HS: History of Rock and Roll

Course Description

This course begins with a brief overview of the elements of music and the time periods in Western Music History: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century. Musical styles and important people from each period will be spotlighted to help you understand what was important and popular to the people of each era. Historical, Cultural, and Geographical influences will be discussed in order to understand their impact on works from each period. Upon arriving in the 20th Century major emphasis will be placed on the development of Rock and Roll and its place in American history and our present day culture. The ancestors of Rock and Roll: Pop music, Country and Western Music, and Rhythm and Blues, their cultural and economic ties will be discussed, leading us into the emergence of Rock in the 1950’s. The transition into the 1960’s will help us to understand how society can be reflected and influenced by music. We will discuss Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the British Invasion, Folk Rock, Soul, the musical developments in San Francisco, Jazz and Art Rock. The 1970’s will introduce us to Disco and Soft Rock and the 1980’s will bring Heavy Metal and Rap. When we reach the 1990’s and the turn of the century the class will take over to help discuss the current trends of the day. During the course we will discuss elements and principals of music such as duration, intensity, pitch, timbre, composition, form, genre, harmony, rhythm, texture and how these principals and elements relate to the music we listen to. Extensive listening and video examples will be analyzed to uncover the make-up of the music. Finally, we will discuss how Rock and Roll has influenced other cultures and even how other cultures have influenced the development of rock and roll. The ultimate goal of this course is to help you understand the music that you are listening to: where it comes from, what it is made of, where it is going, and to help make you an educated consumer of music.


A cumulative final exam will not be given in this class. In place of a final exam, each student is required to complete a final project. The final project for this class includes a biographical paper (minimum of 4 pages) highlighting the life, career, and accomplishments of an individual artist or rock group who has “come onto the scene” in the 1990’s or later. The second portion of this project includes presenting a Powerpoint Presentation to the class based on your research. The presentation must be a minimum of 20 minutes, but students are encouraged to find enough audio and video examples to make the presentation last the entire class period. This presentation should include, but not be limited to, various audio, video, and visual examples of this artist or group’s work. It should also include an informative handout for the class. Students must select their artist and have the artist approved by the teacher by the end of the first marking period. Each student must select a different artist.


Tests will be given on a weekly basis. The tests will be based on information collected in notes taken during in-class discussions and listening exercises. Tests will include short answer, matching, and multiple choice questions. From time to time recordings will be played and students will be asked to describe specific aspects of the audio examples they hear.


Students will have a homework assignment due each week on Friday (subject to change). The homework assignment consists of a mini class presentation in which the student gives a brief biography of a rock and roll artist of their choice followed by an audio or video example of the artist’s work. Prior to the musical example, the student must pick one of the 8 elements of music and relate it to the musical example the class is going to hear. Students must use a different music element each week and cannot repeat the musical element through a given marking period.

Students will have the option of “taking a week off” from homework during the marking period. This means that a student may choose not to complete homework for one of the six weeks each marking period. If the student opts not to take a week off, the extra homework assignment will act as extra credit to help the student’s average. Once the student opts to take a week off, any other missed assignments will result in a zero for that week’s homework grade.


Students will not be allowed to remove textbooks from the classroom. For this reason we will do a lot of in-class reading. Each student will be expected to read for the class from time to time. We will also do a lot of music listening as well as watch various videos. Students will be expected to actively participate in class discussions regarding the reading, viewing, and listening that takes place in class.


Grades will be based on a points system. Class participation will be graded on a daily basis and will be worth 10 points per day. The weekly homework assignment will be worth 100 points each week. Tests will be given on a weekly basis and tests will be worth 200 points each. The final project will be worth 600 points and therefore will be a major part of the third marking period grade.

COURSE OUTLINE (Subject to Change)

Week 1: Introduction to Course; Music Elements; Periods of Music; Chapter 1.

Week 2: Chapter 2, “The Roots of Rock”

Week 3: Chapter 3, “The Emergence of Rock and Roll”

Week 4: Chapter 4, “Rock and Roll: Fifties Style”

Week 5: Chapter 5, “Transition: The Early 1960’s”

Week 6: Chapter 6, “The Beatles;” Back-masking in rock music

Week 7: Chapter 7, “The British Invasion”

Week 8: Chapter 8, “Folk Music and Folk Rock”

Week 9: Chapter 9, “Soul and Motown”

Week 10: Chapter 10, “San Francisco”

Week 11: Chapter 11, “Jazz Rock;” Chapter 12, “Art Rock”

Week 12: Chapter 13, “Mainstream Rock”

Week 13: Chapter 14, “The Continuing Fragmentation of Rock”

Week 14: Chapter 15, “Heavy Metal”

Week 15: Chapter 16, “Dance Music”

Week 16: Chapter 17, “Rap and Hip Hop”

Week 17: Chapter 18, “Alternative Styles;” Final Project Presentations

Week 18: Final Project Presentations (Rock styles of the 1990s and 2000s)