Jazz bands are made up of various sizes and different operational arrangements. But if there’s one thing that they commonly share, then it’s the type of instruments they use.
It’s a widely known fact that these bands generally use horns and rhythm instruments.
But have you ever asked yourself about the other least commonly used instruments in jazz music? And in this case, I mean the wind instruments.
Well, if your answer is yes. Then this article seeks to give you answers. But before that, let’s have a clear understanding of:
Table of Contents
What Is the Defining Characteristic of Jazz?
Sometimes, at a standard level, it’s tough for jazz fans to agree on the type of music that qualifies to be classified as genuine jazz.
But if you’re careful enough, you can easily distinguish this genre of music from the others by various traits, including:
Swing and Syncopation
The term swing as used musically, refers to the specific rhythmic momentum that triggers you into a dancing mode or simply snapping your fingers as you listen to a great jazz tune.
And to achieve this, jazz musicians usually incorporate the use of Syncopation, which is the art of coming up with various accents and strategically using them in specific parts of the tunes.
Therefore, as you listen to the jazz swings, you can’t help but get mesmerized by the awesome beats no matter how frequently/scarcely the players decide to emphasize them.
The best part is that players are at liberty to improvise by creating versus using their own words, melody, and add a touch of accent.
The secret players use is bouncing back and forth of ideas, hitting beats harder and slow, among others.
Bent Notes and Innovative Modes
One thing that you should always remember about jazz music is the fact that it allows players to combine various notes, in a way that can’t be achieved even on piano.
And one trick they use is note bending to create unique sounds, which can only be associated with the mysterious, energetic, and tension-causing nature of jazz.
And that’s not all. Jazz players also use modes, which in this case refers to a group of notes/scales. So, they typically focus on 1-2 modes instead of fast chord changes, to achieve unique melodies.
This is the main reason as to why jazz is always evolving and surrounded with a lot of excitement.
We must agree that every jazz musician is different. And just like their personalities, their voices are also unique.
This is the reason as to why die-hard jazz music fans can easily identify a musician by the sound of their lyrics.
The way they phrase words, emphasize on specific parts, their unique improvised styles, among other elements, are some of the attributes that people use to give players their musical personalities.
That’s why it’s often said that to be an excellent jazz player, you first have to be a composer, then a musician.
Which Wind Instrument is Least Common in Jazz Music?
Now that you already have an understanding of the various defining characteristics of jazz let’s move on to the 5 least common wind instruments in jazz music.
The Nose Flute
The history of the nose flute takes us back to Taiwan, where it’s believe to have been invented around 1891.
In the beginning, it was referred to as the nose whistle. And its sound is pretty similar to that of the slide whistle.
The currently used around the world, but is most played among the tribes of Taiwan.
Now, when it comes to jazz, the nose flute was commonly played by Rahsaan Kirk, who was a renowned candid and blind saxophonist.
During his performances, he used to combine the tenor saxophone, the Manzello, the Stritch, the flute, and the nose flute.
But there really hasn’t been many jazz musician who has been able to pick up from where he left successfully. But, you really never know what the future presents.
And this could be because of the challenging nature the nose flute presents, especially to learners.
You first have to know how to correctly press the nose flute against your nose, exhaling through the nose only, changing the pitch, and many more.
But, if you want to learn how to play it, you can watch the video below and try it out;
Electronic Varitone Saxophone
Saxophones come in different varieties. And while the use of common saxophones such as the alto and tenor saxophones is common in most jazz bands. Very few are bold to try something new.
The use of the Electronic Varitone Saxophone was first introduced to jazz lovers by the late Sonny Stitt.
For those who haven’t heard of him, Stitt, whose real name was Edward Boatner, was a famous African-American jazz saxophonist.
His style of playing revolved around warm romantic improvised techniques, which gained him a special place in the hearts of many jazz fans.
And it’s because of his bold nature that Sonny Stitt experimented with the electric Varitone saxophone in his two famous albums, which he released around 1966-1967.
Presently, electric Saxophone can be found in selective music stores. And it’s an excellent instrument for both the professional and amateurs players.
The fact that it’s light-weighted, not bulky and comprises numerous attractive features, makes it an ideal pick for practice even by players who are always traveling.
But even with all these features, I cannot confidently state that the electronic Saxophone can comfortably replace the standard Saxophone.
You can, however, try tunes on it and see how they flow. The good thing is that you can comfortably use play songs just the same way you do with the regular Saxophone.
The major difference is that it doesn’t use buttons, and you can increase the volume to suit your needs without disturbing your neighbors.
The Oboe belongs to the woodwind instruments category. It usually measures around 25 ½ inches long and weighs from 2 pounds.
