How To Sing Jazz

(Last Updated On: April 8, 2021)
A jazz singer is singing with a singing with piano accompaniment.

Jazz music is a kind of very special & authentic genre of music that originated from the African-American communities of the city of New Orleans. This music genre began in the late nineteenth centuries. Its origin is deeply rooted in blues and ragtime. Since the Jazz genre of music is uniquely American in origin, it is considered to be “America’s classical music.” Jazz has been recognized as a distinctive form of music since the 1920s, after which it evolved into an independent popular musical style. 

As a genre, it is characterized by a blending of African-American and European-American music with a characteristic performance orientation. Jazz is typified by blue notes and swing, response vocals, call, improvisation, and polyrhythms. Moreover, jazz, as a musical genre, is hailed by musical experts and intellectuals as America’s one of the most original art forms.

Facts You Must Know About Singing The Jazz Songs

Jazz culture music seems to stay forever in the hearts of numerous people; in fact, a lot of jazz music lovers across the globe still want to learn how to sing Jazz.  Its golden days may have passed, but jazz continuously plays on the radio, and plenty of people are still buying jazz CDs.  In the world of jazz, the singers are mostly endowed with smooth voices that blend well with the kind of music that they sing flawlessly.

Jazz music started to be in the limelight of American recognition way back in the 20th century when the whole nation welcomed the jazz singers of the time with great applause.  When the jazz singers invaded the music arena, they were equipped with strong skills in the field of scatting which is a form of vocal Jazz improvisation.

During that time, a person who knew how to sing jazz was able to articulate this kind of music with deep expression.  The so-called jazz virtuoso has the ability to render pizzazz that swings effectively to the rhythm of the song.  In 1940, jazz singers began forming into groups that made Jazz music more popular not only in America but also in other parts of the world.

The pleasing sound of acapella harmony comprised of several voices such as a choir utilizing the persuasive power of juxtaposition of Jazz music is considered divine and ethereal.

In singing jazz, it’s not required to possess a very high vocal range or even a special technique that make jazz singers able to sing jazz in an easy way.  Even if you have never tried to sing jazz before, you can do it perfectly by knowing its standards, exploring the inherent qualities of your vocal talent, and making ways to personalize a song.

When you’re engaged in singing jazz, your voice should be the same as your speaking voice.  If you want to learn how to sing Jazz properly, you can follow the ways given below.  Once you are able to capture its concept, you’ll be part of the groups of people that aim to make jazz music alive.

Jazz Singing Techniques That Every Jazz Singer Must Learn

Jazz is definitely different from classical European music, and as a unique musical genre, it necessitates the practice of various techniques to be able to sing jazz correctly. Here are some of these techniques that you should be cognizant of:

1) Master the Jazz Rhythm

Jazz singers generally use a unique syncopated rhythm with vocals, and for that reason, jazz as a musical genre is different from other music. Jazz singers usually emphasize offbeat or upbeat, and this emphasis on the offbeat or upbeat produces syncopation. The syncopated beat is offbeat. To get a good grasp of what “syncopated” implies, you can try tapping your foot to a particular song using 1-2-3-4 pattern. Now, if you instead sing when your foot is in the air, you are doing syncopation. If you mix this syncopation with non-syncopated notes, you end up doing jazz music. Moreover, this mixing up of syncopated and non-syncopated notes create distinctive excitement to the delight of the listeners. 

2) Infuse Emotions into Your Lyrics

Jazz is basically an outpouring of emotions. Therefore, influential jazz singers usually do not rely entirely on their technical singing skills. They usually make use of their emotions and presence to mesmerize their audience. Prior to their performance, they usually read and internalize the lyrics. Once they are able to internalize the song, they just let their emotions flow with their performance. Jazz elicits happiness or sadness, and it produces diverse emotional responses based on the emotions that underly the lyrics of the song.

3) Mastering the Jazz Sound

The world of jazz is distinctive because jazz singers are required to create a variety of sounds. The jazz sounds are often characterized by the attempt of the jazz singer to use their voice as if it is a musical instrument. Because of this, the jazz singers play with their voice and sings rhythmic sounds and syllables instead of using plain words.

4) Back Phrasing

Jazz singers often rearrange a song in such a way that they make this song sound jazz. They usually do this rearrangement of songs by changing the rhythms and notes of the song. They usually infuse their styles and rhythmic flexibility into the song and thus create a distinct jazz sound using a song from other styles of music. Moreover, the instrumentalists and the singer do not follow a rigid musical pattern, but instead, the instrumentals and singers freely move a note for note. This style is called back phrasing.

5) Perfect Pitch and Good Note Listening Skills

Jazz singers may appear to deviate from the classical way of rendering a song. But to do this requires having a perfect pitch and good note listening. The jazz singers are definitely expert in improvising, and they should know how to scat. This method is like improvising doo-wop types of syllables while belting different notes that do not necessarily appear in the musical notation. A jazz singer, therefore, should be equipped with a great rhythmic sense because, in jazz singing, the instrumentation plays second fiddle or background to the voice of the singer who usually does his own melody.

6) Rhythmic Displacement

First is the rhythmic displacement that you can start with.

Your ability to employ rhythmic displacement can be a good start by learning how to sing a simple ballad like the Embraceable You sung by Ira Gershwin and George.  In loosening up spontaneously the rhythm of a jazz song to add intensity to the sound of jazz music is one of the cool aspects of singing jazz.  Every time you sing a line, try to shorten and lengthen the different notes.

Then, observe how you manipulate the changes in rhythm with word emphasis that gives you the chance to make your own beat in a song.  When singing jazz, you can create a more jazz-sounding rendition of the song if you make a brief spacing as in a clap, before moving into every phrase.

7) Learn How to Swing

The second step which is considered as a fundamental aspect of singing jazz is learning how to swing.  In swinging, you can begin the process by putting emphasis on the off-beats in every word that you sing.  In 4/4 beats singing of classical music, the emphasis is usually on the beats 1 and 3, while in jazz singing, you should stress on the beats 2 and 4.  To make the process simple on how to sing Jazz, say the numbers “one, two, three, four,” then, click your fingers on 1 and 3 beats, and shift it on beats 2 and 4.  Numbers 2 and 4 are called off-beats, and when you put some stress to them, you are able to get closer to the concept of swing.

Now, practice this simple method by singing a well-known jazz song entitled All of Me done by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks.  To swing the song, click your fingers on 2 and 4 off-beats while you sing, then, stress these off-beats along with your voice.  With these tips on how to sing Jazz properly, you can be confident that you’re on the right track.

The Importance of Lyrics and Melody

Learning how to sing jazz involves a great knowledge of melody and lyrics that are chosen among the high standard ones.  It’s great to start with the lyrics first and memorize them by heart in a way like you’re reciting an emotional poem.  This is an effective idea because after all, you’re aiming to get the attention of the audience by expressing the lyrics of your song heartily as if it was a kind of sentimental poem which is converted to music.

In memorizing lyrics, you should read them aloud, with emphasis on stressing the most important words.  A good example is the song of Cole Porter entitled “All of You” where the opening words are “I love the look of you.” In these words, you should be able to stress “love,” “look” and next is “you” so that you can express the meaning of such phrase effectively.  This is one effective way on jazz singing, and if you add this definition, you would be able to bring the lyrics of the song to life.

Additional Video Tutorial

Below are the other video tutorials for you to handle the jazz song well.

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