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Jazz warm-ups
What is swing?
Other considerations
- jazz scales
- rhythm & syncopation
- harmony
- Melody
- Improvisation
Listening and resources

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Warm-up exercises
Still do sirens and the usual exercises. The purpose of warm-ups is to
prepare to sing, more so than to learn jazz-style instruction, but some
exercises provide the opportunity to use jazz phrasing and scat syllables at
the same time. Warm-ups should not be overly complicated; complexity is
best left for the repertoire. A few exercises done properly will suffice. Some
traditional warm-ups can be jazzed up, but some best left as they are. Most
choir directors will have mixed repertoires rather than purely jazz so will
require a variety of straight and swing exercises.

Siren singggg - up and down a few times, extending each time.

Ensure that this final ng syllable is held; hence choristers should have
lips slightly apart. If closed they are not doing it correctly.

Whoooo: This is like a whoop of delight; quick and energetic. Good

for falsetto and higher range

Me-Ahhh to a 5-note scale, major or minor. Separate vowels and

open the jaw on ah. Try to maintain the vertical mouth shape with

Bumble Bee as per the usual straight quaver (eighth note) version.
Have the tongue touch the back of the teeth for the l. The same
melodic pattern (1-3, 2-4, 3-5, 4-6 etc) can swing with scat syllables
such as du-va, with dwi on the highest note. Take slowly to enhance
the swing-quaver space.

The chromatic scale I must sing my half notes evry day until theyre
per-fect is an excellent exercise and best left as is. Semitone focus
so important: the foundation of western tonality. Choristers tend to
augment this interval; often the cause of poor intonation in choirs.

Scales and arpeggios, swing and scat:

Available soon: The Little Book of Choral Warm-Ups by Michael Griffin.

Express your interest in receiving this:

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

What is Swing?

a light rhythmic spring, easy to feel but almost impossible to analyse or

-Grove Jazz Encyclopaedia

Swing probably made its appearance from about 1910. Jazz musicians play
quavers (eighth notes) unevenly in terms of both accent and duration,
although there is considerable variation in style among players, and at
different times in the history of jazz. Therefore theres more than one way to
swing. Swing phrasing is crucial to jazz and creates forward momentum.

A correct ratio for swing quavers cannot be given precisely. Not only is the
duration or space between swing quavers a personal thing, but also the
placement of notes in regards to the beat. Some musicians like Billie Holiday
played deliberately behind the beat (slightly late). This is not the same as
slowing down or dragging, but gives the illusion of slowing the tempo when in
fact it isnt, and gives a more relaxed feel. The opposite, playing slightly in
front of the beat is known as pushing or being on top of the beat. Count
Basie is a great example of this.

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Swing is most often played in quadruple meter, with beats 2 and 4 getting a
secondary pulse after traditional strong beats. The off beats feel stronger than
1 and 3.

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Syncopation is the stressing of a normally unstressed beat. By moving the
accent before or after the expected stress, we create syncopation by
anticipation, or by delay. Hence many jazz phrases begin on an off-beat.

This is difficult for most of us and certain rhythms need to be familiarised. The
combination of swing and syncopation can be challenging. When rehearsing,
exaggerate the phrasing and use prosody.
Jazz rarely uses triads. Extension refers to 7ths, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.
Alteration refers to the semitone adjustment of a non-essential chord tone,
namely the 5th and/or the 9th. Substitution refers to using a related chord that
fulfils the function of the original chord, the most common example being the
tri-tone substitution that involves the dominant chord. These possibilities and
combinations offer possibilities for harmonic complexity and hence the
renewal and reinterpretation of melody. However, with more chromatic
movement in the inner parts, intonation becomes an issue.
Understanding jazz harmony is not difficult, but fun and beautifully logical.
Students in years 10 -12 have the option of learning this in schools. The
combination of

jazz rhythm and harmony challenges our personal







conducting pattern. For a clear method book on basic jazz harmony, go to

Teaching is not the only form of instruction: you dont have to do it all
yourself. Get the students involved in our musical society. Go to eisteddfod
competitions, festivals, and check out other school/university choral
concerts/rehearsals. Put music on in the school environment, the shared
network, and introduce them to You Tube choral videos. Aspire to upload your
Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

choir on YouTube. Listen to other school choirs for repertoire and

interpretation ideas:

