In the form of music theory, the whole of music theory is the same for classical music or rock ‘n’ roll, and even for flamenco and symphonic metal. However, each style has its technical peculiarities, which should be known if you want to start playing Jazz improvisation on complex chords.
Jazz is once again very trendy, and millions of people worldwide are heading to the jazz bars and music joints to listen to jazz musicians and big jazz bands. From classic Jazz to Post-Bop and Jazz Fusion, the guitar in Jazz is an important part of the unique rhythm sections.
Today, with the best online marketplaces such as Eventeus.com, you can easily find excellent jazz guitar players all around the world for your events, concerts, parties, and recording sessions.
What is a Jazz Guitarist?
From the instrument’s choice to that of the pieces performed through the posture taken to play. Besides, the music’s style influences the posture. Far from being an artist’s whim, this set of strategies makes it possible to express a unique personality, which can just as easily borrow from several universes.
Jazz electric guitars at a glance:
- Hollow inside: Two types: thick and completely hollow or thinner with a sustain block
- Fat, center-weighted sound
- Humbucker pickups often “floated.”
- Arched top archtop guitars
- Thinner guitars with flat tops and sustain blocks
When we talk about jazz guitars, we usually mean the so-called archtop guitars. They are completely hollow on the inside, have a relatively thick body and the vaulted top that gives them their name. These blankets are often made of solid wood but sometimes also laminated. Well-swinging spruce wood is usually used.
Since archtops are hollow on the inside, it is relatively easy to create unwanted feedback between the guitar and the amp. But since you don’t play particularly loud in Jazz, that’s not a problem. If, on the other hand, you want to play jazz-rock, that can be a problem.
A real archtop with a thick body and no sustain block (i.e., completely hollow inside) is only suitable for pure Jazz. Archtops should not be played distorted or too loud.
The body sizes are usually 16, 17, or even 18 inches (ca. 46 cm). The latter is already large, and with shorter people like me, it can be quite on the right shoulder (for right-handers). The bigger and thicker the guitar, the louder it sounds when played purely acoustically.
Of course, almost all jazz guitars have electronics on board. Archtop guitars often have a single floated humbucker. It is a double coil pickup that is not attached to the body but the pick-guard. It means that the ceiling’s vibration behavior is not disturbed, and the pickup can be exchanged more easily without having to drill new holes in the often hand-carved ceiling.
Jazz guitar pickups are mostly “underwound,” so they have fewer windings and are therefore less powerful. After all, you want a soft and not an aggressive sound.
Thick archtop jazz guitars sound quite loud acoustically. They are also acoustic guitars (with electronics) in terms of their construction. Nevertheless, they are meant to be amplified. Their sound is bass and mid-heavy. The basses are mostly bone dry, which means they don’t last long (which is intended). You can hear the wood. Don’t make the typical beginner’s mistake of turning the treble back too far. An archtop doesn’t have that much treble anyway, and so it would start to muffle.
Authentic traditional jazz sound. Suitable for vintage Jazz to modern Jazz. Loud enough without amplification, so you don’t necessarily need an amplifier when practicing.
Globular body, sometimes thicker neck, therefore harder to play. The danger of feedback when playing loudly. It is limited to one style (Jazz).
Semi-acoustic jazz guitars (with sustain block):
In addition to the archtop guitars, there are also the thinner jazz guitars with a so-called sustain block. It is a rectangular bar of wood inside the guitar that goes from the neck to the bridge. It makes the notes linger longer.
Besides, the guitar is no longer completely hollow, which means that it is no longer so prone to feedback from the amplifier.
Guitars with a sustain block can handle a considerably louder setting on the amplifier without immediately whistling. It means they can be used in various ways, e.g., jazz-rock (fusion), blues, rockabilly, and vintage rock. Due to their narrow frame, they are much easier to handle, especially for little people, beginners, or anyone who likes to be comfortable.
