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Voice Studio News & Fun
April 10, 2020 | Issue #18 | Newsletter Archive
Voice Technique: Scat Singing
Have you heard Frank Sinatra sing "doo-bee-doo-bee-doo," or Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong exchange nonsense syllables in a duet? They were scatting! In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation using a variety of syllables without literal meaning. The singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as a wordless instrument rather than communicating with text. Even though the words have no meaning, the performance of the music in this way can be very expressive.

Scat singing as we know it originated around the turn of the 20th century, and was popularized with Louis Armstrong's recording of "Heebie Jeebies" in 1926. That was the recording where he famously lost his sheet music and couldn't remember the words, so he made up nonsense words on the spot, and they kept that take for the record.

The improvised melodies and syllables of scat are imitative of instrumental sounds, they generally follow a musical structure, and they depend greatly on each singer's interpretation of the music and their own personal style.

Learn some more about jazz singing and scatting in this short video.

Here is a fun video of Ella and Bing Crosby singing and scatting some popular children's songs.

Hear a great variety of scatting styles all in this one video. Imitation and practice is the best way to get good at scatting, so do some experimenting, have some fun and try it out for yourself!
Folk Song Favorites
This Land Is Your Land is one of the United States' most famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1940, based on an existing melody, a Carter Family tune called "When the World's on Fire," in critical response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."

Here's another version of the song, sung by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, two more of America's all-time great folk singers.

Click here to download the song and sing or play for yourself!
Name That Tune
Have fun sight-reading these folk tunes! Do you recognize them?
You've Got Rhythm!
Here are some exercises for rhythm practice - grab your metronome and go for it!
Composer Spotlight: Anais Mitchell
Anaïs Mitchell (b. 1981) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and playwright. She has released seven albums, including Hadestown (2010), Young Man in America (2012), and Child Ballads (2013).

Mitchell began writing her first songs at the age of 17, and at age 23 she won the 2003 New Folk award at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Her album Hymns for the Exiled was released on Chicago's Waterbug Records label in 2004. This recording attracted the attention of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco, who signed her to the Righteous Babe Records label. Mitchell appears in a band called Bonny Light Horseman, with Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats and guitarist Josh Kaufman.

Check out the Hadestown links above to listen to some of her music, and read more about her at the articles below:

Careers in Music: Professional Choral Singer
If you're like most people, you probably had no idea that there are singers who make a career out of singing in choirs. These professional singers travel the country to join their colleagues for a week of rehearsals to produce a top-level choral performance, before getting on a plane to the next city to start it all over.

The professional choirs and music festivals that employ these expert singers are located in New York City, Boston, and LA, but also Tucson, Miami, Austin, Santa Fe, and Atlanta. It is a contracted job, so a singer's income will vary, and many of the singers also teach singing and perform as professional soloists.

Singers must be expert musicians and sight-readers, with flexible vocal instruments that can sing a wide variety of styles. Miami's professional choir, Seraphic Fire, offers a professional choral institute to train singers for the high expectations of these organizations.

Read more about this interesting career choice: A New Career Path for Singers