If you love jazz music and always wanted to play in a jazz orchestra, don’t give up your dreams and try out some of the easiest jazz instruments to learn. It is never too late to start learning. But since jazz is ever evolving musical expression, it is always a challenge considering learning to play jazz. And in the end, not everyone can play jazz with whole heart and soul. But why not give it a try.
Let’s first get to know how jazz came about. Jazz music has developed around the beginning of the 20th century having its roots in ragtime and blues music styles highly influenced and created by African-American communities in America. Although there are some different opinions on where jazz originated, it seems that its roots go back to 1890s New Orleans, where brass bands became popular during that time. First pioneering jazz to be recorded was by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917 in New Orleans, and this traditional jazz style later became known as Dixieland jazz.
After the establishing the unique, recognizable sound, since 1920s jazz has become the most popular music of its time, and became known as “Chicago” jazz style. During that time jazz has gotten the swing element, which has become one of the trademarks of jazz onwards. Legendary Louis Armstrong was the star of that era. That was the beginning of the Jazz Age, an era of the book of jazz music and development of unique artistic expression on other fields of art, which ended after some decade after, with the beginning of the Great Depression. Nevertheless during that time jazz music has become widespread not only in the US but throughout the world.
After the 30s even though not being the mainstream music anymore, jazz has continued to live and develop. During the 40s a new style of jazz, or expression, has developed, and that was bebop, bringing jazz to whole new level. It has introduced more complicated harmonies and brought new things rhythm section by breaking evenness of beat making it more perplexed and harder to percept. Apart from bebop, the 40s, and 50s brought the whole new specter of jazz styles, such as Cu-bop (Afro-Cuban jazz), West Coast jazz, Hard Bop, etc.
Next decades brought even more developed and upgraded styles of jazz. During that time as Rock ‘n’ Roll music became more popular, jazz started becoming more and more the underground style. As for new expression, fusion jazz has developed, one of the landmarks of the time being Miles Davis. More Latin American music influence also marked jazz in the 60s.
From the 70s onwards, musicians have been reviving old and traditional styles, bebop and swing. Jazz has also gotten its place on academic institutions, and since then starting from Berklee College of Music and Texas State University, jazz has become an academic matter.
Nowadays, after more than 100 years since its origins, jazz is still not losing its popularity, but today jazz has gotten to the other level. Years of experimentation have led to development of many subgenres of jazz as we have seen (but all other kinds of music on that matter as well), so today you can choose between the variety of jazz styles: crossover jazz, avant-garde jazz, acid jazz, big band, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, cool jazz, Dixieland, Kansas City Style, groove, soul jazz and many many more. But nevertheless, there are some classics in jazz music that are, if nothing else, familiar to everybody, and you can check some of them out at 10 Most Popular Jazz Songs of all Time.
Now we have seen that in the long history of jazz many music styles influenced its evolution, bringing new instruments on the scene. So, we cannot just easily make a jazz instrument list and get over with it. Let’s first see which the jazz instruments in the 1920s, during the pioneering golden ages of jazz were. A jazz orchestra during that time usually consisted of piano, drums, trumpet, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, tuba, violin, string bass, banjo.
Although there are no limitations, jazz can be played on any instrument; there are some divisions in a jazz band for each instrument having a specific role. Typical division of instruments in a jazz band is to the rhythm section and horn section as the most important and woodwind instruments, guitars, etc. Under the rhythm section are instruments like percussion, piano, and bass, which are the instruments giving the basis to the music in terms of rhythm and support by solid chords. Horn section is responsible for the main melodies and can consist of many instruments such as trumpet, jazz trombone, saxophone (although being a woodwind instrument), and voice. Of other instruments, we have mentioned guitar; then there are the clarinet, flute, French horn, Hammond organ, jazz violin, vibraphone and so on. So, which of these can we pick for reconsidering which the easiest jazz instrument to learn is? We have decided to stick with the classic jazz instruments we have listed above, but before we go on, check which the 10 Easiest Instruments to Learn how to Play are, but you won’t find any of jazz instruments there.
We have started our research on easiest jazz instruments to learn on places specialized in music and on music forums to see the opinions of people and musicians, since learning to play an instrument largely depends on personal preferences, skills, and devotion. We have thus consulted Music at Hopkins, where we have gotten some argumented pros and cons of learning a specific instrument to play in a band. On Musical Saw we got some guidelines for easiest instruments in general, which also apply to some of the easiest jazz instruments to learn. On Quora, we have sought which brass instrument is most suitable for learning jazz. Sharp and Point blog has given us insight into which those instruments suitable for adult beginners are. So, when you have decided which of the easiest jazz instruments to learn suits you the most, warm up your fingers and start learning now, by picking some of the numerous online music lessons. Apart from many useful YouTube tutorials, we have also found some good introductory for jazz on Learn Jazz Standards or Play Jazz Now.
In the end, we have seen how many jazz styles are there now, they all require different levels of knowledge and technique, so probably any kind of list we make will be more or less subjective. The important thing in playing jazz music is improvisation so don’t be afraid to let your imagination go. Nevertheless, with the help of the resources we have noted above, we hope to have made a decent choice of easiest jazz instruments to learn, hoping to cover everybody’s preferences.