Jazz music was made in the southern parts of the USA. It’s a mix of African and European music styles.
Think of it as a mix of blues, ragtime. It also has a lot of brass band marches style in it.
People say that Jazz has died.
It’s sad but true.
Not a lot of musicians practice Jazz music.
In the contemporary world, Jazz lives in corners of the street, at homes, some retro bars or a musical performance somewhere.
Just like T.S Elliot’s cat.
Just licking the corners of the window.
Dixieland Music and New Orleans Jazz are some of the recent Jazz styles.
If it’s made for the streets, you’ll also see jazz playing in some exquisite places. The thing with Jazz is, you can’t not like it. It has been made to suit some strong whiskey or vine, with party gowns and hats.
Doesn’t matter where it’s played. It can be playing in a fancy restaurant or when you’re sitting at a Starbucks, sipping on coffee and typing away.
It’s a power music style.
If you want to keep this art form alive, don’t stop at just listening to some great jazz. You can learn it! The instruments used to play Jazz music are fairly simple.
Plus, it’ll make you feel really cool. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to play the saxophone?
It’s such an exquisite feeling.
What’s great about jazz is a Jazz Orchestra.
Table of Contents
- What is a Jazz Orchestra?
- Elements of Jazz Music
- Backgrounds And a Shout Chorus
- 1. The Upright Bass
- 2. Percussion
- 3. Piano
- 4. Saxophone
- 5. Trumpet
- 6. Trombone
- 7. Guitar
What is a Jazz Orchestra?
A jazz Orchestra is when a band consists of 5 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, and a rhythm section (wait a little more, we’ll tell you about the different elements of music in Jazz). If this is a full-fledged Jazz Orchestra, they’ll even throw in a vibraphone (it’s like a xylophone). It also includes the violin sometimes.
It’s famously known as a “big band” because it produces a powerful and big sound.
The Jazz Orchestra allows players to improvise and play in pockets that make the playing experience and watching experience flexible. It always keeps you on your toes to watch the instruments fill in and create exciting melodies.
Elements of Jazz Music
It’s the main theme of the piece that you’re listening to. What this means is that this is the kind of sound that your piece is going to be like.
So, when you’re humming to your favorite song, remember that you’re humming to the melody of that song.
The harmony is made of chords and the melody makes the music sound full and round. The chords usually consist of 3 notes or more and the jazz musician plays a combination of these notes.
You can make the music sound warm or strong by juggling around with the notes.
The rhythm is the beat of the music. This is usually carried by the drums in jazz. The drums keep the beat and are followed by the rest of the instruments. This is also called the tempo.
The rhythm helps keep the melody going and helps in finding the harmonies that the rest of the band has to play. This is what makes your heartbeat to the beat of the drum. The rhythm makes you move!
Backgrounds And a Shout Chorus
There are two different times when you might hear the entire horn section playing all together.
Sometimes parts are written for the band to play and accompany one of the musicians who is playing a solo. These parts are called “Backgrounds”.
A “Shout Chorus” is where the entire horn section is featured playing some really spirited music together and is meant to show the full power of the sound of the Jazz Orchestra. Be sure to listen for these sections!
Now that we’re a little more informed about Jazz, let’s get into it!
1. The Upright Bass
This is the big brass instrument that is played standing up. The instrument rests on the floor while the bassist holds the heavy instrument against their weight.
It’s an instrument with four chords with a wooden frame. Harmony is set by the upright bass in a jazz band. The technique used to play the bass is pizzicato. It’s when you pluck the strings instead of playing it with a bow.
A group of Jazz players will always have a piano, a percussion and some bass. This is the holy trinity of Jazz.
You can learn to play the basic chords on the upright bass and from there, it will get easier.
We’ve all seen the movie Whiplash. It’s important to know if you’re RUSHING or DRAGGING (you can hear him scream).
The point is, the most used percussion instruments are the drums in a Jazz band. They keep up the rhythm and the movement in the song.
The drum set usually is a bass drum with a foot pedal used to play. There’s a snare drum, that’s played with the drumsticks, placed in front of the drummer.
Next to those are the crash cymbals that add the little oomph in the song. Also used to keep the movement. This is a fairly easy instrument, to begin with!
There are 88 keys on the piano that will add the versatility to any musical ensemble. That’s the beauty about the keys.
Don’t freak out, I know 88 keys sound impossible to learn. The combinations, the timings, the beats. The piano gives weight to the song.
With the keys, you can play high and low notes, and to create more percussion, you can play the notes softly or slowly; to create that effect.
The piano was originally known as pianoforte, which means soft and strong. That’s exactly what the piano’s role is in a Jazz band.
Still, this is one of the easiest instruments, to begin with.
You will know how to read musical sheets and notes but with practice, you can become really good at it!
You think jazz, you think saxophone. Or at least the sound of a saxophone rings in your head. The saxophone is one of the most popular instruments. It makes a very unique and different sound that adds that special “jazzy” effect to the music.
The saxophone is a woodwind instrument made of brass.
How you play the instrument is very interesting. You blow into the mouthpiece that vibrates the reeds. It is played one note at the time.
The saxophone usually pairs up with the bass of the song. It doesn’t necessarily keep up with the melody.
Don’t confuse it with the rhythm. The saxophone is the life of the part.
The thing with the saxophone is that; you can blend in with the melody whenever you like.
It’s not too hard once you pick up the basics.
Plus, the saxophones are a really cool instrument to know how to play. Definite brownie points coming your way for this one.
Think of trumpets as the piano for Jazz music.
What I mean is, like the piano, which is such a popular instrument, the trumpet is one of the most famous and used instruments in the Jazz scene.
It’s a brass instrument that works when air is blown into the mouthpiece. It has multiple valves that you press to create the effect the trumpet makes.
By vibrating your lips, you can play the trumpet in so many ways. Its versatility is the reason why it’s such an important organ in a jazz band. It adds that extra little zest you need to make a jazz song.
The trumpet has the highest range in the brass family of instruments.
Louis Armstrong put the trumpet on the maps. You should definitely take a look into his famous jazz pieces if you need something to inspire you to play the trumpet.
Don’t confuse this with the trumpet. Like the trumpet, it belongs to the brass family of instruments.
The trombone looks like a trumpet, you even play it the same way as the trumpet. You blow air into the mouthpiece but here, instead of the valves, you have to use the slider to change the rhythm or pitch of the song.
The iconic jazz song that hit everybody is the trombone. It’s a distinct sound that’s made. There’s nothing more jazz than a trombone.
It produces a soft but strong but heavy sound that can’t miss your ear.
If you love jazz, you should definitely look into learning how to play the trombone.
Now, the guitar is such a universally loved instrument. It has to be a part of a jazz ensemble.
At first, the guitar used to be a background instrument that went unnoticed. Then, some great jazz performers saw the potential a guitar might have and all that it had to offer. Jazz songs are mostly played along with the presence of at least one guitar today.
The guitar is pretty simple to learn. Plus, you’re not going to learn guitar only for jazz. It’s a great individual instrument. It fits into playing genres like rock, pop, country or whatever else you want. There’s no stopping.
The guitars are usually amplified to play in a jazz song. Before this, there was the acoustic archtop electric guitar that was used.
There are lots of guitar solos too. A big step from being the background.
The most famous jazz guitar is the Hollowbody electric guitar. If you nail how to play the basics of this guitar, you’ll make an essential addition to your own jazz band, for sure. There’s nothing wrong with trying!