Ever wondered which instruments are used in Jazz music? Like most genres of music Jazz has some standard instruments that can be heard on a a lot of different recordings. Like most other genres, Jazz has lots of experimentation, especially in modern jazz recordings that can lead to a lot of untraditional choices of instruments being used. In this brief summary we will focus on some of the traditional Jazz instruments, their sound and how they blend with other instruments
Probably the most well known instrument in Jazz music and what one would picture when closing your eyes and imagining a Jazz musician. As you probably know, Saxophones come in a variety of sizes with each producing a distinct sound and slightly different notes. For Jazz, the most popular are Alto and Tenor. Check out the video below of Charlie Parker playing The Bird at Carnegie Hall in 1947 for an example of a Tenor Sax being used.
Next to the Saxophone, Trumpet is probably the next instrument that comes to mind when thinking of Jazz. A Trumpet provides a bright, lively sound. Take a listen to the video below of Miles Davis playing Burn on the trumpet.
An unbelievably flexible instrument and used across a wide range of music genres the piano has a very special place in Jazz music. See below at the video below of Thelonious Monk playing Don’t Blame Me for an example of how the piano is incorporated into Jazz.
Ah, the double bass, It is BIG and beautiful and has a very distinct sound. Due to its large size, the Jazz player must stand to play it. Probably the most influential double bass player in Jazz is Jimmy Blanton who was a member of the Duke Ellington band. After you enjoy the video below of Jimmys solo check out NPR for some more information on him.
The trombone is a brass instrument like the trumpet but is larger and uses a slide. The Trombone is one of the best known instruments in a jazz band getting its start in most of the Dixieland Jazz bands and took off as an artist favorite in the 30s. Below is an excellent example of Trombone being used in a Jazz setting with the video Tommy Dorsey – I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.
Not as big sounding as a Sax or Trombone the Clarinet played an important role in the history of Jazz especially around New Orleans and continues to be used as Jazz continues to evolve. A prime example is the video of Artie Shaw: Concerto for Clarinet from the 40s movie A Second Chorus.
The drums are the back bone of the rhythm section and can give the song its groove and keep everyone on the same tempo. By far my favorite Jazz drummer is Art Blakey, check him playing Moanin’ live out in the video below.