How to NOT Hate Scatting! Let us show you how to love it!

improvisation jazz musicianship scatting May 22, 2022
Fearless Singer and Jazz Singer Mel Lathouras Confidence Coach

Scatting over a jazz song can feel intimidating.

We are faced with the quandary of ‘what the heck do we even sing?’, but we also need to decide on scat syllables.

No wonder many great jazz singers choose not to improvise at all.

And of course, there’s NOTHING wrong with a singer deciding to focus on interpreting a melody beautifully or singing their original compositions.

The thing is, improvisation is FUN! And whether you do it on the bandstand or not, it’s worth having a go at it in the comfort of your own home.

Even if it’s just so that you can understand on a deeper level how the harmony in your chosen song works.

Or so that you can tap into that gorgeous creative soul of yours and paint with colours using your voice.

I have to say this, and I know that it is somewhat controversial; however, I feel that singers, in the past, have not been encouraged to improvise. The consensus was that if you can’t scat like Ella or Sarah, don’t bother.

I won’t mention any names, but a fabulous jazz singer here in Brisbane was at a workshop in New York when a famous jazz musician told a singer not even to try improvising.

Perhaps this singer didn’t know their changes very well and was taking a stab in the wind.

But my thought is, if this were an aspiring sax player, they’d be told to go back to the practice room. And perhaps even given strategies to help them.

I’m lucky that I went to an incredible university – the Jazz Music Institute here in Brisbane - that empowers singers to see themselves as instrumentalists and take their musicality as far as they want to. And they are given the tools to do so.

I LOVE improvising, not just on jazz standards but over pop tunes or riffs. And I'll be honest, sometimes I do get in my head about it and my musicality can suffer as a result but I work on not letting this stop me from doing something that brings me so much joy.

Speaking of joy, one of my greatest as a teacher is to give singers the safe space to create with their voices. It’s when we truly feel like artists.

So, I leave you with a little snippet of Harvey Blues and me co-teaching how to take a simple melodic idea and improvise it over a blues form.