Jazz music is like no other. It is musically fun, exciting, and creative. It produces a distinct sound that can wake up even the most tired soul. Its structure is different, so much so that first-time listeners will often wonder what it is trying to say. Jazz music requires its audiences to listen. But it is difficult if you do not know what or who to listen to/for. Jazz musicians have one goal – to deliver the finest jazz music to many audiences. However, they have different styles and instrumentation. Therefore, it is important to understand what makes it different from other types of music. It is important to know what characteristics or elements define it.
3 Important Elements of Jazz Music
To understand jazz music, one only needs to know that it has three elements that make up its unique qualities: syncopation, blue notes, and improvisation.
Syncopation is the shift in a song’s rhythm or beat pattern emphasis to weak notes and beats. It’s like stomping your feet, clapping your hand, and counting one, two, three while doing so. As you are counting, try saying “cheese” between every number. The feet stomping refers to the rhythm or beat. Now, stomp your feet and then clap while saying “cheese.” What you did added accent to your music’s weak beat, otherwise known as the offbeat. The clapping is what syncopation is all about. Jazz musicians syncopate by playing two rhythms against each other. This is what makes listeners swing, sway, and dance.
Blue notes are created when a jazz musician plays through a scale and flattens or plays some notes a half step lower. In other words, the musician plays the notes at a slightly different pitch than the expected or the standard. Blue notes are normally done for maximized expression.
Improvisation is the most important element or characteristic of jazz music. Most jazz musicians who play together know each other well enough, so it only takes a nod, a tap of the hand or feet, or a whisper for one to get the cue that a certain part of the song or piece will be improvised or played with. Improvisation is a communication process that takes place between the solo singer or player and his or her co-musicians. It’s like saying, “Hey, let’s play with this song a little” without actually saying anything.