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According to wikipedia, scat singing is:

In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all.[2][3] In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium.

But does it have a name when you sing doubling the melody of the instrument you are playing while improvising? This is very common in jazz music, related to scat (that's why I mentioned it).

For example ...

This can only be possible in instruments like guitar, piano and bass for obvious reasons.

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  • Do you mean the singer is impersonating the sound of an instrument? So singing to sound as much like a muted trumpet as possible, say? Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 12:03
  • @BrianTHOMAS Here's an example of what I mean. It's common in instruments like guitar, piano and bass, not for "mouth" instruments for obvious reasosns. Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 17:44
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    Side comment, let alone the naming of it: It is extremely useful for improvising to sing along your playing! If a solo is singable, it is most likely a good solo with good lines and phrasing! Too bad it doesn't have a name! Something useful should definately have a name! :-) Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 21:01
  • @AsgeirNesøen Yeah, and I think is good for the ear too. If you can sing it it's because you have the music in your mind and not in your fingers. ☺️ Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 21:45

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In the case where an instrumentalist doubles their own improvisation with voice, there is not a specific term. Slam Stewart made his name doubling his bass in this way, having gotten the idea from Ray Perry, who did the same in his violin solos (recording not readily available). In general, it's considered something of a novelty.

Some musicians famously vocalize while they play, but not with the intentionality of a Slam Stewart. Standout examples are Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett. In this video, Glenn Gould is actually singing along (about 5 sec. in), though not with the intention of featuring his voice. And here is a compilation of Keith Jarrett vocalizations.

An article published by radio station KQED characterizes Jarrett's (and Gould's) vocalizations as "involuntary."

Vocalese is the term for adding lyrics to and singing an instrumental melody. The term is sometimes also applied to any vocal realization on an instrumental part.

Wikipedia has a good entry on the term and some history of the practice.

To pick just one particularly well-known example, Eddie Jefferson turned James Moody's improvisation on "I'm in the Mood for Love" (link to Frances Langford's premier of the song) into a vocalese version.

Here is a YouTube link to James Moody's version. (Introduction by Dizzy Gillespie; James Moody begins at 1:45) And here is "Moody's Mood for Love" by Eddie Jefferson.

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The answer is no; the style of scat singing in unison along with an instrumental solo, or doubling it at an octave (like George Benson) does not have a specific, concise name (as far as I can tell).

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I'm no musician and certainly no musical expert whatsoever. I always like to think of it as some kind of flex: The artist shows that they know exactly what they are doing and that they are in full control of their instrument so that they can double every note played... No idea if that's actually a rather basic skill for any jazz musician.

One of my fav examples here, starting around 4:02

Cheers!

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  • Hi welcome to stack exchange! I wouldn’t say it’s a flex as such, definitely not for an experienced musician. It can be used for effect (eg slam Stewart) or to better internalise the phrasing of what you are about to play (potentially more like Keith Jarrett). A mid level improvising student will probably have their teacher saying “if you don’t know what it is you are about to play then you probably shouldn’t play it!”, outside the practice room, at least. I think most strong improvisers will be doing some version of this ‘vocalising’ internally, even if it doesn’t escape their mouth!
    – OwenM
    Commented Apr 19 at 17:49
  • Nice example! I don’t know that tune, I’ll dig in. I think in that case it certainly sounds like it’s for creative effect!
    – OwenM
    Commented Apr 19 at 17:50
  • thank you so much! sure makes a lot of sense to me. a good observation also — it really sounds like the vocalization has been mastered along properly for creative effect. cheers! j
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 20 at 1:31

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