What Instruments are Used in Jazz Music?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Jazz music is unique in that it often incorporates a wide range of instruments. While the piano is a staple in most jazz bands, other instruments such as the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone are also commonly used.


Jazz is a musical style that began in the early 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was developed from roots in blues and ragtime, and quickly spread to other parts of the country and the world. Jazz is characterized byswing rhythms, call-and-response patterns, improvisation, and a wide variety of other musical elements.

There are many different instruments that can be used to play jazz, but some of the most commonly used are saxophones, trumpets, trombones, pianos, double basses, and drums. These instruments provide the basic foundation for most jazz ensembles.

The Piano

The piano is one of the most popular instruments in jazz music. It is used as both a solo instrument and in accompaniment. Pianists often use a distinctive style called “stride” which involves playing the keys with both hands in an alternating pattern. This gives the music a bouncy, syncopated feel. Some of the most famous jazz pianists include Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans.

The Guitar

The guitar is a standard instrument in jazz music, and it can be used in a number of different ways. Rhythm guitarists usually play chords to provide the foundation for the rest of the band, while lead guitarists take turns soloing over the chords. Bass guitarists play repeating basslines to provide a countermelody to the lead guitarist or horns.

Guitarists often use a variety of techniques, including strumming, plucking, finger-picking, and using a pick. They may also use effects pedals to alter their sound. Commonly used pedals include distortion, echo, and reverb.

The Bass

The acoustic bass guitar is the most common instrument for the bass in jazz, but in some cases, the electric bass or double bass may be used. The electric bass has a “fatter” sound and is used in some styles of jazz fusion. The double bass is a larger instrument and has a “rounder” sound. It is commonly used in big band jazz and swing.

The Drums

The drums are the heartbeat of jazz music. They keep the time and provide the rhythm for the other instruments to follow. The most common type of drums used in jazz are the acoustic drums, which include the snare drum, bass drum, tom-toms, and cymbals.

The acoustic drums are usually played with sticks, but sometimes brushes or mallets are used instead. The drummer also uses his or her hands and feet to play additional percussion instruments such as the Hi-Hat, Ride Cymbal, and Crash Cymbal.

The Saxophone

The saxophone is one of the most popular instruments in jazz music. It is a brass instrument that is played with a single-reed mouthpiece. Saxophones come in a variety of sizes, but all are characterized by their curved shape and tubing.

The saxophone was invented by Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. Initially, it was intended to be used as an orchestral instrument, but it soon became popular among jazz musicians. In jazz bands, saxophones are often used to play the melody or lead line.

Saxophone players use a variety of techniques to create their sound, including vibrato, trills, and tonguing. Many jazz saxophonists are known for their distinctive style and sound. Some of the most famous include Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.

The Trumpet

The trumpet is one of the most important and distinctive instruments in jazz. It has a bright, piercing sound that can be heard over the rest of the band, and it can be used to play both melody and harmony. Trumpeters often use mutes to change the sound of their instrument, and they may also use vibrato (a rapid vibrating of the lips) to create a warbling effect.


In conclusion, the instruments used in jazz music include the piano, bass, drums, trumpet, and saxophone. Jazz is a unique genre of music that combines elements of blues and African-American spirituals. Jazz is often improvised, and this spontaneity is what makes it so exciting to listen to. If you’re interested in learning more about jazz, be sure to check out some of the great resources available online and in your local library.

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