How to Use Scat Singing Technique in Jazz

Singer is Singing Jazz Song.This article aims to provide you with some knowledge in scat singing in jazz for those who may not be familiar yet with it. In learning how to sing jazz, particularly “scat singing“, instead of pronouncing the correct words in the song, the jazz singer sings strange phrases such as “da la be she-bo do-wa” or “do-be-do-bap-di-she-wah.”  Chances are, you may not be aware about these words, and you may be wondering about their meanings.

It may be true that based on records, scats singing in jazz music originated in West Africa just as many people believe.  The patterns of percussion may have changed into vocal lines by way of utilizing syllables applied to standard rhythms.  However, some people also believe that scat singing is the forerunner of jazz music singers based in the US with sounds imitated in jazz instruments.  This was entered in the early recordings of blues in New Orleans.

If you listen carefully to these words, you’ll probably wonder why the singer has included them with the lyrics of the song.  But as you go along listening to the tone of these phrases, you’ll become accustomed to them, and appreciate the melody because they’re nice to hear.  Scat singing is not new in the music industry; even in the past, you could have probably heard it already with some singers.

Prior to the widespread scat singing in jazz craze in the US, a kind of this singing style has already been used by a group of ragtime vocalists.  A couple of ragtime pioneers such as Tony Jackson and Ben Harney were already known scat singers as early as the 20th century.  A popular ragtime scat singer was named Gene Greene who made renditions of scat choruses in the song entitled “King of the Bungaloos” and other popular songs recorded in the years 1911 to 1917.

The well-known stage entertainer named Al Jolson also performed scat singing in his record entitled “That Haunting Melody” which was produced in 1911.  Other known jazz musicians who rendered scat singing in jazz include Red Nichols, Cliff Edwards and Don Redman.  However, the one who contributed a lot to popularize scat singing to a wider scope of audience was Louis Armstrong, through his record “Heebie Jeebies.”

Jazz scat singing is vocalizing nonsense words that have no meaning along with syllables used by jazz singers to make the equivalent of a solo instrumental music with only the voice being used.  In the world of jazz music, this is known as voice instrumental.  This style of singing is actually an improvisation of vocal jazz with random use of syllables and nonsense vocables, or no words at all.

If you hear scat singing for the first time, you may be amazed with the way the singer plays around with weird phrases and syllables, yet, they can be pleasing to your ears in general.  Scat singing enables jazz singers to render improvised rhythms and melodies to come up with an equivalent of solo instrumental music using only the voice.

This kind of singing may have been around for sometime in the past, but scat singing has its own identity that is much different from past melodies.  Another type of jazz singing is called vocalese, and it differs with scat singing through the use of lyrics instead of nonsense syllables.  Usually, rather than using melody improvisation, vocalese practitioners sing the lyrics of the song through improvisations done by instrumental performers.

With scat singing in jazz, instead of utilizing the sounds to mimic the melody line, the rhythm and melody are improvised just like with other improvisations of jazz music.

Proper Steps in Scat Singing

  • Listening to popular jazz singers can be of great help.  Try to look for Ella Fitzgeralds’ old recordings, along with the music creations of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Scatman Brothers, Cab Calloway and Mel Torme.  Concentrate on listening to them several times on how they perform scat singing in jazz.
  • Don’t neglect Warming up your voice every time you perform.  Drinking plenty of water and practicing some movements of your shoulders in a backward and forward direction can be of help.  The next step is humming and singing some scales, beginning in your lower range, and remaining at an easy range.
  • Practice regularly singing arpeggios and scales.  In the case of arpeggios, you should make it very natural so that you can listen to background music, and be able to sing notes that can blend with it.  Performing jazz scat singing requires a good listening ability, and a kind of voice that is flexible to sing any song.
  • Mimic the recordings of your scat singing repetitively.  Here, you can sing along and learn how to sing scats.  When you have mimicked great jazz singers, try doing your own.
  • Sing along with some instrumental jazz recordings.  At first, begin with an easy one just like the 8 bar blues, then, sing a melody in the music with your chosen syllables like yow, wee, bop, bee, etc.  By doing this, you will notice later that you have improved a lot in scat singing in jazz.

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Comments

  1. Henry

    I found Jazz song is very hard to sing well.What do you think?

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