WWW – The Heartbeat of Jazz, Pt. 3

History of Jazz Piano

The first piano was created in Italy around the year 1700, and it was made almost entirely out of hardwood and metal. Pianos quickly became one of the most popular, versatile instruments in Western music.

While piano was wildly popular in almost every Western genre, pianos weren’t featured in jazz music until the late 1890s. In jazz’s early stages, marching bands were all the rage, and pianos were typically a stationary instrument. However, pianos were huge in the ragtime scene. Ragtime was a popular music sensation in the mid-to-late-1800s throughout the United States, and the many talented ragtime musicians had a huge impact on the jazz scene of New Orleans. By the late 1890s, the popularity of marching bands was starting to die down, and the rise of jazz bands jumped quickly. Though the popularity of jazz bands took off in the 1890s, pianos and pianists were still playing ragtime beats and compositions until the 1920s, when a style known as stride was born in Harlem, New York. The stride technique involved using the left hand to create rhythm while the right hand improvised melodies, and this innovation was the piano’s first dive into jazz music. Once stride made its way to New Orleans, jazz musicians throughout the city took to the keys with their impeccable improvising skills. Since then, jazz pianists have created an innumerable amount of styles and compositions that have continued to influence the music world to this day.

How They’re Made

Pianos are some of the most intricate instruments with over 12,000 individual parts. The major parts of a piano are the keyboard, hammers, dampers, bridge, soundboard, and strings. Many parts of the piano are crafted out of hardwoods. For example, hardwood piano rims are often crafted out of hard maple, and piano manufacturers typically laminate thin strips of plywood and bend them to the desired shape. Hard maple is the most common species used in a variety of piano pieces because of its durability and longevity. Hard maple also has wonderful acoustic qualities.

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