The Art of Scat Singing

Shoo-bee-do-whap doo-wah…bee bop ba baah…

No, we have not lost all ability to converse here at TakeLessons, we are trying out scat singing — and it’s tough! Check out this article by one of our Berkeley voice teachers, Richard K., and see if you can whip up a scat solo the next time you hear your favorite song…


Have you ever hear a band playing a familiar Rock & Roll or jazz standard and then the vocalist, instead of singing the right words, started singing started singing a bunch of nonsense phrases like “da ba sheh-bop doo-wah” or “Doo-bee-bah-dip shwee-aah”?  Chances are you just heard scat singing.  And if you listen carefully, you might find it to be a real treat.

Scat singing is NOT what a vocalist does when they can’t remember the words to the song.  It is a singer’s act of creative expression; the time when he or she gets to perform a solo just like the instrumentalists do.  And just like instrumentalists, there are skills a scat singer must acquire.

Louis Armstrong

So how does a novice go about learning to scat sing?  Many singers are terrified of scat—that vast unknown territory where you have to (or get to) make up your own melodies, phrases, or rhythmic licks.  Some would rather stick to the safety of the memorized lyrics and melody of a song.  But there is real freedom and excitement in creating your own melodic phrases, and great joy when your audience claps or roars in enjoyment of what you have created.

Learning to scat comes from getting a “feeling” for the music, so many folks start with the blues.  If you’ve ever listened to a song, and had the melody spark an alternative musical idea in your mind that would sound great out loud, you’ve started the process of learning to scat.  Or, if you hear another melody that fits into the one that you’re listening to and you try singing it, that too is scatting.

If nothing else, the way to start learning about scat singing is to listen to some great scat artists. Try to learn their solos and phrasing, try to capture their timing and emulate the tonal qualities they utilize.  Imitate them when they sound like a bell, or like a horn, or like they are growling or groaning.  Also, listen to your favorite instrumental players and learn their solos.  Listen to the solo repeatedly until you memorize it and can sing along while they are playing it.  Try to make your voice sound like an instrument—whether it is a horn, a guitar, a bass, drums or even a piano, if you can!

As with any singing technique, you’ll need to commit some serious practice time to learn and master the skill.  For additional help, sign up for singing lessons with a teacher who is familiar with scatting – the individual attention and that extra ear will definitely help you along your way. Find a voice teacher in your area and book lessons today!

You might also like…
- Find Your Voice as a Singer: 4 Tips That Work
- How to Build Confidence On Stage
- Using Scales to Improve Vocal Range and More

 

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