Difference Between Jazz and Blues

When practicing with different musical instruments, one of the most popular musical genres to perform is jazz music.

The varying melodies and mixture of flat and sharp notes in quick progression fully embodies the art of improvisation with a distinctive jazz tone. But the beauty of jazz music is also rivalled by the melodies of the blues music genre. 

Although jazz and blues music are very similar in nature, they are more like brothers than twins! While both a type of musical form and style, they are their own different genres. If you are looking to understand the differences between the two, let’s first find out which is which.

What is Jazz Music?

Jazz music is a type of musical genre that originated within the African-American communities in the United States of America.

The origin of jazz music is said to have come from the communities within the area of New Orleans, Louisiana during the late 19th century and early 20th century. 

Difference Between Jazz and Blues

Jazz music is deeply influenced by the blues, and ragtime melodies but has now gone on to become one of the most popular forms of musical expression. The 1920s is even considered the Jazz Age because of the rise in the popularity of the jazz genre. 

Jazz is one of the most exciting musical genres to practice as it provides complex chord progressions, both swing and blues notes, multiple key changes, and a lot of improvisation.

This is why jazz is often considered as the perfect genre for musicians, as the fast tempos and swift melodies can keep you on your (tapping) toes. 

What is Blues Music?

Blues music is often confused with jazz as it also originated within the African-American communities in the United States.

However, blues began long before the age of jazz music, starting somewhere around the 1860s.

Difference Between Jazz and Blues

Blues music is deeply rooted within African-American culture, derived from this community’s work songs, chats, hollers and ballads from the Deep South in the US. Blues have a much simpler melody, rhythm and pattern which is what makes the blues so popular, and fun to perform. 

When it comes to rhythm, the twelve-bar blues are the most common. Additionally, in blues music, the notes are usually thirds, fifths or sevenths, and flattened in pitch for the distinctive blues sound. 

Within the blues form, songs are typically characterized by the call and response style of music, with performers welcoming listeners to repeat the call after them in a jiggy, rhythmic manner. 

Many distinctive elements of blues music is derived from the music of African individuals, this is why blues is often dated back to the ending of slavery, and the slaves new found freedom.

With such deeply rooted origins in African-American culture, it is understandable why jazz music and blues music can sometimes be mixed up. 

What’s the Difference between Jazz and Blues?

Jazz music and the blues are often confused or considered to be the same, but this could not be further from the truth. Jazz music and blues music are two very different genres, with different styles, notes and patterns. 

One of the main differences between jazz and blues music is that jazz is almost always entirely a musical ensemble and instrumental without any lyrics. On the other hand, blues music is usually centered around fewer instruments, and will always contain musical lyrics.

Jazz music is widely considered to be a musical art form, and is notoriously difficult to master and define, as it has a variety of different syncopated rhythms, notes, keys, chords and rhythms.

The point of jazz music is to start with a predetermined tune, whilst an ensemble of musicians join together, jumping in to add their own interpretations and improvisations of the melody. 

This is why jazz music is thought to be one of the most expressive, interactive and unique musical genres, as each jazz performer will have their own voice and style to add to the composition. 

The point of jazz music is to interact with the typical swing rhythm, adding a compulsive groove, and quick paced beats that will create a visceral response in the audience, compelling them to start foot-tapping and finger-snapping. 

Blues is very different from jazz, as it is not so much an art form, but a musical genre with particular tropes to follow. Different to jazz music, blues is characterized by traditional blues scales, chord progressions, patterns and lyrics that can often be performed by just one solo vocalist and guitarist. 

The 12-bar blues are often used, as a repeated progression of chords played with lyrics simultaneously. These lyrics typically pertain to love, sadness, pain or life to give the blue tone of the genre. Blues scales will also most commonly include blue, sad notes played at a lower pitch for its distinctive sound.

Unlike jazz music, when it comes to the blues, deviating from the normal chord structure and key is not as common. Improvisation can be a part of the blues genre, but it is not as much of a key component that it is in jazz music. 

However, if blues performers tend to improvise often, then the lines between the jazz genre and the blues genre begin to blur heavily. Which is why many people can mix the two musical styles into one. 

How to Tell Jazz and Blues Apart

If you are ever stuck trying to identify the differences between the two, then there are simple ways to differentiate the musical genres from each other. 

Generally speaking, blues follows a stricter formula, with distinctive blues notes, chord progressions, and blue lyrics to go with the performer’s music.

Jazz on the other hand, is performed by a much larger ensemble of performers, each chiming in with their own improvisations, rhythms and notes to make the music more enjoyable. 

Jazz is therefore considered to be a musical art form, filled with improvisation, instrumental melodies and varying patterns, whereas blues is a music genre with its own patterns and traditional styles to follow.