Which Styles of African-American Music Led to the Development of Jazz?

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The style of music was a blend of African and Western musical traditions.

The Origins of Jazz

Jazz is a music genre that was born out of the African-American experience. It is a blend of African and European music traditions. Jazz has its roots in the blues, ragtime, and marching band music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jazz was developed in the early 20th century in the American South. New Orleans was a major center for jazz music.

African-American Music

African-American music is a term used to encompass the music of black people in the United States. It includes a wide range of styles, including gospel, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. African-American music is rooted in the music of Africa, and its influences can be heard in the music of many cultures around the world.

The history of African-American music is often divided into three distinct periods: the slave era, the post-slave era, and the modern era. Each period has its own unique style and sound.

The slave era (18th century to 1860s) was characterized by work songs and spirituals. These songs were often created spontaneously as a way to relieve boredom or stress while working. The spirituals were religious songs that were often used as a way to express hope or protest against slavery.

The post-slave era (1860s to early 1900s) saw the development of several new genres of African-American music, including ragtime, blues, and jazz. Ragtime was a piano-based style that incorporated elements of both European classical music and African rhythms. Blues was a guitar-based style that developed from work songs and spirituals. Jazz was a genre that combined elements of ragtime, blues, and European military band music.

The modern era (early 1900s to present) has seen the development of many new genres of African-American music, including rhythm and blues, soul, hip-hop, and house. These genres have been influenced by both European and African musical traditions.

The Development of Jazz

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from earlier musical styles such as blues and ragtime. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime. Earlier jazz forms developed in the same time period as Western classical music, but later jazz has influenced classical composers as well.

The development of jazz was strongly influenced by the music of Africa and the Americas. African American work songs, field hollers, spirituals, blues and ragtime were all important influences on early jazz. Jazz also drew inspiration from European classical music; harmonies borrowed from these genres informed early jazz compositions. New Orleans was an important center for early jazz; most of the earliest jazz musicians were based there.

The origins of the word “jazz” are undefined. One theory suggests it is a corruption of “jasm”, a slang term meaning “pep, energy”. Another theory suggests it derives from “jass”, a style of noisy dance music popular in New Orleans around 1900. Whatever its origins, by 1916 the word “jazz” was in common use among musicians to describe their music.

The Styles of African-American Music That Led to the Development of Jazz

There are many styles of African-American music that led to the development of jazz. These styles include spirituals, blues, work songs, and ragtime. Each of these styles had its own unique sound and feel, and they all contributed to the development of jazz. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of these styles and how they influenced the development of jazz.


Ragtime was the first original style of African-American music to gain widespread popularity. It was a hugely influential genre, and its sound can be heard in many early jazz recordings. Ragtime is characterized bysyncopated (or “ragged”) rhythms and a swung, swaying feel. The music is often very piano-centric, with the other instruments providing accompaniment.


The blues is a form of music that originated in the African-American communities in the Deep South of the United States at the end of the 19th century. The style is a combination of African and European music traditions, and it is characterized by its 12-bar chord progression, blue notes, and call-and-response patterns. The blues became popular in the African-American community in the early 20th century, and it quickly spread to white Americans who began to play and perform the music. The blues had a significant influence on the development of jazz, and many important jazz musicians got their start playing in blues bands.


Spirituals are a religious folk music created by African slaves in the United States. The lyrics of spirituals often talk about yearning for freedom and a better life. The music is based on work songs, which were sung while slaves were working in the fields. Many spirituals were created in the 18th and 19th centuries and were passed down orally from generation to generation. Some of the most famous spirituals include “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

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