WWW – Hardwoods, the Heartbeat of Jazz, Pt. 2

History of Jazz Guitars

Guitars are typically seen as a core instrument of any modern band. However, without the rise of jazz, guitars would have never developed into the lead instruments they are today. Before the musicians that filled New Orleans revolutionized the way we enjoy music, guitars were played quietly alongside the banjo as rhythm instruments. Guitars were merely used to keep the drummers and singers on beat while providing simple and enjoyable background music.

In the 1920s, New Orleans jazz guitar was born out of the invention of the electric amplifier. Wooden acoustic guitars have been used for centuries, but the electric amplifier brought a new realm of possibilities to the stage. The streets and courtyards of New Orleans were constantly filled with numerous bands, so many jazz artists saw the electric amp as a necessity to even be heard over surrounding bands. Jazz guitarists took this as an opportunity to craft intense, attention-grabbing guitar solos. This is also where the invention of the archtop electric guitar came to fruition. Jazz guitarists initiated the creation of the steel-stringed, full wooden-bodied electric guitar that pumps out the popular sounds and melodies that we now hear in almost every genre of music today.

How They’re Made

Guitar bodies can be crafted out of a wide variety of hardwoods. These include walnut, poplar, alder, basswood, maple, ash, and even a variety of exotic hardwoods. Each species of hardwood has unique acoustic properties, and they can all produce different sounds and tones. Each guitarist may prefer a different species for their guitar due to the array of tonal qualities that each species has. For example, maple guitar bodies tend to produce bright, uplifting sounds while basswood guitar bodies tend to produce warm, balanced sounds. The fretboard is also crafted out of wood. Rosewood, maple, and ebony are popular when making fretboards because of their durability and beauty.

Learn more about the history of jazz while you’re in New Orleans for the NHLA Convention from October 2-4! Learn more about the Convention here: http://bit.ly/Register_NHLA