As its name suggests, this instrument is primarily made of wood. But that isn’t always the case. It isn’t uncommon to come across some made out of other synthetic materials such as plastic and resin.
The Oboe is quite complex to learn, and therefore, players who want to use it should be serious, or else they won’t even manage to produce a good sound.
That said, in the jazz industry, the Oboe was first used by Roscoe Mitchell, who still is a legend in the Avant-Garde jazz subsection.
This jazz master has managed to produce fantastic work, which cuts across various music genres.
In his performances, this famous jazz musician can be seen using various instruments ranging from the recorder, flute, piccolo, and the Clarinet.
It’s not until 2019, when he included the Oboe in his award-winning Nonaah album show, alongside the flute and the piano.
Despite the common assumptions that the Bagpipes are Irish or Scottish, they actually originated from the African country of Egypt. And according to Historians, it’s the Roman armies, which invaded Egypt, which introduced it to the Scots, later on.
Musically, learning how to play the Bagpipe can be pretty tricky for starters. One needs to be well skilled in other similar instruments even to manage to play the simplest of songs.
And I think this could be the reason as to why most jazz players stay away from it. I mean, who wants to complicate their lives further? Not ordinarily anyone.
Rufus Harlesy Jr. wasn’t just anyone when it comes to the world of jazz music.
He dared to be different and insisted on using the Bagpipe as his principal instrument during his performances and recordings.
His very first performance using a bagpipe being in 1964. So you can imagine how the reception was. His fans weren’t impressed, and some thought he had lost his mind.
In fact, history has it that most of his neighbors complained to the police about the noises he made while practicing. But that didn’t slow him down.
And his efforts seemed to bear fruits as his first jazz album, “Bagpipe Blues,” which was released in 1965, become a hit.
From that time, more and more jazz musicians are trying out the Bagpipe in various parts of the world. And although this instrument isn’t as famous as it should be, it’s at least on the move.
Therefore, if you find this instrument exciting and would like to try it out, you should be ready to exercise patience.
It could take you over two years to truly master it and gain the confidence to use it in your performances.
The best part is that you can sign up for classes and see how things unfold.
If you have ever come across a double-reed woodwind instrument, with 2 thin strips of materials, then that could have been a Bassoon.
It’s the two thin strips that help players to produce sounds by vibrating.
In fact, a quick examination of this musical instrument will show you how closely it resembles the Saxophone and a bong.
This wind instrument can be used alone as it produces a high warm sound, which can easily be confused with that of a baritone performer.
Learning the bassoon is hard. And this could be the reason why most jazz musicians don’t include it in their orchestra performances.
But there’s one jazz musician who was the first one to take chances with the bassoon and prove that it can be used in plays as well.
And her name is Karen Borca. She still remains to be the only full-time bassoonist in both Avant jazz and Free jazz.
Borca being a free jazz player, means that she can readily break any rule without facing much criticism. And she has so far used it to her advantage. Well, the correct way.
She’s also an active member of the famous Cecil Taylor Unit, a creation of Cecil Taylor, who also happens to be a Free jazz pioneer, a poet, and even a pianist.
What does the future have in store for the aspiring bassoon players?
What I would say is that, although there aren’t many jazz musicians using this instrument presently, if you want to learn how to play it, you can always start, though it won’t be easy.
So, be ready to spend years learning and gaining professional experience from time to time performances.
Which Wind Instruments Are Popular In Jazz Music?
Enough with the rarely used wind instruments in jazz. Now let’s turn your attention to the commonly used wind instruments in jazz.
If you ask most individuals, they will readily confess that the first instrument they think of whenever they hear the term “jazz music” is the Saxophone.
These instruments come in various sizes, which produce different tones and notes.
But the most famous of them all is the alto Saxophone, which is also the easiest to learn, closely followed closely by the tenor sax.
They are also easy to play and readily available in most music stores.
This instrument might not be the easiest to learn, but you will commonly notice it in most jazz bands.
Most jazz performers like it because of its size, and it sprung to fame around the 1930s, when it was the most popular tool in the jazz genre.
You know that bold and bright sound that usually defines the jazz music? Well, it’s mostly the outcome of the trumpet.
So, as you can see, trumpets are famous in the jazz sector. And from time to time, bands swap them with cornets, which are equally rich in sound.
And although they’re a bit hard to learn, they are affordable, thus accessible to most jazz players for practice.
The jazz musical style has always been rich and full of surprises, making it one of the most famous and loved genres across the world.
Players use multiple selections of instruments, some of which are hard to learn, while others are the easiest to master.
But there are also those instruments that are rarely used in jazz music no matter how good they sound.
In this article, I took you through the least common wind instruments. I hope you enjoyed reading and learned a thing or two along the way.
Remember, this list isn’t conclusive, so feel free to add other instruments and share with us in the comment section.