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The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of electric guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.
Conceived in the early 1930s, the electric guitar became a necessity as jazz musicians sought to amplify their sound to be heard over loud big bands. When guitarists in big bands only had acoustic guitars, all they could do was play chords; they could not play solos because the acoustic guitar is not a loud instrument. Once guitarists switched from acoustic guitar to semi-acoustic guitar and began using guitar amplifiers, it made the guitar much easier to hear, which enabled guitarists to play guitar solos. Jazz guitar had an important influence on jazz in the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the earliest guitars used in jazz were acoustic and acoustic guitars are still sometimes used in jazz, most jazz guitarists since the 1940s have performed on an electrically amplified guitar or electric guitar.
Traditionally, jazz electric guitarists use an archtop with a relatively broad hollow sound-box, violin-style f-holes, a "floating bridge", and a magnetic pickup. Solid body guitars, mass-produced since the early 1950s, are also used.
Jazz guitar playing styles include "comping" with jazz chord voicings (and in some cases walking bass lines) and "blowing" (improvising) over jazz chord progressions with jazz-style phrasing and ornaments. Comping refers to playing chords underneath a song's melody or another musician's solo improvisations.
The stringed, chord-playing rhythm can be heard in groups which included military band-style instruments such as brass, saxes, clarinets, and drums, such as early jazz groups. As the acoustic guitar became a more popular instrument in the early 20th century, guitar-makers began building louder guitars which would be useful in a wider range of settings.
The Gibson L5, an acoustic archtop guitar which was first produced in 1923, was an early “jazz”-style guitar which was used by early jazz guitarists such as Eddie Lang. By the 1930s, the guitar began to displace the banjo as the primary chordal rhythm instrument in jazz music, because the guitar could be used to voice chords of greater harmonic complexity, and it had a somewhat more muted tone that blended well with the upright bass, which, by this time, had almost completely replaced the tuba as the dominant bass instrument in jazz music.
During the late 1930s and through the 1940s—the heyday of big band jazz and swing music—the guitar was an important rhythm section instrument. Some guitarists, such as Freddie Green of Count Basie's band, developed a guitar-specific style of accompaniment. Few of the big bands, however, featured amplified guitar solos, which were done instead in the small combo context. The most important jazz guitar soloists of this period included the Manouche virtuoso Django Reinhardt, Oscar Moore who was featured with Nat “King” Cole's trio, and Charlie Christian of Benny Goodman's band and sextet, who was a major influence despite his early death at 25.
It was not until the large-scale emergence of small combo jazz in the post-WWII period that the guitar took off as a versatile instrument, which was used both in the rhythm section and as a featured melodic instrument and solo improviser. In the hands of George Barnes, Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, and Tal Farlow, who had absorbed the language of bebop, the guitar began to be seen as a “serious” jazz instrument. Improved electric guitars such as Gibson's ES-175 (released in 1949), gave players a larger variety of tonal options. In the 1940s through the 1960s, players such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Jim Hall laid the foundation of what is now known as "jazz guitar" playing.
As jazz-rock fusion emerged in the early 1970s, many players switched to the more rock-oriented solid body guitars. Other jazz guitarists, like Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, turned to applying their skills to pop-oriented styles that fused jazz with soul and R&B, such as soul jazz-styled organ trios. Younger jazz musicians rode the surge of eclectic popular genres such as blues, rock, and funk to reach new audiences. Guitarists in the fusion realm fused the post-bop harmonic and melodic language of musicians such as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis with a hard-edged (and usually very loud) rock tone created by guitarists such as Cream's Eric Clapton who had redefined the sound of the guitar for those unfamiliar with the black blues players of Chicago and, before that, the Delta region of the Mississippi upon whom his style was based. With John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Clapton turned up the volume on a sound already pioneered by Buddy Guy, Freddie King, B.B. King and others that was fluid, with heavy finger vibratos, string bending, and speed through powerful Marshall amplifiers.
