The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    I've had a difficult time with this... I prefer to play solo guitar. However friends have told me my performance would be enhanced with my vocal. I have sang/sung in bands and no one complained, but me. I've noticed clubs prefer a vocal/guitar artist opposed to a straight instrumentalist. I guess it comes down to entertainment value. Hell Tommy Emmanuel sings and will be the first to say, " I'm here to entertain"... any thoughts

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  3. #2

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    If your voice is up for it, do it. John Pizzarelli jr. has made a nice career at it. It doesn’t diminish your guitar ability. George Benson has done quite nicely as a singing guitarist as well.

  4. #3

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    I love it! Sing every chance I get. It gives a whole other dimension, an alter ego. And I do know a lot of songs and their lyrics.

    The trick is to know your limitations. I'm not gonna scare Stevie Wonder, so I stay with what I can pull off: ballads; novelty stuff and comedy (He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped or Poppity-Pop, etc.); ballads; standards. I'll play the pop & R&B tunes but know not to sing them---I'd be ridiculous on My Girl.

    And when I scat I make it musical...

  5. #4

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    I envy everybody who can sing. All the instruments (almost) are just imitating the human singing.

    If You can sing and play, You’ve got it all.

    George Benson did it too!

    Go for it! And charge some extra!

  6. #5

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    Made a huge difference in my later career when I started singing. The best way to get into it is through senior gigs: they love standards and early rock 'n' roll, and all you really need to do is make sure you find keys that fit your range as you're developing your voice (one must practice singing as well), and perhaps use a looper or create some simple backing tracks so that you can play some good solos. Generally, one chorus sung, solo the A sections, sing at the bridge and take it out. I keep all my very simple tracks on memory cards and use a JamMan solo looper, in case I get requests. I make the tracks in Logic by using good drum sounds (EZ drummer works well and has plenty of fills and intro/ending material) and then playing bass along with the drum track; occasionally adding light rhythm guitar if necessary, especially to back the solos and fatten the texture on the outro. iRealpro is a very good program for finding keys and creating arrangements, and will work OK for senior gigs, but if you do the arrangements in a good program, they will sound better. I find the drums the weakest part if iRealpro, so I dump the bass track into Logic and build the drum parts around it, sometimes adding some keys or strings on ballads, or percussion on Latin tunes. These then become useful for background music for wedding cocktail hours, pool parties and the like. Once they're done, you can play them instrumentally without singing if that's what the client needs. My list is up to 100 tunes or so, with my changes and arrangements. Makes solo gigs fly by.

  7. #6

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    I also vote for sing if you've got it. You don't have to be an amazing vocalist or particularly unique- just keep it in tune.

    As much as I love solo guitar, I also love solo guitar w/vocals.... (depends on the voice of course)


  8. #7

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    Reminds me of a quote supposedly from Duane Eddy when asked what his greatest contribution to music was: "Not trying to sing."

  9. #8

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    Vocals give the casual listener a frame of reference, an entree to what the song is about. Remember, the GAS was mostly sung before being transformed into Jazz.

  10. #9

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    I recall a Howard Alden gig which was instrumental for the first hour or so. Then, he sang a tune or two. He isn't a singer, to be as kind as possible. But, the audience ate it up, including me. Lots of the great instrumental jazz players made an effort to put on a show which was more entertaining than just playing the instrumental music.

    Duke Ellington's finger snapping, head moving monologue.
    Louis Armstrong's stage show.
    Earl Hines, and many others, had a singer in the band.
    Dizzy Gillespie sang Swing Low Sweet Cadillac.
    Trio Da Paz - a trio, but 6 musicians showed up at Dizzy's and one was a singer.
    Chico Pinheiro sings in his shows and on his records.
    Joey D'Francesco sings and plays trumpet at his shows. He also interacts with the audience.
    Lots of artists make a point of relating to the audience with commentary, stories, interaction etc.

    Full disclosure: I have a vocal book, although I can't really sing. I have tunes with lyrics that I like. Everything Happens To Me, Sunny Side of the Street, I Can't Get Started, Lulu's Back in Town, Just One of Those Things, That's the Time I Feel Like Making Love To You, and a handful of others. My octet used to let me sing a tune per set.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 07-18-2021 at 03:33 PM.

  11. #10

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    But the words to some of our favorite standards are awful!


