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Advice for Aspiring Vocalists from Al Jarreau

Jazz Vocalist Al Jarreau Jazz Vocalist Al Jarreau Photo by Morrice Blackwell

From Ella Fitzgerald to Nat King Cole, vocalists have played an important role in jazz history. With just a few notes, they can make us cry or rejoice. The lyrics they sing reflect the human experience in a way no other jazz instrument can.

It may seem odd that we refer to the voice as a jazz instrument. However, it is an exact interpretation that reflects the highly trained and specialized field of vocal studies.  Just like any other instrumentalist, a jazz singer must become a master of her craft and learn how to properly utilize the gift which has been given.

As we have witnessed on shows like American Idol and X-Factor, anyone claim to be a singer but only a rare few have what it takes to be a star. If you desire to be a professional singer, formal vocal lessons can give you an edge. We asked seven-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau to share with us his advice.

“A singer of any kind of music (jazz, R&B, pop, etc.) can get great benefits from studying with the right vocal instructor.  For example, there's a young man named Eric Arceneaux who offers a comprehensive course on the Internet called "AApproach" (; wonderful, practical stuff for singers at any level.  I incorporate some of it in my own warm-up routine.  Proper vocalizing on a regular, if not daily, basis can strengthen the voice, especially in the crossover range (from chest voice to the falsettoish head voice). The important purpose is to not strain in that crossover area, but to sing in a comfortable low falsetto, as that part of the range strengthens over time,” said Jarreau.

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