Jazz usually takes place in the context of an actual or simulated jam session.
Can we reproduce this in rehearsal? There is ritual and behaviour involved:
-interact with each other, audience, audience participation, personal modesty
and generosity. Your students will show effusive appreciation of the creative
efforts of their peers.

Always model to your choir and maintain eye contact.

Use call and response techniques and consider a drum kit backing
or/and finger clicking. Jazz quavers tend to accelerate. Why?

A good starting place for improvising is with the Blues, a recurring 12-bar
musical structure that in its simplicity needs only 3 primary chords, and one
scale the Blues scale. Model simple patterns to the choir in a call-response
context and in time, encourage the choristers to lead this. Dont try and use all
the notes of the Blues scale, 2 or 3 notes is fine for starters, especially given
the challenges of swing and articulation. See the warm-up sheet for the
structure of a Blues scale. Listen to the jazz repertoire to get a feel for style.
Example: Blues Franca (at end of document)
Jazz articulation is rarely even and tempered. In early jazz history, white
music was based on the accurate reproduction of a set composition whereas
Blacks had no such tradition, but tended to see music as a means of personal
expression. This is perhaps why jazz melodic lines are spiced with accents
and dynamic changes; so that it seems to take on the characteristics of
speech. Our speech is full of prosody and accent. Jazz singing should
emulate this. Singers have to make a real effort to articulate. Exaggerate this
in rehearsal.
Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Scat and improvisation

The origin of scat can be traced back to West
African musics where percussion patterns were
often vocalised, for example boom de de boom.
Melodic scatting more likely originated in the USA
but this is not certain. One story has it that during a
performance, Louis Armstrong dropped his lyric
sheet and thinking quickly, wordlessly sang the rest of the tune as if he were
playing it. One of his phrases was scat a lee dat and someone called it
scat. Armstrong was the first to record scat vocals, and is credited with
making it an art form.
Scat is the vocalisation of sounds and syllables that are musical but have no
literal translation. They are nonsense syllables. Scat was considered a novelty
device in early New Orleans jazz, but legitimised due to the artistry of
Armstrong about 1926. In particular, Armstrongs scat was a clear imitation of
a trumpet, and his scats rivalled his trumpet solos in virtuosity and
Choosing syllables is entirely subjective but must fulfil a jazz syntax function
(like speech) and therefore syllables must contrast appropriately to reflect the
intended articulation.

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

NB Dot is pronounced like dut as in dug. Be careful not to sound the

consonant t. This is mostly not sounded. Similarly, bop. Why? Because two
consonants might change the rhythm from a crotchet (quarter note) to two
quavers (eighth notes).
Beginning syllable suggestions:
Short vowels: a (like pizza), e (like p), o (like rock)
Long vowels: u, ah, aye, oh
Vowels can be articulated with consonants B, D, W.
Listen to and copy the masters before developing your own repertoire of scat
syllables. Eventually the serious jazz musician has to develop their own voice.
You cant join the throng til you write your own song.
Lester Young to Max Roach

Rehearsal tips:

Click on beats 2 and 4 whilst scatting

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Use a drum kit backing (swing)

Put metronome bell on beats 2 and 4

Model aurally using call and response

Practise slowly and deliberately

Exaggerate the articulation heavily

From Scat - Vocal Improvisation Techniques by Bob Stoloff
Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin

Vocal drum kit

Listening, Resources & Repertoire

In jazz, artist performances are more important than the compositions
themselves (charts).


