You just finished listening to your favorite jazz song. You find yourself  inspired to pick up your cherished musical instrument and play along. So, you grab your oboe and…wait a minute.  

Playing along is working fine but it just isn’t quite working for this particular song. So, you grab your sax and creativity wins the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the oboe but it just may not quite work for some songs.

Why do some instruments work better than others for different genres and styles of music?

It’s certainly no big secret. While probably more of interest to historians than to someone just wanting to play some great music: It has to do with tradition. In particular how genre came into being over a period of time, and over that time the sound was developed and expected.

Musicians used these certain instruments more than others and compositions and whole repertoires created resulting in the Jazz genre.  

 

Let’s take a look at some of the best jazz musical instruments to play for the beginner. Although there are several styles of jazz we’ll keep to a more modern take on what may be the best instrument for you.

 

Jazz Instruments

First and foremost there are several instruments that are synonymous with jazz.

set of jazz instruments

What’s Right for Me?

The choice of instrument is personal and really comes down to what the individual is like.

Are you strong enough to heft a saxophone?  

Will you have the endurance and the physical attributes to play drums?  

Are the wind instruments more appealing than the guitar or vice versa?  

What sound are you most attracted to?

The choice may be easier if you are an adult beginner, but a child or young person requires guidance.

You can learn music on any instrument, but being inspired to learn and to continue learning is most important and having the right instrument can help achieve this.

 

Saxophone

woman playing sax

You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not like the sound of this beautiful instrument.  

Its inclusion in the jazz ensemble of any size is well known and it was the jazz genre that actually propelled this instrument to greater engineered refinements through the exploration of different metals and workmanship which ultimately added to the already venerable sound of these instruments.

The saxophone is surprisingly from the woodwind family and not the brass family, as one might think even though constructed mainly of brass.  How the instrument is played and not its construction determines its’ classification, whereby saxophones use a reed to produce sound versus the vibration of the lips for brass instruments.

*Top Saxophone Pick: Sonata Alto Saxophone

 

 

Trumpet

man playing trumpet

The trumpet is a brass instrument and is one of the first major solo instruments to emerge in the jazz ensemble.  Due to the ability of its sound to cut through over other instruments of an orchestra or ensemble, the trumpet easily found a niche in jazz made famous by some of the greats such as Miles Davis.

The trumpet has the highest register in the brass family which contributes to its ability to be a solo instrument.

A bonus for beginners is that some schools teach wind and brass instruments.

*Top Trumpet Pick: Sonata Bb Trumpet

 

Drum Kit

boy playing drums

This is one of the main components of the rhythm section and holds down the beat allowing that swing sound to happen that makes jazz what it is.

Everything revolves around the drummer and is the main source of aural information that all the other musicians listen to most.

Even in trios there is always a drummer present.  The drum kit is one of the most underrated of instruments that requires its player to not only have a great sense of rhythm, but also a high level of musicianship that is highly valued amongst professional and amateur musicians alike.

Art Blakey comes to mind as not only a superb drummer but as bandleader.  

*Top Guitar Pick: Rocket 5 Piece 22in Drum Kit

 

Bass

MAN CARRIES A DOUBLE BASS

This is the other half of the rhythm section.  In more modern times the electric bass has taken over more of the low-end duty than the acoustic stand-up bass, which is more common in a classical music setting and is more expensive.

*Top Bass Pick: Stagg BC300-BL Fretless Fusion Bass Guitar

 

Guitar

man playing guitar

This is my personal favourite.  The guitar really came into its own once it was electrified and more able to project through the sounds of an orchestra playing jazz.

Thanks to amplification and some great guitar players and innovators on the instrument, the guitar moved from a background role of accompaniment to being a solo instrument as well.

Typically, the hollowbody electric guitar has become what many people think of as a jazz guitar.  It is by no means necessary in order to play jazz though.

The acoustic archtop guitar played in jazz bands long before amplification came along.  Once amplified, the same body style remained in use by many famous players and became associated with jazz in this manner.

Tradition aside, a solid body guitar can provide as much jazz sound as desired plus be more flexible for use in other genres as well.

*Top Guitar Pick: The Standard Jazz Electric Guitar 

 

Piano

person playing piano

Like the guitar, the piano can play accompaniment or solo.  It has been this versatility that first made the piano popular in jazz.  

On top of this it is also one of the easiest instruments to learn music theory on as the keyboard represents a good visual picture of how the notes work.

It is even more transportable these days thanks to modern keyboards.  This also makes learning to play the piano cheaper as you do not need to purchase a full sized acoustic piano in order to get started.

*Top Piano Pick: The Casio CDP130 Portable Digital Piano

 

 

There are many different sizes and grades of instruments built to suit almost anyone willing to learn how to play jazz music, and learning how to play any instrument can be a lifelong enjoyment with benefits too numerous to mention.

It is good to start your musical journey on the best foot and you most certainly cannot go wrong by going down to the local music shop and talking to the pros to get set-up correctly and within budget… or visiting jazzguitarlessons.net

Enjoy!

 

*(Top pick for playing jazz as a total beginner.)

About the author

Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar. You can read more at www.jazzguitarlessons.net

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