[ Login ]
lesson plan12345678

Musical Elements





IV. Jazz Sounds

jazz images 1


jazz images 2

tenor saxophone

jazz images 3


jazz images 4

Charles Mingus

jazz images 5

drum set

A. Jazz Instruments


Although jazz can be played on any instrument (including the human voice), the most common instruments on which jazz is played are saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums, and guitar. 

B. Particular Sound


The particular sound each jazz musician makes on his/her instrument is as important as the instrument itself. 



Jazz musicians strive to have their own, personal sound (tone) on their instrument. For instance, every saxophone will still sound like a saxophone no matter who’s playing it but every saxophonist will sound different from every other saxophonist (at least slightly). Often you have to listen to jazz a long time to be able to hear the differences, but when you do, it’s awesome. 



The sound can be raspy, edgy, rough, smooth, pretty, soulful, warm, dark, light, harsh, or any one of dozens of other descriptions including combinations of descriptions and an infinite number of nuances -- just like the human voice (notice how no two human voices sound exactly the same). Like singers do with their voices, jazz musicians strive to reproduce on their instruments the sound they “hear” (imagine) in their minds. 



Jazz sounds are hard to describe in words (the descriptors listed above hardly do a good job) -- so the only way to really know jazz sounds is to listen to jazz! 



Listen to the recordings of the different saxophonists below (Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Paul Desmond, respectively). Can you tell a difference between them? 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer A Night in Tunisia - Charlie Parker
speakerspacer Giant Steps - John Coltrane
speakerspacer St. Thomas - Sonny Rollins
speakerspacer Take Five - The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Video Clips

videospacer Saxophone Sound Comparison
the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
home overview lesson plans jazz resources what's new jazz in america