Manhattan Transfer

New York Voices

Idea of North

Adelaide Connection

Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross (Yolande Bevan)

Swingle Singers


Louis Armstrong (mid 1920s on)

Cab Calloway (30s)

Ella Fitzgerald (bebop). Listen to How High the Moon from her Berlin
concert. As a scat vocalist Ella was unrivalled. Check out her
recordings with Louis Armstrong.

Dizzy Gillespie (bebop)

Anita ODea

Chet Baker (west coast, simpler)

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin


Kurt Elling (contemporary, mainstream, vocalise)

Lennie Tristano promoted the usefulness of scat in teaching jazz


Bob McFerrin

Books and instruction

Vocal Jazz Style by Kirby Shaw

Scat! Vocal Improvisation and Techniques by Bob Stoloff

Blues Scatitudes by Bob Stoloff

Jamey Aebersold collection: More than 100 books with backing tracks
for learning jazz repertoire and style.

An Explanation of Vocalise by Leonard Feather

Vocal Instrumentation: An Instrumental Approach by P Coker and D


Scatting and Bopping by K Henriques

Modern Harmony Method by Michael Griffin

Pieces composed and arranged by Kirby Shaw. Check out the arrangers
below. Publishers Hal Leonard and Alfred have a large collection. Browse
local music stores.

Side by Side (level 2)

arr J. Althouse

Bye Bye Blackbird (level 2)

arr J. Althouse

Stormy Weather (level 3)

arr J. Althouse

I Cant Give You Anything But Love (level 3)

arr D Riley and J Althouse

All or Nothin at All

arr Kirby Shaw

It Dont Mean a Thing if it aint Got That Swing arr Mac Huff
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

arr Ed Lojeski

Route 66

arr Kirby Shaw

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin


It Might as Well Be Spring

arr Ed Lojeski

Steal Away


Chattanooga Choo Choo

arr Mac Huff

You made me Love You

arr J Althouse

Who can I turn to

Arr J. Althouse

Fifty Ninth Street Bridge Song

Arr. F. Metis

Steppin Out with My baby

arr Kirby Shaw

Evry Time I Feel the Spirit

arr William Dawson

Nobody Knows the Trouble Ive Seen

arr GM & AP Puddy

Smoke gets in your Eyes

arr R Hunter

My Foolish Heart

Washington Young


arr Mark Brymer

Basin Street Blues

arr Ed Lojeski

Blue Skies

arr Steve Zegree

Makin Whoopee

arr Kirby Shaw


arr Kirby Shaw

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

arr Kirby Shaw


arr Jack Halloran

Trickle, Trickle

arr Kirby Shaw

Sweet Georgia Brown

arr Kirby Shaw

Over The Rainbow

arr Roger Emerson


arr Rutherford

Too Darn Hot

arr Mac Huff


arr K Shaw

Listen or download recordings to a number of these songs at:
Watch videos at
Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin


Arranging your own jazz choral music

Skills and knowledge required:

Vocal ranges

Harmonic construction

Chord progressions

Choosing chords from vertical and horizontal perspectives

Chord voicing

Enjoy performing your own arrangements and contribute to the choral

repertoire. Be careful with swing, some things not meant to be. Use your own
judgement. You dont have to introduce many jazz elements to get the desired
Reference eBook:
Modern Harmony Method (2nd Edition) by Michael Griffin

Thank you for downloading my Jazz 4 Choirs paper. Please understand that
this is for individual teacher use and not for workshops, professional
development or commercial organisations without my permission. I am
available to present Jazz 4 Choirs to members of your choral society, and to
school choirs looking for a choral jazz experience. In addition I shall be
presenting this at ISME Beijing August 2010. See you there! Please explore
my repertoire of student workshops at:

2010 workshop itinerary: Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Qatar,

Oman, United Arab Emirates, Austria, China, Malawi, England, Luxembourg,
Switzerland, France. I can also inspire your school.

Michael Griffin M.Ed Studies, B.Ed (Music), A.Mus.A (pianoforte)

Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin


Jazz 4 Choirs workshop for ECIS Hamburg Nov 09 Michael Griffin