The Professor’s Guide to Scat Singing

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Jazz is a mysterious art form, full of many eccentricities, not the least of which is that elusive style of singing known as scat singingScatting is a proud and dignified tradition of singing a bunch of nonsense syllables over a song when you’re too drunk to remember the words.* Scat singing has been used by many of the jazz greats throughout history such as Satchmo, Ella, Dizzy, Sinatra, and Bob Dylan. (At least, I think Dylan is scatting. If anyone thinks he’s singing in English, please write to Syncopated Times.)

Furthermore, scatting is a trend that’s really catching on. In fact, this nonsense style of singing has even reached the political sphere. Who could forget our beloved president’s offering of convfefe to the world? So, if you’ve always wanted to try this wonderful singing tradition but have never known quite how to get started, here you go with the Professor’s handy guide to scat singing. Without any formal training (and the right hat), you too can scat your jazzy heart out, and wow audiences with your nonsensical jazzy syllables.

Before we begin, it’s important to be properly hydrated, and please avoid caffeine products. Okay, now we’re ready to get going. Find a quiet room. Put both hands on your hips, center your core, and then…slowly…try a shooby. How did that feel? If you feel a little light-headed, try adjusting your hat. Breathing is really important, as is diaphragm support. (Some scatters use a yoga mat for the first few months. No shame in it.)

Keep working on your shoobys till you start to feel comfortable.

Now, once you’re feeling good about your shoobys, try adding a dooby. But please, remember to take it slowly. It’s not uncommon for beginners to pull a muscle while shooby do be-ing.

Now once you’re comfortable with your shooby doobys, try a more advanced beep bop ska doo be. (Please don’t attempt this less than 40 minutes after a meal due to cramping.)

All good? Congratulations! You’re on your way to scatting greatness!

A few pointers though:

If you’re going to oop bop sh’bam, make sure you do it with sufficient a kloop a mop. This is not a technique for beginners so please be careful—too many oop bop she bams without sufficient a kloop a mops can make you dizzy.
Furthermore, if you’re going to beep bop ska do be**, make sure your woo la bap is really zippety bang shelang.

Now I know what you’re thinking: how can it be sufficiently bam diddley doo if my booo de bop is not properly shababa doo wee? Good question. To avoid possible boom zippity clang, put your left hand on your bang she lang, and focus on your skee ba doobah. You may feel a tickling in your doo be doowah but don’t worry; the bloating is temporary, and you’ll be dat doo wee-ing in no time.

I hope this guide was helpful to kick starting your scatting career. Best of luck! And please remember: as the great Duke Ellington said- “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” He then summarized his hypothesis with a rousing “do wop do wop do wop do wop do wop do wop do wop do wop.”

I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us.
———–
*if you’d like to google scatting to find out more, please avoid visiting German websites.
**beep bop ska do be-ing is illegal in some states. Please refer to the relevant local regulations before attempting in public.


Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Swing It Out! issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit his both his sites on the world wide web: www.adriancunningham.com and professorcunninghamjazz.com.

The Professor is delighted to field your questions regarding jazz and a variety of other germane topics. Write him at oldschoolprofessor@gmail.com.


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