These jazz-rock guitars’ pickups also mostly have humbuckers (double spoolers), but not floated, but screwed to the ceiling. Most guitars have two of them, which also have a slightly higher output than their thick archtop counterparts. There are also models with P90 single-coil pickups. These are single coils but with significantly more windings and therefore higher output. Unfortunately, P-90 pickups hum a lot.
So, they are well-equipped for blues/rock sounds; they also distort a little earlier.
Acoustically, thin jazz guitars have a relatively poor sound. So, you have to strengthen it while practicing. In terms of sound, it can best be described with the English word “mellow.” They are centered and as soft as butter. The tone is not wooden dry but has a lot of sustain (notes linger for a long time) and sounds softer. Due to the smaller resonance space, they have less bass, which is not worse. It is much less muffled, and the bass is crisper and more defined.
More versatile. Suitable for (modern) Jazz to rock. Lightweight; Easy handling due to the narrow width. Long sustain. Less prone to feedback. Well suited for beginners.
Acoustically almost like an electric guitar, therefore only playable with an amplifier. Suitable for traditional Jazz, but not ideal.
Who are the best Jazz Guitarists?
The pioneers of the jazz guitar were Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt for his gypsy Jazz.
Other influential jazz guitarists include Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Bill Frisell, Grant Green, Pat Metheny Lenny Breau, Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery, Benny Goodman, Jim Hall, John McLaughlin, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Pat Metheny.
How much can you make as a Jazz Guitarist?
Most professional artists ask for fees above the legal minimum. Like any other service (caterer, DJ, photographer, etc.), the costs vary according to their reputation, the professionalism of their work.
They then add several elements:
- The number of musicians: Naturally, the more musicians there are, the higher the service’s price will be.
- The duration of the set: An animation generally lasts 1h30 or 2h. However, it may vary depending on your request.
- The technique: Depending on the specifics of the place where the animation will occur, you will have to anticipate the technical needs (amplification, stage, mixing table, etc.). It
- Travel costs: These are important to consider as they can be high if the band is not from the same region as your event.
- Accommodation: If the group does not come from the same region and should take the road at night, it is important to provide accommodation.
- The meal: A musician with a full stomach will be more efficient! Therefore, it is necessary to include a meal before or after the performance.
How to become a Jazz Guitarist?
The frenzied Jazz, apprehended by non-connoisseurs, would it be reserved for an elite of highly gifted musicians and a bit offbeat? In reality, Jazz has its roots in a climate of friendliness, exchange and multicultural influence.
Jazz music incorporates warm-sounding instruments, including brass instruments: trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and clarinet play a prominent role alongside the piano. But guitarists have proven themselves in this universe by drawing muffled intonations from their instruments.
Masters of the genre impress with their extraordinary improvisation skills and his perfectly mastered sense of rhythm.
The specific Jazz techniques
As mentioned earlier, improvisation remains a key pillar of Jazz. This technique consists of playing a melody or a rhythm without a score, simply by drawing inspiration from your creativity. Several musicians can improvise together. It is necessary to follow specific chord sequences and stay in the chosen key. This difficult exercise requires an excellent ear and good knowledge of jazz music, especially its complex chords.
The rhythm in Jazz differs from classical conventions. She uses the swing. Instead of playing two eighth notes of equal length, the first is increased and the second decreased, which gives a feeling of imbalance or rebound. To visualize the swing, count three beats and play the first note on the first two beats, the second note on the third beat. However, depending on Jazz’s style being played, the length of the first eighth note and the second may change slightly, more or less approaching the binary convention.
Choosing a guitar for playing Jazz
Mythical jazz instrument, relatively unknown to other guitarists, combines a rounded body, often very successful aesthetic, and a hollow body (semi-hollow body). Its metal strings give it a sharp sound, with a very present sustain. The body’s deep resonance allows the instrument to be heard within an orchestra or in a room without amplification.
Gypsy guitars also bring attractive tones for Jazz. Floating bridge, very thin neck, and metal strings support strong rhythms while offering the warmth and mellowness essential to Jazz.
If you are a beginner, you need this time — and you have to practice!
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