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By Rhys Lett

Rock/Pop Category – VCE Music Group Performance Exam

Wanna master your VCE Music Group Performance exam. Here is an analysis of how to make your songs ROCK!!!

Under the spotlight is the Rock/Pop category from the VCE Music Group Performance exam song list. It is required by students taking this exam to select and perform at least two songs from six categories in their performance. This post will focus on the rock songs present in the category.

There are certain style elements that need to be represented when performing songs from this category. Rock songs will demand certain features from each instrument players, pop will present other techniques. There are 29 songs to choose from in 2014. PLEASE NOTE – the list is altered yearly with songs deleted and new songs added. Check every year to make sure your selection is still a list piece. Lists are available from VCAA website and usually posted by February.

I have taken out of this group of songs what I would classify as rock songs.

VCE Music Group Performance Exam – Rock

Take Me Out Franz Ferdinand.
Hysteria  Muse.
Dani California Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Here Comes Your Man The Pixies.
Just Radiohead.
Schism Tool.
Ruby Kaiser Chiefs.
Dakota Stereophonics.
The Pretender Foo Fighters.
Plans Birds of Tokyo.
Miss Nothing The Pretty Reckless.
Heatwave The Living End.
Gold on the Ceiling The Black Keys.
Wedding Cake Island Midnight Oil.
Times Like These Foo Fighters.
Hold On Alabama Shakes.


Rock has to be played with confidence, swagger and power. Highlight these ideas in your playing to create the rock sound.


Guitar is the feature instrument in rock music. Songs are built on a guitar riff (Hysteria – Muse) or brute power chord playing (The Pretender – Foo Fighters).

  • use power chords and barre chords, open strings create too much.
  • get a punchy distortion sound without too much gain.
  • switch to the bridge pickup for the treble tone necessary, guitar volume on full.
  •  rhythms used will be quavers (8 to a bar) and semibreve (long sustains to contrast quavers), you will find these in every song on the rock list.
  • palm muting techniques to create volume differences (dynamics) between verses and chorus.


  • playing root notes of the chords usually in quavers rhythm or doubling the guitar riff.
  • consider playing with a pick rather than finger style.
  • tone must be treble boosted with some slight distortion present.


  • control your dynamics to emphasis each section of the song. Verse, Chorus and Bridge should have their own identifying parts.
  • you do not need to bash the kit up to get a rock sound, hitting too hard on skins and cymbals will choke their tone, use controlled and meaningful aggression.
  • work your snare tone, get it cracking the band open, find the sweet spot.


  • quiet often you will be padding the band sound out, meaning playing a lot of sustained chords or single notes to create texture.
  • don’t think that a lack of difficulty in parts means you are not earning good marks. An assessor will recognise the role you are contributing to the group sound.
  • work hard on finding appropriate keyboard patch sounds, learn the tone of famous keyboard instruments used in rock such as the Wurlitzer order, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes and other synthesizer tones.


  • singers need to dirty up their tone so think of creating a growl sound to work into parts of the song to highlight aggression.
  • listen to the rhythm the lyrics are delivered in, words are often chopped up and delivered with spit and venom.
  • the performance is often of greater importance than the clarity , you must not hold back to present a menacing attitude.

When all members make use of the techniques mentioned you will be well on the way to delivering a very accurate representation of this style. Remember to chose a song that will focus on the strengths of the players of the band. You do not need to chose pieces that are too difficult for your band members to play.

Note that you do not have to perform a song from this list. You can chose ANY Rock or Pop song. For many students this is an area that they have the most background in. Your iPod or phone is probably full of rock/pop/metal songs that you can chose to play in the exam. You will still need to look for and highlight these key elements to making your performance reflect the spirit of the style of music covered. You do not have to be the greatest player to exhibit an understanding of these skills to help you gain marks.

 IF you have specific questions relating to your exam preparation they can be made by filling in the contact form on this page. We will respond to your questions in quick time and help you reach your goals.