Fusion players such as John McLaughlin adopted the fluid, powerful sound of rock guitarists such as Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. McLaughlin was a master innovator, incorporating hard jazz with the new sounds of Clapton, Hendrix, Beck and others. McLaughlin later formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, an historically important fusion band that played to sold out venues in the early 1970s and as a result, produced an endless progeny of fusion guitarist. Guitarists such as Pat Martino, Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell, John Abercrombie, John Scofield and Mike Stern (the latter two both alumni of the Miles Davis band) fashioned a new language for the guitar which introduced jazz to a new generation of fans. Like the rock-blues icons that preceded them, fusion guitarists usually played their solid body instruments through stadium rock-style amplification, and signal processing "effects" such as simulated distortion, wah-wah, octave splitters, compression, and flange pedals. They also simply turned up to full volume in order to create natural overdrive such as the blues rock players.
By the early 1980s, the radical experiments of early 1970s-era fusion gave way to a more radio-friendly sounds of smooth jazz. Guitarist Pat Metheny mixed the sounds of rock, blues, country, and “world” music, while still maintaining a strong foundation in bebop and cool jazz, playing both a flat-top acoustic guitar and an electric guitar with a softer, more mellow tone which was sweetened with a shimmering effect known as “chorusing". During the 1980s, a neo-traditional school of jazz sought to reconnect with the past. In keeping with such an aesthetic, young guitarists of this era sought a clean and round tone, and they often played traditional hollow-body arch-top guitars without electronic effects, frequently through vacuum tube amplifiers.
As players such as Bobby Broom, Peter Bernstein, Howard Alden, Russell Malone, and Mark Whitfield revived the sounds of traditional jazz guitar, there was also a resurgence of archtop luthierie (guitar-making). By the early 1990s many small independent luthiers began making archtop guitars. In the 2000s, jazz guitar playing continues to change. Some guitarists incorporate a Latin jazz influence, acid jazz-style dance club music uses samples from Wes Montgomery, and guitarists such as Bill Frisell continue to defy categorization.
While jazz can be played on any type of guitar, from an acoustic instrument to a solid-bodied electric guitar such as a Fender Stratocaster, the full-depth archtop guitar has become known as the prototypical "jazz guitar." Archtop guitars are steel-string acoustic guitars with a big soundbox, arched top, violin-style f-holes, a "floating bridge" and magnetic or piezoelectric pickups. Early makers of jazz guitars included Gibson, Epiphone, D'Angelico and Stromberg. The electric guitar is plugged into a guitar amplifier to make it sound loud enough for performance. Guitar amplifiers have equalizer controls that allow the guitarist to change the tone of the instrument, by emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain frequency bands. The use of reverb effects, often included in guitar amplifiers, has long been part of the jazz guitar sound. Particularly since the 1970s jazz fusion era, some jazz guitarists have also used effects pedals such as overdrive pedals, chorus pedals and wah pedals.
The earliest guitars used in jazz were acoustic, later superseded by a typical electric configuration of two humbucking pickups. In the 1990s, there was a resurgence of interest among jazz guitarists in acoustic archtop guitars with floating pickups. The original acoustic archtop guitars were designed to enhance volume: for that reason they were constructed for use with relatively heavy guitar strings. Even after electrification became the norm, jazz guitarists continued to fit strings of 0.012" gauge or heavier for reasons of tone, and also prefer flatwound strings. The characteristic arched top can be made of a solid piece of wood that is carved into the arched shape, or a piece of laminated wood (essentially a type of plywood) that is pressed into shape. Spruce is often used for tops, and maple for backs. Archtop guitars can be mass-produced, such as the Ibanez Artcore series, or handmade by luthiers such as Robert Benedetto.
