Meet the Instruments in the Jazz Combo

Historical Background

Unit 3 introduces some of the most common instruments found in a jazz combo. A jazz combo is a common performance unit with 3-8 instruments. After the Big Band Era, this unit developed as an economic and artistic vehicle for performance. Jazz combos can be a combination of different instruments. For example, a jazz combo can exist with simply a rhythm section, though it is typical for a jazz combo to have a rhythm section along with other melody instruments. A rhythm section can include a drummer, bassist, pianist, and/or guitarist. The most common additions are saxophones, trumpets, and trombones, but strings and other wind instruments are becoming more and more common.

The video for this unit showcases five instruments: the saxophone, voice, electric bass, drums, and piano. The saxophone’s typical role is to play the melody and create melodic improvisations based on the song. The vocalist brings words to life and uses her voice in unique ways. The bass provides the harmonic framework and the “groove” by playing a walking bass or bass lines. Drums also provide the groove and keep the beat. Finally, the piano is a versatile instrument that has multiple purposes. It can play melodies, harmonies, bass lines, and rhythms.

Enrichment and Activities

Primary Grades

My Name is Jazz

Students are introduced to different instruments then listen for them in jazz music. They also get a chance to clap and stomp as they improvise a musical conversation, and imitate jazz instruments with their voices.

Lesson Plan

Intermediate Grades

Jazz Instrumentation and the Art of Scat Singing

Students learn about jazz instruments, the 12-Bar Blues form, and scat singing, then do some scat singing of their own with body percussion and barred instruments or keyboards.

Lesson Plan