Jazz Vocal Resources

Here’s a list of some of my favorite resources. If you have others that you like please let me know!


Ken Burns Jazz
PBS has put together a variety of resources that support the Ken Burns documentary Jazz, ranging from definitions/overviews of major jazz concepts, eras and performers. The online resources are definitely worth checking out – especially for educators. I specifically like: Defining Jazz Concepts & Eras and A Discussion of Improvisation

Printable Manuscript Paper
Simple and Free!

Smithsonian Jazz
The Smithsonian Institute has an incredible archive of jazz resources from sheet music and recordings to lesson plans and exhibits. They have some great Lesson Plans for Young Jazz Students. My favorite is the Oral Histories Page which features MP3’s of Jazz Musicians on a variety of topics. 
Dave Liebman is a masterful musician, performer and teacher. I’ve found his Educational Articles to be incredibly insightful and really challenging. My thesis project at the University of Toledo will be focused on Liebman’s Transcription Method.


Vocal Improvisation: An Instrumental Approach by David Baker & Patty Coker *Top 5 Pick
OUT OF PRINT. Snag this book if you can! In my opinion, it is one of the most thoughtful, and well organized texts on Vocal Improvisation, from practicing to performance methods.

Jazz singing: America’s great voices from Bessie Smith to bebop and beyond by Will Friedwald
This is the first book I ever read about Jazz Vocalists. It is a great book for Vocalists and Jazz enthusiasts. It helps the reader understand the defining features of jazz singers. It studies leading vocal innovators with special attention to those of the Swing Era. 

Standards for Singers – It Had to be You (Jamey Aebersold Play-Along, Volume 107) *Top 5 Pick
Jamey Aebersold is a performer and educator who has published numerous Play-Along books and cd’s to aid jazz musicians in the practice room. They are a must have! Most of these books were not  developed specifically for vocalists, but they are still a helpful resource (for learning and practicing tunes and preparing clear lead sheets with solid chord changes). There are a few volumes specifically for vocalists (Vocal Standards: Embraceable You – Ballads for All Singers [Volume 113],  Cole Porter for Singers [Volume 117]).

Real Vocal Book
 (2 Volumes, for low or high voice)

This book has great lead sheets for common repertoire. Unlike many other resources, the book has solid chord changes and accurate lyrics.

The Standards Real Book Sher Music

Just Standards Real Book Warner Brothers
Both of these books have lots of tunes and great charts. The Standards Real Book includes American Songbook and Jazz Standards. 

It’s Not on the Page by Stephanie Nakasian. *Top 5 Pick
Stephanie Nakasian is a rare jazz vocalist, with accurate thoughtful solos and a true love for the Jazz Cannon that is evident in her music. She’s developed this text as a workbook for Beginner-Intermediate vocalists. It includes listening guides, practicing techniques and advice from the perspective of a mature jazz vocalist.  

The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide by Scott Yanow
Scott Yanow is a leading jazz author and historian. This text provides short biographies for hundreds of jazz vocalists. It’s a great reference material. 

The Barry Harris Vocal Workbook/DVD Barry Harris is a legendary performer. Thankfully, he is also invested in educating the next generation of instrumentalists and vocalists. He still offers weekly Master Classes in NYC

The Jazz Singers Guidebook by David Berkman *Top 5 Pick
This book offers a very thorough approach to jazz improvisation. About 1/3 of the book is dedicated to helping the vocalist develop practical piano skills, with a step-by-step approach that clearly outlines the objective and the methods.

How to Play Bebop (3 Volumes) by David Baker 
David Baker is a leading jazz performer, composer and educator. This book is one of many that teaches the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic language of bebop. This book is rare, though, in the plain, practical way the information and exercises are laid out. A classic! 

Jazz Singing: Developing Artistry and Authenticity by Diana Spradling *Top 5 Pick 
This is one of the most unique books in my library. The author has heart for thorough musicianship; She outlines two subjects that are commonly overlooked in Jazz Vocal Studies: Vocal Technique and Language. Interestingly, the book bridges the gap between the two. It includes several vocal jazz transcriptions (Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Sarah Vaughan, Mark Murphy and Betty Carter).

Guide for Jazz and Scat Vocalists by Denis Diblasio
Denis offers a concise overview of the common obstacles vocal improvisers face and various vocal exercises to improve thoughtfulness and precision. The book comes with a Play-Along CD that is very useful for practicing improvising accurately over fundamental chord progressions. The CD also includes a example track of “Bad Scat Singing” which is sure to cheer-up your worst possible day!

Chet Bakers Greatest Solos, Transcriptions by Jim Bastian, edited by John Alexander
Imitation is a key aspect of developing artistry. There are very few published transcriptions of Jazz Vocalists. This book contains several great solos singers can study and sing.  

Have a resource you think I should add?
Tell me about it!

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