An interesting take on a singing style popular with entertainers in our youth that we rediscovered in the senior years.
As Brenda Williams sings and then scats at the jazz performance at our retirement center, I become interested in the scatting approach she is taking during the time that the piano player and bass player played their solo jazz accompaniment to her performance. I think that the microphone is not working appropriately. She adjusts the microphone but what I hear is “gibberjabber.”
After talking with other residents, they helped me remember the name of gibberjabber that singers use. People like Ella Fitzgerald tried to imitate sounds of other instruments by singing or scatting melodies. She used her voice as an instrument rather than a speaking or singing voice.
Scat singing can give jazz singers the same opportunity as jazz instrumentalists have, the ability to improvise. Some say, “Scat don’t mean anything but just something to give a song a flavor.” Scat singing says random words or phrases that are nonsensical while the singer joins the bass player and the piano player as they improvise with the piano and bass. They seem to have fun with it.
To learn to scat you need to practice rhythmic syllables while focusing on a melody. Here are some syllables to practice:
“doo bah doo bah do”
“da bop da bah da”
While you scat, think and act like you are a horn player or a saxophone player and stay in melody. Louis Armstrong is thought to be the first who “scatted” — “Ooh bop sha bam” — when his music fell to the floor and he didn’t know the words. But he knew the melody. There were others before Armstrong who scatted; but Louis Armstrong popularized scatting.
In a book titled Scat Bob Stoloff shares a collection of patterns and syllables for use in scatting. His book gives a comprehensive approach to rhythmic and melodic exercises, response exercises and more. Remember Alvin and the Chipmunks. They employed humorous scatting in their nonsensical syllables — “oo ee oo ah ah”.
Scat singing can give jazz singers the same opportunity as jazz instrumentalists. Some say the scat singing “can describe matters beyond words. A great scat performance is able to bypass our ears and our brains and go directly to the heart and soul.” **
Other words that are used or are compared to scatting are: gobbleygook, mumbo jumbo, word salad, babbling, and gibberish.
I’d like to go back again to the jazz performance last week and try to listen to the scatting that joined the jazz bass player and piano player. Maybe I will try YouTube.
Contributed by: Rosemary Hume
**Gabbard, Krin. Representing Jazz. 1995.
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