Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Studio Music and Jazz (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Rachel L. Lebon

Second Committee Member

Lawrence Lapin

Third Committee Member

Gary Lindsay

Fourth Committee Member

Karen Kennedy


There appear to be few, if any books or resources that provide practical technical approaches for the jazz singer/pianist. Also, non-instrumentalist singers rarely display the fluid facility that jazz instrumentalists or singers who play instruments do. Similarly, pianists may have a tendency to play continually without pause or breath. To address these performance challenges, the author has created exercises intended to increase the fluidity, musicianship, facility and improvisational skills of the jazz singer/pianist. The exercises will vary in range to include singing and playing single melodic lines together, singing and playing in harmony between the voice and piano, and playing rhythmic patterns while singing a melodic line. Melodic and harmonic themes discussed include the fundamentals of jazz tonality, such as major, minor (all forms) dominants and diminished and altered scales. The exercises also include a chapter on practice techniques, philosophical considerations and techniques to create ones own style. Since there appears to be a shortage of resources related to coordinated hand/vocal exercises for the singer/pianist, this thesis can serve as a resource for the self-accompanied singer or the pianist who also sings. Vocalists in particular can benefit from singing along in unison with the right hand of the piano as a means to facilitate with intonation and pitch accuracy. Whereas many jazz educators stress the importance of this particular practice, few, if any, have specifically defined exactly how and what to play. The exercises included within can facilitate singers’ understanding of the deeper harmonic language of jazz by learning to sing more than major scales, blues notes and minor scales, and other common melodic schemes. For pianists, practicing structured vocal/keyboard exercises that acknowledge vocal limitations (smaller rang, shorter phrases) can be a useful tool for creating more focused, melodic solos. Exercises presented are also designed for student singers seeking to work on their musicianship, piano and improvisational skills. Ultimately, joint-instrument exercises can also assist the vocalist with intonation and improvisation when singing away from the piano. This pedagogical approach also draws from the brass tradition by creating exercises that borrow from the doodle tonguing technique as a means to sharper jazz articulation in improvisation. Strategies towards enhancing the musicianship of the jazz/singer pianist through playing and singing melodic lines together are discussed. Topics such as the benefits of improvisation that combines voice and piano, maximizing practice time, and the internalization of bebop heads as a means towards guiding both hand technique, articulation, and vocal fluency are also included. Vocal technique for creating more horn-like articulations , borrowed from Bob McChesney’s doodle tongue technique is featured. Vocalists who are also fluent instrumentalists and are committed jazz educators are discussed for insight into their teaching methodologies. Finally, due to her virtuosity, developed from her intimate exposure to bebop, a brief discussion of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald is included, followed by the Bibliography, a Discography, and Digital Sources.


Jazz Vocal Improvisation; Sing and Play; Singing while Playing; Jazz Improvisation Techniques for singer/pianists