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  12. #11

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    And most of our favourite guitarists cannot sing!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Dizzy Gillespie sang Swing Low Sweet Cadillac.
    He's a classic example of how an instrumentalist can make music that may be over audience's heads palatable by leavening it with a little light singing thrown in. I could live w/o cornball Joe Carroll, but Dizzy himself was a born clown and tailored the vocals to his humorous side brilliantly.

    Everyone should watch Jivin' in Bebop if they haven't seen it. It backs tap & comedy routines with very hip instrumental backing w/solos by Bags and Diz, with orchestrations by Gil Fuller. I've been learning some of those wacky tunes like Oop Bop Sh'bam; He Beeped When He Shouldda Bopped (another one is Hey, Pete Let's Eat More Meat---which is the opposite of a Johnny Mercer lyric, done by Nat Cole: Save the Bones for Henry Jones ['Cause Henry don't Eat No Meat])...


  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaco
    I've had a difficult time with this... I prefer to play solo guitar. However friends have told me my performance would be enhanced with my vocal. I have sang/sung in bands and no one complained, but me. I've noticed clubs prefer a vocal/guitar artist opposed to a straight instrumentalist. I guess it comes down to entertainment value. Hell Tommy Emmanuel sings and will be the first to say, " I'm here to entertain"... any thoughts
    Entertainment can be different... Plato is also entertainment for some exquisite minds.

    If it is really possible to survive without it I would not go for any compromises in artistic activities....

    Sometimes I think that best musicians i know are actually amateurs.. if not real one then by the spirit of their attitude... I know exceptional musicians are on the edge of taking other daytime job because they cannot go for compromises anymore.


    As for singing jazz guitarists:

    Only George Benson comes to mind really... he has natural voice, he has recognizable vocel style, he has often true passion for singing (though he does too many things for sales often too)

    I would not seriously take Pizzarelli as a singer... I remeber Kenny Burell vocal recording, it was nice... but I liked more when he sang it in his solo concert record Tenderly

    then recently I watched Sco solo gig... he recited lyrics while he was recording comping loop. Great idea..
    and he openly said that he would do it not to make the audince bore or something lke that...
    He did not seem to be trying to entertain or something...
    He enjoyed it himself.

    It seems to me it is important to be able to communicate with audience without trying to meet every excepcation.

    To be likeable without trying to be likeable...

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick
    And most of our favourite guitarists cannot sing!
    Kenny Burrell is good---not to mention George Benson; Joao (sp?) Gilberto---etc,. etc....

  16. #15

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    I wish I could sing, but I'm my mother's son. I can hear the melody in my head, but I cannot carry a tune in a bushel basket. I know my limits, and singing is one of them. My father used to tell my mother that she was singing in the cracks between the piano keys. My sisters and I have long joked that when we were infants we used to go to sleep when she sang to us just so we didn't have to listen to her. I love her dearly, but she cannot sing. Nor can I. So I don't.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I wish I could sing, but I'm my mother's son. I can hear the melody in my head, but I cannot carry a tune in a bushel basket. I know my limits, and singing is one of them. My father used to tell my mother that she was singing in the cracks between the piano keys. My sisters and I have long joked that when we were infants we used to go to sleep when she sang to us just so we didn't have to listen to her. I love her dearly, but she cannot sing. Nor can I. So I don't.
    Life is curious... I have powerful natural bass-baritone... my classical friends pushed me into classicla training saying that with such a material I could have developed a real operatic voice. And I even took lessons for a while...
    My jazz friends say that I should do crooning... and I sing at home from time to time..

    But at the end of the day I realized that singing should be a passion... all the singers I know they always want to sing, it is the only thing they want to do... (this passion somehow exuses them for me - kidding))))

    And I... I do not want to sing)) this is it.

    I also learnt from that that you should not necessarily try to do everything you can do well, talent is ability to choose)))

  18. #17

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    I'm not really interested in jazz vocals. If someone is doing it justice, I'll appreciate it, but I prefer just instrumental. I listen to some singing from time to time. The image cheesy singing portrays to lay people peeves me as well.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    I'm not really interested in jazz vocals. If someone is doing it justice, I'll appreciate it, but I prefer just instrumental. I listen to some singing from time to time. The image cheesy singing portrays to lay people peeves me as well.
    I can hardly stand most modern women vocalists doing trad jazz... those imitating Ella or Sarah Vaughan...
    it seems to me they are squirming and making grimaces...

