Vocal Jazz

Hello and Welcome to the CCDA Vocal Jazz Page,

Here you can find many helpful resources and links. Please let me know how I can assist you, or if you have any suggestions to add to this page. Feel free to contact me regarding your needs, concerns, and ideas for vocal jazz in our state.

Conversations and Resources for Racial Understanding, Healing and Justice in Vocal Jazz

Online Teaching Resources for Vocal Jazz

Videos: Vocal Jazz Academy Educator Support-Happy Hour Sessions


  1. READING: Might start with basic sight reading – solfege or singing notes on numbers of the scale. Then move to jazz choir passages, like an 8-bar passage, or more. ALL singers can potentially read sop (in their own range,) then alto, tenor, bass. If it’s swing, can speak (read) rhythms/ lyrics only at first. Start with a ballad, do a swing tune or passage, do a bossa, break into 5-part or 6-part chords when ready.
  2. JAZZ THEORY: Learn the jazz chord types, then arpeggiate them on numbers (1, 3, 5, b7, 5, 3, 1.) Listen – do ear training quizzes (What is this chord type?) Then start in on vocal group voicings – simple 4-way close chord voicings (what part am I singing? Root? Third?) Then sing (with associated ear training also) the extensions (9, 11, 13 and their alterations). Then inversions and other voicing types. Study excerpts from arrangements, “why is this chord hard to tune?” “Is this an open or closed voicing?” “What 2 parts have the most dissonance and why?” etc. etc.  (I directed the vocal jazz group at Cal State Long Beach years ago and as part of warmups I’d play a note then assign parts: “bass on 3rd, tenors b7th, alto 9th, sop II #11, sop I 13 – sing on oo’ “. Worked great – got them thinking/hearing/singing but took some education first.)
  3. LISTENING: Guided listening Listening for #1, “do I like it?” and “how does it make me feel?” Listening for #2, “is that electric or acoustic bass?” and “is that a turnaround progression on the intro?” Listening for #3, “how are they using [or not] vibrato?” “tone?” “stylistic inflection?” “phrasing?” “conversationalism? how’s the blend? balance?”  Explore the history and musical background of the artist, making it a jazz appreciation activity. Please see Listening Lessons classes at www.MusicHabit.com
  4. RHYTHMIC WORK: Listening to different tracks for rhythm (all styles – jazz, funky, brazillian, 4/4, 2/2, jazz waltz, etc etc.) What is the groove? Tap the quarter note. Speak in rhythm the 8ths on doo-ba – are they straight? Swung? Shuffle? Could do reading exercises with rhythms only – in swing feel then in straight 8ths – the same exercises back and forth. Can you STEP or tap in tempo while doing these activities?
  5. PARTS LEARNING: learn parts to arrangements. Send different voice part sections (S, A, T, B) to separate online rooms to rehearse – assign a section leader. Use excerpts from your repertoire, have note texts for evaluation and grading. Use parts tracks (available with Kerry Marsh, Jeremy Fox and others. Also see Kerry’s class “Online Skills for Vocal Jazz Ensemble” at musichabit.com and Kerry’s new project, “SkyTracks” available at his website kerrymarsh.com.)
  6. SOLO SINGING / VOCAL IMPROVISATION: This is part of the jazz choir experience, right? And there’s never enough time in rehearsals. But NOW there is. As part of class, spend some time listening to recordings, and practicing vocal solos. (Singers of course need to have accompaniments in their location.) Doesn’t even have to be a full song, you can have newbies learn 16 bars of whatever, to get the experience.  And scatting – why not scat singing warmups as part of class? There are actually a lot of materials available – MusicHabit.com has classes by Rosana Eckert, Aimee Nolte and soon will have MusicHabit Workouts (a series of scatting and other exercises based on different tunes) which will be built for use in the classroom. Also there are others doing online classes of different types.
  7. VIRTUAL CHOIR: And last but not least – of course this is also a great option and probably is the best way to simulate a live jazz choir singing experience. Of course there is a ton of info about how to put these together online, easy to find now and you’ve probably already done it. Consider though doing the virtual choir thing not only as an end of semester single song. If possible, consider doing some SHORT excerpts first, early on as a regular part of your activities during the semester. Should make the final ‘concert’ song or songs stronger.


Repertoire Resources

Independent Arrangers/Publishers

Some of the best, most innovative vocal jazz arrangements are produced by self-published artists.  The arrangers/composers listed below are producing cutting-edge, exciting repertoire for vocal jazz ensembles and beyond.

Jennifer Barnes www.jenniferbarnesmusic.com
Rosana Eckert www.rosanaeckert.com
Matt Falker www.mattfalker.com
Jeremy Fox www.jeremyfox.net
Kerry Marsh www.kerrymarsh.com
Phil Mattson www.philmattson.com/arrangements
Darmon Meader www.darmonmeader.com
Paris Rutherford www.parisrutherford.com
Jason Smith www.jasonalexsmith.com
Roger Treece www.rogertreece.com
Michele Weir www.micheleweir.com
The Real Group https://therealgroup.se/shop
New York Voices https://newyorkvoices.com/storearrangements/
Groove For Thought http://www.grooveforthought.com/#music

California Vocal Jazz Festivals

Links to websites are included where available

Upland High School Vocal Jazz Festival October Upland
Cuesta College Vocal Jazz Festival November San Luis Obispo
Sacramento State Vocal Jazz Festival December Sacramento
Folsom Jazz Festival January Folsom
Columbia College Vocal Jazz Festival March Sonora
SCVA Vocal Jazz Festival March Valencia
Santa Cruz Jazz Festival March Santa Cruz
Point Loma Nazarene Vocal Jazz Festival March San Diego
Oceanside Jazz Festival March Oceanside
Mt. Sac High School Workshop/Festival March Walnut
Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival April Monterey
Fullerton Jazz Festival April Fullerton

Vocal Jazz Workshops and Camps for Students and Educators

Jazz Educator Professional Organizations

ECCO Arranging Session 2016