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What’s the difference between Jazz & Blues?

1st October 2019

To the musical novice, Jazz and Blues may seem very similar and can easily be mixed up. The truth is, the two genres do have many similarities, but the core, origins and stylistic choices of the music styles are actually very different. 

Here we’ll discuss some of the main differences, and what makes both of these styles of music unique in their own right.

Thinking about what makes music, music – the cultural history, the origins and the instruments used are perhaps the most influential aspects. Here are some initial differences. 

Jazz Legend John Coltrane who played Saxophhone
Jazz Legend: John Coltrane (Saxophonist)

Cultural origins 

Jazz: Early 20th Century origins, a blend of cultures (African American and European) in Southern USA.

Blues: Late 19th Century origins, mainly from southern USA. 

Stylistic origins

Jazz: A blended mix of African and Auropean musical techniques and traditions from church, home, work. 

Blues: African American folk music with spiritual origins from African American churches and spiritual songs. 

Instruments used

Jazz: Guitar, Piano, Bass, Saxophone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Drum kit, Tuba, Double bass.

Blues: Guitar, Bass, Piano, Harmonica, Double bass, Drums, Saxophone, Vocals, Trumpet, Trombone, fiddle. 

But there are more differences than just these listed above. 

Blues Guitarist BB King
Blues Star: BB King (Guitarist)

The focus of the music 

For example, it’s widely agreed that the main focus of jazz music is the relationship between the instruments and the incredible dynamic created with sound. Because of this, quite often jazz music doesn’t feature any lyrics at all – and instead puts the instruments right at the centre of the sound. For blues music however, you’ll likely find a single guitar player or vocalist, with lots of personal and emotional lyrics laced throughout the music.

The beat and tone of the music 

Another key difference is the tone and beat of the music. Jazz music is often much more lively and upbeat than blues music. Jazz is often associated with swinging and swaying movements, lively atmospheres and even abstract, unpredictable noise. Blue however, is melancholic, sharp and slow – and the format of the music can often sound very similar from one song to the next. 

Definition of the music 

Because jazz is so unpredictable and can take many different forms, speeds, tones, etc – it’s very easily and often mistaken for other genres of music. The main one of these being Blues music. Perhaps this is why the two genres are so often mistaken for one another, because jazz if so flexible and so ‘un-defined’ it’s so easily fitted into the realm of another type of music. 

How to get started?

If you’re looking to get started playing any genre of music, why not check out our adult teaching service My Music. Based in Maidenhead, Berkshire – My Music can help you achieve your musical goals, whatever your age and experience.