Modern Jazz (VII): Scat Singing

In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Scat singing is a difficult technique that requires singers with the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument.

Humor is another important element of scat singing. Cab Calloway exemplified the use of humorous scatting.

Though Louis Armstrong‘s 1926 recording of Heebie Jeebies is often cited as the first song to employ scatting, there are many earlier examples.

Over the years, as jazz music developed and grew in complexity, scat singing did as well. During the bop era, more highly developed vocal improvisation surged in popularity (the word Bebop  comes from the Scat Singing).

A renewed interest in the genre briefly appeared during the mid-1990s with the song Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop) in 1994.

Vocal improviser Bobby McFerrin‘s recent performances have shown that “wordless singing has traveled far from the concepts demonstrated by Louis Armstrong”.

Many hip-hop music artists and rappers use scat singing to come up with the rhythms of their raps.

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