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The Difference Between Classical Music and Jazz

The Difference Between Classical Music and Jazz

Classical music vs. jazz music

There are several differences that set jazz apart from classical music, including the choice of instruments, the style of music, and how the music is played.

Although both genres share some of the same instruments, the way the instruments are played and presented reveals the distinct nature of both forms of music.


A basic element that defines jazz outside of classical music is improvisation.

This element is a creative process that allows the jazz musician to be spontaneous in making music while he is performing.

Classical musicians usually perform musical notes exactly as written on a composer’s page although in the past great figures such as Mozart and Beethoven were known for their improvisational skills.

The way the rhythms are performed is another fundamental element that separates the two styles of music.

Even though both genres are based on a regular rhythm, the beats that are underlined are different.

While classical music usually focuses on the first beat of each measure, jazz music emphasizes the second beat of each measure and manages a more flexible rhythm, creating what is called a “swing” effect.

This tension created between the beatings of jazz is called syncope, a trait that can be traced to one of the main precursors of jazz, ragtime.

Ragtime himself, however, is sometimes classified as a form of classical music as it is usually performed as written by composers such as Scott Joplin.


Jazz music is often characterized by a combination of brass, wood, and percussion instruments.

Jazz big bands rely heavily on brass, especially saxophones, which are rarely used by classical composers,

and double bass in jazz is usually plucked rather than tilted as it is usually in classical music.

Classical orchestras feature woodwind, brass, and percussion, but also include stringed instruments such as violin, viola, and cello, which are rarely used in jazz.

There are usually between 50 to 100 musicians composing a classical orchestra.

As another example of differences in instrumentation, a jazz piano trio typically consists of a piano, contrabass, and drums while in classical music, it usually consists of a piano, violin, and cello.

The piano is a central instrument of both classical and jazz. Jazz piano is not easy to play, one needs to take proper lessons to master it there are some paid and free jazz piano lessons.

Jazz musicians also play their instruments differently than classical musicians do, sometimes using insults and “dirty” sounds that create sound colors distinct in classical music.

Composer George Gershwin, who was influenced by early jazz, wrote a famous clarinet glissando at the beginning of his Rhapsody in Blue that imitates the “dirty” sound of jazz.


Historically, jazz musicians have generally performed in more casual venues such as nightclubs or specialized jazz hotels or clubs.

Classical players usually perform in a more formal setting, such as a concert hall or amphitheater.

Over time, however, jazz has increasingly moved into concert halls and other more formal settings as well.

Famous jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman played at Carnegie Hall back in 1938.

Today, jazz, like classical music, is taught in universities and conservatories and considered by many to be “serious music.”


Classical music origins date back to the 11th century, to Gregorian chants and monadic plainchant. (written as a musical line) to Organum (two or three moving lines simultaneously, but independently, bringing out the harmony).

In the 15th century, composers began to write choral music and adding compositions of instruments to the lines of music.

Since the Renaissance, the history of classical music has generally been divided into baroque, classical, romantic, modern, and post-modern times.

New Orleans where jazz originates from the late nineteenth century, was created mainly by the descendants of freed African slaves.

Jazz has evolved from Dixieland, ragtime, blues, marches, and other influences, including classical music.

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