Jazz rhythm guitar often consists of very textural, odd-meter playing that includes generous use of exotic, difficult-to-fret chords. In 4/4 timing, it is common to play 2.5 beat intervals such as on the 2 and then the half beat or "and" after 4. Jazz guitarists may play chords "ahead" of the beat, by playing the chord a swung eighth note before the actual chord change. Chords are not generally played in a repetitive rhythmic fashion, like a rock rhythm guitarist would play.
Jazz guitarists use their knowledge of harmony and jazz theory to create jazz chord "voicings," which emphasize the 3rd and 7th notes of the chord. Some more sophisticated chord voicings also include the 9th, 11th, and 13th notes of the chord. In some modern jazz styles, dominant 7th chords in a tune may contain altered 9ths (either flattened by a semitone, which is called a "flat 9th", or sharpened by a semitone, which is called a "sharp 9th"); 11ths (sharpened by a semitone, which is called a "sharp 11th"); 13ths (typically flattened by a semitone, which is called a "flat 13th").
Jazz guitarists need to learn about a range of different chords, including major 7th, major 6th, minor 7th, minor/major 7th, dominant 7th, diminished, half-diminished, and augmented chords. As well, they need to learn about chord transformations (e.g., altered chords, such as "alt dominant chords" described above), chord substitutions, and re-harmonization techniques. Some jazz guitarists use their knowledge of jazz scales and chords to provide a walking bass-style accompaniment.
Jazz guitarists learn to perform these chords over the range of different chord progressions used in jazz, such as the ubiquitous ii-V-I progression, the jazz-style blues progression (which, in contrast to a blues-style 12 bar progression, may have two or more chord changes per bar) the minor jazz-style blues form, the I-vi-ii-V based "rhythm changes" progression, and the variety of modulation-rich chord progressions used in jazz ballads, and jazz standards. Guitarists may also learn to use the chord types, strumming styles, and effects pedals (e.g., chorus effect or fuzzbox) used in 1970s-era jazz-Latin, jazz-funk, and jazz-rock fusion music.
Jazz guitarists integrate the basic building blocks of scales and arpeggio patterns into balanced rhythmic and melodic phrases that make up a cohesive solo. Jazz guitarists often try to imbue their melodic phrasing with the sense of natural breathing and legato phrasing used by horn players such as saxophone players. As well, a jazz guitarists' solo improvisations have to have a rhythmic drive and "timefeel" that creates a sense of "swing" and "groove." The most experienced jazz guitarists learn to play with different "timefeels" such as playing "ahead of the beat" or "behind the beat," to create or release tension.
Another aspect of the jazz guitar style is the use of stylistically appropriate ornaments, such as grace notes, slides, and muted notes. Each subgenre or era of jazz has different ornaments that are part of the style of that subgenre or era. Jazz guitarists usually learn the appropriate ornamenting styles by listening to prominent recordings from a given style or jazz era. Some jazz guitarists also borrow ornamentation techniques from other jazz instruments, such as Wes Montgomery's borrowing of playing melodies in parallel octaves, which is a jazz piano technique. Jazz guitarists also have to learn how to add in passing tones, use "guide tones" and chord tones from the chord progression to structure their improvisations.
In the 1970s and 1980s, with jazz-rock fusion guitar playing, jazz guitarists incorporated rock guitar soloing approaches, such as riff-based soloing and usage of pentatonic and blues scale patterns. Some guitarists used Jimi Hendrix-influenced distortion and wah-wah effects to get a sustained, heavy tone, or even used rapid-fire guitar shredding techniques, such as tapping and tremolo bar bending. Guitarist Al Di Meola, who started his career with Return to Forever in 1974, was one of the first guitarists to perform in a "shred" style, a technique later used in rock and heavy metal playing. Di Meola used alternate-picking to perform very rapid sequences of notes in his solos.
