Different Styles of Jazz: Jazz as it develops through the years

Different Styles of Jazz as it develops through the years

How do we determine the different styles of Jazz when the music itself has always been difficult to define?

Several factors add to the lack of a generally accepted definition for Jazz. For one, Jazz is music that is always undergoing improvisations. It is in a constant state of evolution. Jazz musicians are always looking to outdo one another and are continually expanding the scope of the music.

Here, in this article, we’ll look at the development of Jazz through the years. This should shed light on the different styles of Jazz.

The Different Styles of Jazz as it develops through the years


This is one of the earliest music referred to as Jazz. It originated in the southern part of the US. Ragtime, as a music style, was traditionally based on the piano. It reigned supreme in the social scene from around 1895 to 1918, though numerous attempts have been made over the years to revive it. A Ragtime performance is usually lively, and you can’t fail to recognise its African origins.

Ragtime makes heavy use of the syncopated rhythm. It probably came about through the synthesis of European classical music and African syncopation. The generally accepted pioneer of the music is Earnest Hogan, the first person to write ragtime tunes in sheet music form. Scott Joplin is the man whose compositions help bring fame to ragtime.

The Blues

We cannot talk about the different styles of Jazz without talking about Blues. This is one of the styles that have the most impact on the music genre called Jazz. Blues is deeply rooted in African music traditions. It makes use of many elements to form a distinct, easily recognisable sound. Early blues is a collecting point for work songs, chants, shouts, spirituals and narrative ballads. Among its popular features are the call and response pattern, the blues scale, unique chord progressions and shuffles.


This is another essential early form of Jazz. Dixieland originators like Lois Armstrong came up with the form by integrating traditional blues and ragtime then adding elements of brass. Dixieland is most often played without vocals. In a Dixieland performance, a lead instrument plays a tune, other instruments in the band then performs the improvisations of that tune, creating a lovely polyphonic sound. Dixieland is sometimes called the traditional jazz.

Big Band

The popularity of Dixieland led to the creation of many other styles of Jazz. The chief among this is the style called Big Band. What makes big band unique compared to different forms of Jazz is that the music is arranged and notated. This is in contrast to others styles in which improvisations always play a crucial role. A big band usually have between 12 to 25 musicians. Typical big band instruments are trumpets, saxophones, trombones and traditional rhythm instruments.


In the mid-1940s, a style of Jazz called Bebop developed in the United States. It came as a result of young Jazz musicians’ attempts to expand the music beyond the confines of dance-able styles common in those days. Bebop features complicated chord progression, fast tempo, swift chord changes and modulations. Performance is usually built around instrumental virtuosity and improvisations

Further Reading: Wikipedia.org/Jazz

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