Spotlight: Notable Alternative Pop/Rock and Diva Pop Vocalists
  • Exploring Quirky Vocal Sounds
  • Diva-Style Melismatic Runs
  • Technique of the Week: Creating a Character Using Unconventional Vocal Sounds

Lesson 12: Pulling It All Together: Contemporary Pop and Rock

  • Contemporary Pop/Rock Artists and Styles
  • Music for Pleasure: Why We Sing
  • Putting What You've Learned into Practice
  • Review: Techniques for Pop/Rock Singing and Belting
  • Review: Interpretation


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
An enthusiasm for pop and rock music, and the ability to match pitch when singing.


  • 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 Classes. 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


Didi Stewart


Didi Stewart is an associate professor in the Voice department at Berklee College of Music. A two-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Female Vocalist, Stewart has been a longtime fixture on the Boston music scene. Her first original rock band, Didi Stewart and the Amplifiers, recorded the album Begin Here for Kirshner/Epic Records in 1983. Her second band, Girls' Night Out, was one of the top-grossing acts in New England and was named "Best Unsigned Band" by Musician magazine in 1986. Throughout the 1990s, Stewart was known her ongoing series of songwriter tributes, celebrating such composers as Laura Nyro, Carole King, Randy Newman, Jacques Brel, Rogers and Hart, and Cole Porter. The critically acclaimed An Evening of Burt Bacharach and Hal David won a Boston magazine award for Best Club Performance. A prolific composer for film and TV, Stewart's songs have been featured on Melrose Place, One Life to Live, The Young and the Restless, Touched by an Angel, Dark Skies, Any Day Now, The Twilight Zone, and The Beast. Her most recent album, the country-pop excursion Harmonyville, was released in 2006.

Adriana Balic


Adriana Balic has toured the world as a member of popstar P!NK’s band since 2003, on keys, backing vocals, and guitar. In November 2019, Balic completed P!NK’s Beautiful Trauma World Tour which broke records, playing to over 3 million people and making it the tenth highest grossing tour in Billboard Boxscore’s history. Balic’s media credits include Saturday Night Live, Apple Music, Top of the Pops, iHeartRadio Live, and American Idol. Other artists Balic has played with include Gwen Stefani, Wrabel, Sheila E., The Rubens, Brenda Russell, Chris Stapleton, Peabo Bryson, Norman Brown, Everett Harp, Il Divo, Don Grusin, and the US National Touring Theater Production of Jersey Boys. She plays Roland keyboards and is a Roland Artist.

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As an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Balic has been teaching keys, voice, and songwriting in the Popular Music program since 2010. She has also been on faculty at Berklee Online as the Pop/Rock Vocals instructor since 2010. Additionally in 2016, Balic completed a Master of Arts in Learning Technologies from Pepperdine University with her thesis and capstone project on video and hybrid instruction, blended learning, flipped classroom, and online platforms.

Balic, a Vancouver native, holds bachelor’s degrees in (Classical) Music and Music Education from the University of British Columbia in Canada and a diploma in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music. With life stories to share from both stage and school, Balic recognizes the uniqueness of each student and designs individualized 21st century instruction and strategies for their evolving artistry. In 2017, College Magazine named Balic as one of the “10 Female Music Teachers That Inspire Us.” Read Less

Cassandre McKinley


Boston born and bred, Cassandre McKinley started a career in film and television upon entering her freshman year of high school. By 16, she had already signed with a New York talent agent, began taking weekly private voice instruction, and attended a long series of intensive music programs specializing in voice performance. After high school, she attended The Boston Conservatory where she majored in Musical Theater and minored in Voice. Cassandre's accomplished career now spans over three decades as a professional singer, dancer, actress, voice-over artist, and print model.

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Cassandre is best known for her powerhouse voice and ability to cross genres effortlessly. She is celebrated for her spirited and emotional performances with a presence on stage that is exuberant and passionate yet warm and disarming. She has performed and/or recorded with greats such as Dick Johnson (Artie Shaw Orchestra), Clay Osborne, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Jay Geils, Fred Lipsius (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Jerry Portnoy (Eric Clapton), and the legendary Herb Pomeroy, among others. After self-releasing several commendatory straight-ahead jazz albums, Cassandre drew from deeper influences of her youth and revealed a more “soulful” sounding jazz album in remembrance of the late Marvin Gaye.

She has toured nationally and overseas. Her music can be heard on over 500 national and international radio stations, cable and internet music outlets including iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora and XM Radio. Cassandre holds a position as assistant professor in the Voice department at Berklee College of Music teaching both on campus and online. She continues to tour regularly as both a headliner and featured artist. She is in production on a new recording set to be released in the fall of 2017. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Pop and Rock Vocals 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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