Jazz Instruments

Jazz music uses specific instruments in a characteristic way, and to really appreciate the musical style an understanding of jazz instruments is important. Jazz musicians also use a lingo all their own. If you're in the groove, you're really getting down with the music, and every jazzer owns an axe, their instrument, and has their own styling to bring the music to life. By the way, your axe just might be your voice that is used to sing ballads or to skat, riff or improvise. All jazz musicians have a repertoire of jazzer standards, including "Take the 'A' Train," "Satin Doll," "'Round Midnight," "Lullaby of Birdland" and "Take Five," just to name a few. 

  1. Bass. String bass, also known as upright bass or double bass, is a standard jazz instrument. A list of famous acoustic, upright jazz bassists includes Ron Carter, Jeff Sarli and Red Mitchell. Jazz bassists are infamous for various musical stylings, including improvising or taking a solo during the performance. Famous double bass players of the 1930s brought the instrument front and center in the jazz trios and quintets. Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford and Jimmy Blanton get the nod for bringing double bass into prominence as jazz instruments.
  2. Trumpet. Jazz trumpets are manufactured in various keys, including Bb and C trumpets and the specialty trumpet instruments, the piccolo and the pocket trumpet. While some listeners lump cornets into the trumpet category, cornets is similar, but has a smaller shape creating a different sound than the trumpet. Famous jazz instrument trumpet players include the late, oh so great, Maynard Ferguson, Arturo Sandoval, Wynton Marsalis and Freddie Hubbard. 
  3. Piano. Early jazz piano featured the jazz instrument in a stride style that used the left hand in an alternating pattern while the upper hand improvised. While most jazzers used a piano, some sets allowed the pianist to take a break while the rest of the trio or quintet strolled their way through a tune. Piano can be used in solos and can also take over an entire performance, when a master, such as noted piano jazzers Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Bud Powell or Duke Ellington, take over the keyboards. 
  4. Saxophone, aka sax. All saxophones are not equal in the genre  of jazz instruments. The most common are the baritone, tenor, soprano and  alto, although other types of saxes make a rare appearance in jazz performances. The difference, of course, is the music key and the tone. A group of famous jazz sax musicians have reputations for really knowing how to blow. The list of famous jazzers who play sax include Charlie Parker, aka "The Bird," John Coltrane, Coleman Randolph Hawkins, Lester Prez Young and Carlos "Don" Wesley Byas, all, unfortunately, departed from the planet without leaving way too little evidence of their musical sax-playing genius. 
  5. Guitars. Stringed jazz instruments include lead, rhythm and bass guitars. Electric bass riffs are similar to upright bass, but the impact of the two instruments on the jazz piece is decidedly different. Noted jazz guitarists include early performers Django Reinhardt, who performed before the invention of the electric guitar, to more contemporary players including George Benson, Pat Metheny, Charlie Byrd and Joe Pass. A list of more contemporary jazzer guitarists feature John Scofield and John McLaughlin, as well as Stanley Jordan and Bill Frisell. Famous electric jazz bassists feature the late and stupendous Jaco Pastorius, who played withe Weather Report, as well as others, and the late great Paul Chambers, studio and performance artist extraordinaire. Some bassists, including James Jamerson, play both double bass and electric jazz bass. 



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