When jazz guitar players improvise, they use the scales, modes, and arpeggios associated with the chords in a tune's chord progression. The approach to improvising has changed since the earliest eras of jazz guitar. During the Swing era, many soloists improvised "by ear" by embellishing the melody with ornaments and passing notes. However, during the bebop era, the rapid tempo and complicated chord progressions made it increasingly harder to play "by ear." Along with other improvisers, such as saxes and piano players, bebop-era jazz guitarists began to improvise over the chord changes using scales (whole tone scale, chromatic scale, etc.) and arpeggios.Jazz guitar players tend to improvise around chord/scale relationships, rather than reworking the melody, possibly due to their familiarity with chords resulting from their comping role. A source of melodic ideas for improvisation is transcribing improvised solos from recordings. This provides jazz guitarists with a source of "licks", melodic phrases and ideas they incorporate either intact or in variations, and is an established way of learning from the previous generations of players.
In jazz big bands, popular during the 1930s and 1940s, the guitarist is considered an integral part of the rhythm section (guitar, drums and bass). They usually played a regular four strums to the bar, although an amount of harmonic improvisation is possible. Freddie Green, guitarist in the Count Basie orchestra, was a noted exponent of this style. The harmonies are often minimal; for instance, the root note is often omitted on the assumption that it will be supplied by the bassist.
When jazz guitarists play chords underneath a song's melody or another musician's solo improvisations, it is called "comping", short for "accompanying". The accompanying style in most jazz styles differs from the way chordal instruments accompany in many popular styles of music. In many popular styles of music, such as rock and pop, the rhythm guitarist usually performs the chords in rhythmic fashion which sets out the beat or groove of a tune. In contrast, in many modern jazz styles within smaller, the guitarist plays much more sparsely, intermingling periodic chords and delicate voicings into pauses in the melody or solo, and using periods of silence. Jazz guitarists commonly use a wide variety of inversions when comping, rather than only using standard voicings.
In this style, the guitarist aims to render an entire song — harmony, melody and bass — in something like the way a classical guitarist or pianist can. Chord roots cannot be left to the bassist in this style. Chords themselves can be used sparsely or more densely, depending on both the individual player and his or her arrangement of a particular piece. In the sparse style, a full chord is often played only at the beginning of a melodic phrase. The denser chordal textures, in contrast, approach chord soloing (see below). A third approach is to maintain a steady, busy bass-line, like a New Orleans pianist. Here, no more than two or three notes are played at a time, and the full harmony is indicated by arpeggiation. Exponents of this style often come from a country, folk or ragtime background, such as Chet Atkins, although it is also sometimes employed by straight-ahead jazz practitioners, for instance Martin Taylor. Chord-melody is often played with a plectrum (see Tal Farlow, George Benson and others); whereas fingerstyle, as practised by Joe Pass, George van Eps, Ted Greene, Robert Conti, Lenny Breau or hybrid picking as practised by Ed Bickert, Laszlo Sirsom and others allows for a more complex, polyphonic approach to unaccompanied soloing.
Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt are generally held to have initiated the use of the guitar to play melodies and improvisations over other instruments, the former using an early form of amplification, the latter playing forcefully on an acoustic guitar. Over the years, jazz guitarists have been able to solo in standard jazz idioms, such as bebop, cool jazz and so on, while in also absorbing influences from rock guitarists, such as the use of electronic effects.
Jazz guitarists are not limited to single note improvisation. When working with accompaniment, chord solos are created by improvising chords (harmony) and melody simultaneously, usually in the upper register on strings 1,2,3 and 4. Wes Montgomery was noted for playing successive choruses in single notes, then octaves and finally a chord solo - this can be heard in his improvisation on the standard Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?). When playing without accompaniment, jazz guitarists may create chord solos by playing bass, melody and chords, individually or simultaneously, on any or all strings - such as the work of Lenny Breau, Joe Pass, Martin Taylor and others. This technique can also be incorporated into unaccompanied soloing: for instance Django Reinhardt's "improvisations", as he called his solo pieces.
