18 August 2014


Skid-Dat-De-Dat (sometimes spelled Skit-Dat-De-Dat) is a real curiosity within the traditional jazz repertoire. I suppose some would describe it as a 'stop-start' tune because on six or more occasions the band stops playing and leaves one instrument alone to improvise a two-bar 'break'.

Certainly this tune does not fit into any conventional pattern of composition: there's no 32-bar a-a-b-a or 12-bar blues structure to be spotted here.

Lil Hardin composed it in 1926 for her husband Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five to develop. Basically what she gave Louis was a 4-bar phrase, plus the idea of attaching two-bar breaks.

Putting my examples in the key of D, the four-bar phrase goes like this. Let's call this Segment A:

The two-bar 'break' seems to be normally played on the basis of the chord of D, or D minor. This is an example of the shape it might take. Let's call this Segment B:

The main 4-bar theme is mostly played with all the band harmonising through the long notes. But occasionally - for variety - the players may cut loose and improvise over those four chords, as in this example (Segment C):

Finally, there is a slightly different 4-bar chord sequence [G7  -  G7  -  D7  -  D7] which may be used to give variety. Let's call this Segment D:

Regard these four little units of music as your building blocks. Put them together and there you have it - Skid Dat De Dat!

How does the tune turn out in performance? Well, unfortunately, because most bands find it impossible to memorise a 'knitting pattern' for this tune, they tend to play (usually a shade too slowly) from a printed arrangement on music stands in front of them. The result can be laboured and stodgy.

But it can sound really good, as in the original Louis Armstrong performance, which runs for 3 minutes and 14 seconds. Here and there, Louis uses his voice for a few notes at a time ('scatting') as an alternative to his cornet.

A concise but exemplary performance is given on their CD ('Pyramid Strut') by Tuba Skinny. You can hear it by going to


and clicking on the title of the tune. This version comprises just 46 bars in total and the recording lasts for only 96 seconds. But all you need is there.

The 'break' is taken 7 times - by cornet, cornet, clarinet, trombone, tuba, banjo and cornet respectively. The piece is beautifully book-ended by the first and last cornet breaks. To bring the piece to a satisfactory conclusion, the whole band joins in on the final chord of the final break - an important point to note. This is a great way to tackle the tune.

B  -  A  -  B  -  A  -   B  -  A  -  D
B  -  C  -  B  -  A  -   B  -  D  -  D
B - all in on final chord

As far as I know, there is only one YouTube video of Tuba Skinny playing this piece. It runs for about 140 seconds - longer than on the CD because extra breaks are given near the end of the piece to the clarinet and trombone.
This is well worth watching if you fancy studying Skid-Dat-De-Dat; or even if you just want to get the feel of the 'stop-start' nature of this curious tune. It was generously filmed by the video-maker codenamed stolpe31 at Rapperswil in 2013:
I do not possess original sheet music or definitive information about Skid Dat De Dat. All I have told you is simply what I have observed. So if you have any more accurate information, I would be grateful to hear from you.