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10 Fun Facts about Jazz

Ellie Mckinsey By

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Jazz is one of the most popular music genres today. However, many people don't know what makes a song jazz, rather than blues or pop, nor do they know the genre's long and interesting history.

New Orleans is the definitive birthplace of jazz, where Black musicians started combining ragtime, French quadrilles, biguines, brass-band marches, and blues in the 1910s. New Orleans was a melting pot of cultures, languages, and music styles, and dancing was a huge part of life. It was only natural for jazz to develop as musicians from different cultures and musical backgrounds met and played together on the dance floor, exchanging musical ideas.

What made jazz so revolutionary was its improvisational techniques. Most jazz performers don't prepare their solos. Instead, they improvise, using the rhythm and chords to create a unique melody, usually overtop a consistent bass line.

Although there is no one true definition of jazz, many jazz pieces have a driving 'swing' rhythm, use 'blue' notes, and sometimes have a call and response element. One of the fantastic things about jazz is that it will sound different every time you hear a piece performed.

Even if you've never been to a jazz concert, you've probably heard typical jazz music. Since its development in the early 20th century, jazz has influenced almost every genre of American music. You'll hear it in the rhythm of swing, pop, and rock. Even rap reflects the improvisation that is so prevalent in jazz.

In addition to influencing music, jazz also affected fashion, literature, and society. We all know and love the flapper look, but did you know it came about because jazz was so danceable? Literary geniuses like Carl Sanburg and EE Cummings started playing with poetry form and were influenced by the freedom of jazz. And lastly, women found an 'acceptable' way to enter the performing (and working) world: as jazz singers.

Piqued your interest? Here are 10 fun facts about jazz.

Jazz started out as pop.

Believe it or not, jazz started out as pop. It was one the most popular genres in 1920s America. It was created from a fusion of ragtime, European chamber elements, marching band music, and the blues.

Most people don't know where the word "jazz" came from.

The precise origin of the word "jazz" is a mystery. No one knows exactly where it came from, although there are many speculations. Some say that it was originally a slang word that was spelled in many different ways: jaz, jas, jass, and jasz. Others say that it was originally a baseball term that was used to refer to the fighting spirit that so many incredible players had.

A jazz performance is full of secret hand and body signals.

As you know if you are a musician, there are many ways that we communicate. When jazz players are performing together, they will often nod to signal the end of the piece or point their fingers at their heads. When they do the latter, it's because it's time to play the head: the first and last chorus of a song.

Jazz musicians have been known to "turn off" parts of their brains when they're improvising.

There's a certain "high" that comes from playing music together. Every musician will understand. Apparently, this is because, when jazz musicians improvise, the areas of their brains that control self-inhibition, self-censoring, and introspection are turned off. If you want to experience this feeling, it's a great idea to purchase a jazz guitar and start playing right away. These instruments are absolutely phenomenal.

The piano trio is one of the most common jazz configurations.

If you've ever seen three pianos on one stage, it's probably because you were watching a jazz performance. This trio creates incredible melodies. Musicians take advantage of dynamics and harmonies brilliantly as their fingers dance across the keys.

Jazz is becoming mainstream again.

Believe it or not, jazz is becoming popular again. There are quite a few very successful jazz artists. Hip-hop infused jazz, "hot jazz," and world jazz are the most popular subgenres these days.

Jazz encompasses many contemporary subgenres.

Whether you are seeking slow, romantic ballads or upbeat swing, jazz has something for you. There are almost too many subgenres to count. These include bossa nova, Dixieland, gypsy jazz, free jazz, acid jazz, and soul jazz.

Indian classical music and jazz have a lot in common.

If you've ever listened to Indian classical music, you've probably picked up on its brilliant rhythm. However, you might be wondering what these two genres have in common. You'd be surprised. The renowned sitar player, Ravi Shankar, had quite an influence on John Coltrane and John McLaughlin.

Jazz inspired many dance styles.

If you love to dance, you will be pleased to learn that jazz music inspired many different styles. These include the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, and the Mambo. After all, it's hard not to dance when you hear such soulful music.

Jazz increases productivity and boosts creativity.

If you're struggling with motivation, it might be time to listen to some John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. This will likely inspire you to complete your latest project. Listening to jazz music activates your most highly creative (theta) brain waves.

Jazz is incredible. Start playing today! You'll discover a world of class, passion, and delight!

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