What Makes a Great Female Jazz Singer?

The women of jazz have been the driving force behind the continued popularity of the genre. Their voices fill the air with power and feeling, and they transform the music from being a song to a becoming a state of mind. You know their names – Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Nina Simone to name a few – but do you what makes them great? This article will explore the different elements that make a great female jazz singer stand out from the rest.

Swing

Like the song says, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” The swing in jazz music is one of the elements that set it apart. To give a song that swing, a vocalist has to emphasize the off-beats of the song. Classical music tends to stress the 1 and 3 beats, where a jazz swing will emphasize beats 2 and 4. A good jazz vocalist understands this and capitalizes on it with their voice and maybe even a sassy shoulder shrug to get the audience’s toes tapping.

Scatting    

If you want to know what great scatting sounds like, turn on an Ella Fitzgerald album and listen to the Queen of Jazz let it rip. Scatting is the art of vocal improvisation using nonsensical syllables and random sounds. It’s the jazz vocalist’s version of a freestyle, and every great female jazz singer has her signature style. The voice becomes an instrument, a part of the band.

Pitch and Tone

A jazz vocalist is first and foremost a vocalist. For this reason, the artist’s pitch and tone are what makes or breaks their career and separates the average from the unforgettable. Like any musician, jazz singers spend large amounts of time training their voice to be able to hit every high, project ever low and seamlessly dance from one note to the next during their scat.

There is no one element that makes a great female jazz singer. It’s the ability to combine these and other elements and infuse them with their personal touch that turns a vocalist into an icon.

The women of jazz have been the driving force behind the continued popularity of the genre. Sylvia Brooks is a female jazz artist with a sound and style that has been greatly influenced by the great classical jazz artists and big band swing artists of the past.

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