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Chops How to Doo Bah An introduction to SCAT Singing ￼By Roseanna Vitro ￼ Photo: Louis Armstrong at Carnegie Hall, circa February 1947 Scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless syllables, combining improvised melodies, motifs and rhythmic patterns using the voice as an instrument, not unlike a trumpet or saxophone. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan improvised with intelligence, passion and wit, yet they never lost sight of their lyrics. Jazz ambassador Armstrong, with a voice of gravel and sunshine, is widely known as the cat who first scatted “ooh bop sha bam” after his sheet music hit the studio floor. However, a singer does not have to use scat syllables to phrase like a horn player, as Billie Holiday would often emulate her musical soulmate, Ben Webster, with lyrics. Despite their differences, these singers were accomplished musicians with an uncanny ability to entertain an audience. Aspiring jazz singers may have the world at their fingertips on their iPads and laptops, but a command of music theory and vocal technique is not enough. To equal the improvisational skills of instrumentalists, one has much listening and practice ahead. Using wordless improvisation will improve your musicianship and phrasing whether you use it in performance or only for personal study. Here is a list of artists and works that represent the Mount Rushmore of jazz phrasing and scat singing: Louis Armstrong: “Ain’t Misbehavin’” Ella Fitzgerald: “How High the Moon” Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: “Everybody’s Boppin’” Anita O’Day: “Tea for Two” Sarah Vaughan: “Sassy’s Blues,” “Shulie a Bop” Also: Chet Baker, Betty Carter, Nancy King, Bobby McFerrin, Carmen McRae, Betty Roche, Clark Terry, Mel Tormé. Learning the 12-bar blues form is essential, and “Centerpiece” by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross is an excellent simple blues to begin with. Set your metronome and snap on beats 2 and 4. Feel the swing. Using straight tones, memorize the root movements, then add the thirds and sevenths of each chord. Practice scatting four bars of melody, then four bars of improvisation; repeat through the 12 bars several times. Use the syllables “doo bah doo bah do” or “da bah da bah da,” and try to think like a horn player. Record and review your practice to keep track of your improvement. For print works, I suggest studying the solos in the Charlie Parker Omnibook, starting with “Billie’s Bounce” and “Now’s the Time.” I also highly recommend both volumes of Hear It and Sing It! by Judy Niemack for ear training and scat exercises. As she advises, “Don’t scat in public until you can improvise a solo that stands up to the original melody in quality. Don’t forget the melody. ... Transcribe improvised solos you love, not just from vocalists, but horn players, guitarists ... any instrument.” Bob Stoloff’s book Scat! is another collection of invaluable patterns and syllables for scat singers. Practice singing scat-syllable patterns using classical and jazz instrumental technique books like Vocal Improvisation by Michele Weir and those based on the Hanon piano method and Arban Method for trumpet. Other crucial resources include Patterns for Improvisation by Oliver Nelson, and improv method books by Jamey Aebersold and Jerry Coker. Aebersold also offers sing-along backing CDs, with tracks similar to his play-alongs for instrumentalists but in common vocal keys. Successful vocal improvisation requires study, insight and patience. Fall in love with your piano and choose songs that sing who you are. Find your own voice. JT Roseanna Vitro is an acclaimed vocalist and instructor whose next album, a tribute to Clare Fischer, will be released Sept. 30th on Random Act Records. Visit her online at :www.roseannavitro.com ￼￼jazztimes.com Page 49
I'm excited to say, I have completed my Clare Fischer Tribute. Six of his magnificent songs with lyrics, never before sung with Mark Soskin's amazing arrangements. The great Sara Caswell on violin, and the best rhythm section any musician could ask for ; Dean Johnson on bass and Tim Horner on drums. (Soskin's pretty hot on piano too! )