Is Scooping Bad?

The Difference Between Sliding and Scooping

Image courtesy of Josh via flickr cc license

Most singers, especially those who sing with a choir, have heard scooping is a bad thing. But, what is it really? Is there a right way and a wrong way to connect notes, or should you jump from one pitch directly to another? These and more questions are often misunderstood by singers. To add to the confusion, many times the term is used without any explanation of what it really is.

What is ‘Bad’ Scooping: When discussing scooping in a negative sense, generally people mean a slow slide between two notes. In addition, a scoop includes either a dip below the first note like the motion of a spoon going into sugar or an arch above the higher note like a basketball swishing into a net.

Why is Scooping Bad? Scooping is unattractive for several reasons. First, it draws attention to itself and all the pitches being hit on the way up to the second note. Second, the scooping below or above is often stylistically incorrect. Third, the act of scooping often makes people rhythmically inaccurate, because the second note is not placed on the beat.

The Difference Between Sliding and Scooping: Sliding is when someone sings every semi-tone between two notes, while scooping also includes unnecessary pitches below the first note or above the second one. Various forms of the slide are used frequently as vocal exercises. These warm-ups help people connect vocal registers, reduce breaks and cracks in the voice, make it easier to connect the breath, and develops the ability to sing a legato line. Sliding can take a lot or a little time, so it can sound similar to a scoop. When using the slide as a learning tool, slow slides can be especially helpful, even though people avoid them in performance.

Why Sliding Between Notes is Natural: Like a rubber band, long and loose vocal cords create lower tones, while shorter and tighter cords create higher notes. In order to switch pitches, the voice naturally slides into place like a trombone. Each semi-tone is produced to get to a new note and you can either slide between the notes slow or fast.

Avoid Scooping Not Sliding: In order to avoid scooping, some students attempt to sing two pitches without creating any pitches in-between. In order to do so, the singer has to pause and momentarily stop air flow, which is detrimental to the overall quality of vocal sound produced. Though you should avoid scooping, connecting notes by allowing each pitch in-between tones to be quickly voiced is important in order to sing well. When singing a large skip, some singers even choose to slide slowly, which can be heard as a scoop, in order to more easily reach the top note and still connect the voice.

Debates on How to Connect: Some voice teachers and choral directors may encourage note to note singing all the time. Be leery of those educators. There may be specific moments in modern or other music where note to note singing may be appropriate, but otherwise it inhibits proper breath support.

How to Avoid Scooping: For some people struggling with scooping, the inability to hear and recognize pitches may be the culprit. Work first on listening to single pitches and trying to match them before you attempt to sing intervals. Once you have matched pitch with one single note, practice intervals smaller to larger. So, you may move on to practicing seconds, such as the two notes ‘C’ and ‘D.’ If pitch recognition is not your problem, then simply becoming aware of whether you dip below or above notes and then practicing intervals without scooping will solve the problem.