An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes, unlike a standard acoustic guitar. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals, which ultimately are reproduced as sound by loudspeakers. The sound is sometimes shaped or electronically altered to achieve different timbres or tonal qualities from that of an acoustic guitar. Often, this is done through the use of effects such as reverb, distortion and "overdrive"; the latter is considered to be a key element of electric blues guitar music and rock guitar playing.
The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing selected strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.
In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.
In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions, such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997).
A bassline is the term used in many styles of music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic, traditional music, or classical music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard.
Accompaniment is the musical part which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece. There are many different styles and types of accompaniment in different genres and styles of music. In homophonic music, the main accompaniment approach used in popular music, a clear vocal melody is supported by subordinate chords. In popular music and traditional music, the accompaniment parts typically provide the "beat" for the music and outline the chord progression of the song or instrumental piece.
Lead guitar, also known as solo guitar, is a musical part for a guitar in which the guitarist plays melody lines, instrumental fill passages, guitar solos, and occasionally, some riffs within a song structure. The lead is the featured guitar, which usually plays single-note-based lines or double-stops. In rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, punk, fusion, some pop, and other music styles, lead guitar lines are usually supported by a second guitarist who plays rhythm guitar, which consists of accompaniment chords and riffs.
In jazz, comping is the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that keyboard players, guitar players, or drummers use to support a musician's improvised solo or melody lines. It is also the action of accompanying, and the left-hand part of a solo pianist.
A guitar solo is a melodic passage, instrumental section, or entire piece of music written for a classical guitar, electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. In 20th and 21st century traditional music and popular music such as blues, swing, jazz, jazz fusion, rock and metal, guitar solos often contain virtuoso techniques and varying degrees of improvisation. Guitar solos on classical guitar, which are typically written in musical notation, are also used in classical music forms such as chamber music and concertos.
A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.
An archtop guitar is a hollow steel-stringed acoustic or semiacoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, and rockabilly players.
Jazz bass is the use of the double bass or bass guitar to improvise accompaniment ("comping") basslines and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. Players began using the double bass in jazz in the 1890s to supply the low-pitched walking basslines that outlined the chord progressions of the songs. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz big bands.
Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking. The term "fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking except in classical guitar circles, although fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues and country guitar playing in the US. The terms "fingerstyle" and "fingerpicking" also applied to similar string instruments such as the banjo.
Jazz piano is a collective term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument's combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement, regardless of their main instrument. By extension the phrase 'jazz piano' can refer to similar techniques on any keyboard instrument.
An organ trio is a form of jazz ensemble consisting of three musicians; a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and either a jazz guitarist or a saxophone player. In some cases the saxophonist will join a trio which consists of an organist, guitarist, and drummer, making it a quartet. Organ trios were a popular type of jazz ensemble for club and bar settings in the 1950s and 1960s, performing a blues-based style of jazz that incorporated elements of R&B. The organ trio format was characterized by long improvised solos and an exploration of different musical "moods".
Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts in a performance of jazz music. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.
Jazz guitarists are guitarists who play jazz using an approach to chords, melodies, and improvised solo lines which is called jazz guitar playing. The guitar has fulfilled the roles of accompanist and soloist in small and large ensembles and also as an unaccompanied solo instrument.
A music session is a social gathering of musicians and singers who perform music in a relatively informal context. Much of the music performed at such events is traditional music for the area, popular songs and other well-known tunes. In sessions, the participants typically improvise the accompaniment, song arrangements and musical ornaments to the melodies of songs or tunes. The venue may be a public bar, tavern, village hall or a private home.
This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.
Heavy metal guitar is the use of highly-amplified electric guitar in heavy metal. Heavy metal guitar playing is rooted in the guitar playing styles developed in 1960s-era blues rock and psychedelic rock,and folk harmonic traditions and it uses a massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos and overall loudness. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal. The heavy metal guitar sound comes from a combined use of high volumes and heavy distortion.