    But on the other hand - I think essentially we all sing inside when we play ...

    traditional vocal schools and inner human voice can be relaly different things

  20. #19

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    This is an interesting topic. I sing, I studied classical voice in college after my music teacher said I had a good voice. Had no desire to continue with that as I love rock and jazz too much.

    I see where a lot of us in the jazz world dislike the lyrics and vocals on a lot of the GASB tunes. I don’t know if it’s the out of context corny lyrics or the cheesy image of lounge vocalists or what but it’s too bad. I really love people like Marty grosz, Mose Allison and dave frishberg. Maybe it’s that Marty found tunes with more humorous lyrics, maybe it’s just that the early jazz guys seem to have more fun with the music. In the other two cases, they wrote their own stuff which is some of my favorite songwriting in any genre.

    but anyway, I think that’s partially why I could never let go of my love of rock, there’s more chance for singing being in the forefront. I love instrumental music but I realize that’s part of why jazz is so unpopular: there’s neither the dance-ability aspect or the lyric aspect for most people to relate to. I guess that’s why I play both styles.

  21. #20

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    I also wanted to add that in my opinion, singing will get you in more places more easily like jazz jam sessions and open mics, at least in my area. At least one I’ve been at is mostly singers sitting in. There are also more performance opportunities I think when you sing, like it or not. Even as a jazz musician. I think we all get into our jazz bubble too much as instrumentalists, but then complain about why the music is not more popular.

  22. #21

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    Would another question be : " Should / do I always have a mic on stage as part of my gear, even though I don't / may not want to sing ? "

    Don't know at all if that's already an unwritten rule one way or the other, but maybe it'd help to have a mic there ....Then at first, if you're hesitant to sing, you could at least scat if you wanted to.....(( Or does just having a mic risk some guy from - ?? -- grabbing it thinking it's karaoke night ?? ))

    Do you guys always introduce your songs, or feel the need to, or ??? Is this recommended, frowned upon or ??

    Anyway hope you're all busy again, whether you sing or not !

  23. #22

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    If you're Shirley Horn, Chet Baker, Nat Cole, Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Diane Schurr, etc., that's one thing. But, most musicians I know can't sing well with the exception of the Bossa/Salsa/Afro-Cuban musicians I knew when I lived in Miami. I sang in my teens in R@R/Soul Groups but wouldn't ever do it today since my voice has changed for the worse, I believe, from the 15 years I dedicated to playing saxophone.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcharles
    I also wanted to add that in my opinion, singing will get you in more places more easily like jazz jam sessions and open mics, at least in my area. At least one I’ve been at is mostly singers sitting in. There are also more performance opportunities I think when you sing, like it or not. Even as a jazz musician. I think we all get into our jazz bubble too much as instrumentalists, but then complain about why the music is not more popular.
    This is exactly right.

    It took me a long time to figure out that singing skills, not guitar playing skills, are more important in determining how much opportunity most of us will have to play music. That's one reason I started taking singing lessons after all these years.

    The first thing I learned upon taking lessons is that singing is a skill that can be learned, not a God-given, "either you have it or you don't" ability. Just as with guitar, if you practice under good supervision, you will get better. Who would ever say that you shouldn't play guitar unless you are Wes Montgomery or Kenny Burrell? It's the same with singing. It's an instrument everyone has, and the more you practice, the more skilled you become.

    While I will never be an amazing vocalist, my range has already increased by three whole steps and I've gained more confidence in my tone and delivery. This fall I'm going to start out by taking the senior gig route as RonJazz suggests. Wish me luck… :-)

  25. #24

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    "It took me a long time to figure out that singing skills, not guitar playing skills, are more important in determining how much opportunity most of us will have to play music." Tim Clark

    Hi, T,
    Not true with Jazz or Classical. Certainly helps as a Rocker/C@W/Folk.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  26. #25

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    I think we all get into our jazz bubble too much as instrumentalists, but then complain about why the music is not more popular.
    Well... yes I often complain that good things are not popular.... but if you make a good diner and want people to learn to appreciate the meal you would not change good wine for coca-cola... though it would definitely make it more popular
    Last edited by Jonah; 07-21-2021 at 04:53 AM.