Music Paper: The Type of Music Jazz

Subject: Art
Pages: 3
Words: 938
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Undergraduate


The type of music chosen for analysis is known as Jazz. This is a genre of music that derived its origins from a series of cultures but primarily depended on its African tradition. It was transmitted through slave immigration which occurred in the eighteenth century. This form of music grew into a distinct musical style for African Americans.

Musical characteristics

Jazz music is rooted in European as well as African music techniques. Some of the characteristics exclusive to this type of music include a call and response pattern, poly-rhythms, syncopation, blue notes as well as improvisation. There are a series of instruments that are utilized in this musical culture, and each one of them reflects the influences that this kind of music has received. The most common instrument is the trumpet, and other equally dominant ones include the saxophone, gramophone, clarinet, and piano. (Berendt, 131)

Improvisation is one of the most prominent features of Jazz music. Here different parts of the music are varied spontaneously. For instance, a singer may opt to start with a certain note and alter its pitch, timbre, or its timing. Sometimes, melodies are changed in such a manner that they portray different rhythms. Also, Jazz musicians have been known to repeat certain tones severally in a sequential manner. Alternately, one may start with a particular tone at a low volume and then eventually change this to a higher volume. Also, one can alter the phrase that one is expected to utter by making it different from the beat. (CFJP, par 4)

Jazz is characterized by syncopation, where certain beats are emphasized depending on the musicians’ preference. Usually, this is combined with rhythmic speech patterns and pentatonic scales. The cakewalk, which is a form of dance, has also been associated with this kind of music, and it was derived from criticisms of European American slave owners’ style of dance.

Transmission of the musical culture

Jazz music was transmitted to the United States through the slave trade in the eighteenth century. Slaves’ origins are normally traced back to the western region of Africa, and they had a distinct culture that they carried with them. Aside from being able to carry this out, the people who were responsible for the transmission of this kind of music were European traders who were interested in getting extra profit from the sale of slaves. When African slaves settled in the US, they would frequently engage in ritualistic songs, especially during work, and these maintained African traditions. Also, call and response patterns or single melodies that are now distinct from Jazz were borrowed from the African way of singing. (Bill, 46)

Jazz differs substantially from West African ritual music because the former incorporates a series of western/ European instruments. Its performance practices are quite different because in Jazz, some forms of dance, such as the cakewalk, are prevalent, yet this is nonexistent in West African musical culture. Some other components of the music, such as rhythmic displacement and varying intonation, are also distinct from Jazz and are not found in original African compositions. Jazz singers may sometimes create a long melody line. (Kirchner, 68)

The inspiration for singing Jazz songs also differs because it is not as ritualistic as it was within the African setting. The former plays a more entertaining role compared to the functional aspect of African music. Also, haphazard syncopation is a new aspect that may not have existed in African music. This is usually characterized by the process of combining various rhythms using a piano. (Keith and Martins, 56)

Irrespective of these differences, Jazz has remained intact with regard to its African origins because it still possesses speech patterns that were prevalent in West African music. African folk songs have plenty of chants that are also found in Jazz music. Also, in some countries such as Ghana, a lead drummer is often expected to alter his or her way of playing, and this can be treated as a form of improvisation. Also, among the Mandinka tribe, it was common to find that the drummers were given ways to change their beats, and this is also improvisation. The latter characteristic is a very relevant part of jazz music as well because it is often common to find certain Jazz soloists providing direction on a melody, then the subsequent band members joining in creatively by bringing their own interpretations of harmony and melody. (Shipton, 19)

The West African musical culture has lost immense significance to the new region, which is the United States, because only elements of the former type of music have been retained. Also, Jazz music is now played for different purposes and some of them being entertainment, while others have been played to voice the emotions and pain of the African American community. (Scaruffi, 3)

Jazz has been substantially influenced by the musical traditions of the United States because instruments were borrowed from European American classical music. In recent times, this has evolved into different subgenres of Jazz. For example, Acid Jazz contains elements of guitar and rock music, Latin Jazz borrowed elements from Latin Americans who interacted with African American musicians, and Bebop was influenced by European classical music.


Jazz music reflects an African American tradition borrowed from West African musical culture, although the latter culture lost its significance in the new form of expression.

In the future, it is likely to witness greater subgenres with some of the most unconventional musical cultures yet. However, the most interesting aspect will be the tendency to bring more African elements back to Jazz hence going back to its roots.


Scaruffi, Piero. A history of popular music. New York: Rutledge, 2007.

Center for Jazz preservation. Jazz music. 2009. Web.

Berendt, Joachim. The Jazz book. NY: McMillan, 1981.

Bill, Crow. Jazz Anecdotes. Oxford: oxford University Press, 1990.

Keith, Waters & Martins, Henry. Jazz- the first a hundred years. Chicago: Wadsworth publichers. 2005.

Kirchner, Bill. (2005). Oxford’s companion to Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Shipton, Alyn. A new Jazz history. NY: Continuum publishers, 2007.