What Makes a Jazz Band?

What kind of musicians make up a jazz band? Like any other music genre, there’s a range when it comes to the number and type of musicians involved in a jazz band. From duos to octets, from saxophonists to pianists, the members of a jazz band can vary. In this blog, we’ll discuss the types of musicians you’re likely to find in a jazz band.

How Many People Make up a Jazz Band?

To really be a band or jazz ensemble as they’re often called, you need at least two people, also known as a duo (with one usually being the vocalist while the other is on an instrument).


The vocalists accompany the instrumentals with their unique vocal style. You have those that sing and those that scat (singing without actual words, using random syllables and verbalizations). Vocalists skillfully weave their voice in with the instruments. Fun fact: Vocal jazz came along later than other aspects of jazz in the early twentieth century!

Rhythm Section 

Setting the beat of the song is the rhythm section, with artists like percussionists, guitarists, pianists, and/or bassists. Their main function is to set the tone and pace of the music. Those in the rhythm section may even vocally hop in on the song, contributing their voice as a background singer. 

Horn Section

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind for many when you mention jazz is wind instruments like the saxophone and trombone. They’re as intertwined into jazz music as peanut butter is with jelly! The horn section includes instruments like these (and even vocalists can be considered part of the horn section). They’ll often play a set of pre-written music, and at certain times throughout a piece, anyone in the horn section will go off and play some improvisational music that jazz is so well-known for.

With jazz pianists, the music they play is called comping, from the word “accompany.” This is simply about accompanying the other instruments and voice in an upbeat, lively manner. It is interesting to note too that when a jazz pianist goes off on some improvisational tangent, they continue to comp with their left hand while their right hand plays some notes off the cuff. 

Another fun fact to note about jazz music is that the guitarist can either fit in with the horn section (i.e., play one note throughout the piece) or the rhythm section. 

Of course, the instruments vary based on the style of jazz that the band plays, like bebop, modern jazz, or jazz fusion.

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