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How to Choose Jazz Band Instruments

When you challenge yourself to learn something new, especially something you’re really excited about, it’s one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have. Understanding and playing music is a wonderful skill to acquire. Whether you do it alone or with a group of people who share your interests, it’s a lot of fun. Even if you’re seeking to go out of your comfort zone, several jazz instruments are simple to learn and a lot of fun to play. Depending on the amount of time you will have available to learn a new instrument, the space you have, and your budget, will all help you determine which is right for you when you go to choose jazz band instruments.

What Instruments are Used in Jazz?

What Jazz Instrument Should I Play?

In jazz music, a wide range of instruments is used to create the distinctive and improvisational sounds that define the genre. One of the most prominent instruments in jazz is the trumpet. Its bright and piercing tone allows for expressive solos and melodic lines that cut through the ensemble. The saxophone, both alto and tenor, is another essential instrument in jazz. With its rich and soulful sound, the saxophone adds depth and emotion to the music, often taking on lead roles in improvisation. The piano, with its versatility and harmonic possibilities, provides the foundation and rhythm for jazz ensembles. Jazz pianists employ intricate chord progressions, rhythmic comping, and melodic improvisation to create complex and engaging solos. The double bass, known for its warm and resonant tones, holds the rhythm section together by providing the foundational bass lines and maintaining the pulse of the music. The drums, including the snare, bass drum, hi-hat, and cymbals, play a crucial role in establishing the rhythm and driving the energy of jazz. Drummers use a variety of techniques to create dynamic patterns, syncopated rhythms, and lively fills, adding excitement and propelling the music forward. Other instruments commonly found in jazz include the trombone, clarinet, guitar, and vibraphone, each contributing its unique voice to the ensemble and expanding the sonic palette of jazz music.

In addition to these traditional jazz instruments, modern jazz has also embraced electronic instruments and technology. Electric guitars, synthesizers, and electronic keyboards have found their way into jazz ensembles, allowing for new sonic possibilities and blending genres like fusion jazz. Jazz musicians have always been open to experimentation and innovation, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is considered “traditional” in their quest for artistic expression. Whether it’s the soulful wail of a saxophone, the intricate melodies of a piano, or the driving rhythms of a drum set, the diverse array of instruments used in jazz contributes to its rich and ever-evolving sound.

Band Instruments List:


Jazz trumpets are well-known for their ability to provide the genre’s signature loud and brilliant tone. Cornets may also be substituted for trumpets since they provide the same sharp sound. Trumpets may be rented or purchased at a reasonable price, making them an accessible instrument for beginners.

The sound of a trumpet is unmatched by any other instrument in jazz. As a jazz musician, you’ll need this instrument if you wish to emulate the greats like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong. The trumpet may be one of the most challenging instruments on our list to learn, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll be able to play this brass instrument with ease.


The piano is not just for classical music! This instrument also has a strong presence as a jazz band instrument. It’s one of the most popular instruments for beginners to learn and can be quite versatile. With it being so common, many individuals already know basic chords from messing around with the instrument on a whim at a friend or relative’s house. Playing jazz piano involves a deeper understanding of rhythm because pianists are often playing different rhythms in each hand. Beginning jazz pianists may look up to players like Thelonious Monk or Herbie Hancock to help understand jazz piano style.


Saxophones are one of the most well-known jazz instruments, and they are often the first instrument that comes to mind when one thinks of jazz band instruments. If you weren’t aware, saxophones exist in a range of sizes, each with its own sound. The alto sax is the most common size to begin with, followed by the tenor sax. Though many jazz saxophone players also play the soprano saxophone, made famous by jazz legends like John Coltrane, and some even choose to play the baritone saxophone which plays in the lower register.


The trombone provides a sense of theatricality to a jazz band, and due to the instrument’s size, it is often one of the most recognized on the bandstand. Trombones were used initially in jazz as a supporting part within the Dixie Group during Dixieland Jazz. The trombone took off throughout the 1930’s jazz period, reaching a height of popularity in the genre. Most musicians begin with a Tenor Trombone (which is often used only in jazz), and as they gain skill, they may progress to a Bass Trombone or Bb/F model if they choose to play more traditionally. Renting a trombone for jazz might be ideal for beginners as they learn and grow into the type of trombone they wish to end up playing long term.


The baseline of a song is sometimes seen as the piece’s backbone, especially in jazz music. It is one of the simplest instruments on our list to learn and does not need the intricate chord progressions that a standard guitar requires. Simply having an excellent sense of rhythm and the ability to pluck off a few notes can have you quickly establishing the ideal “foundation” for a jazz tune. However, for bass guitar players, they not only need the bass instrument itself, but if they choose to play an electric bass they will need an amplifier. The upright bass is often the jazz band instrument of choice for more experienced jazz bassists and may be the ultimate goal for a beginning jazz bassists.


In a jazz ensemble, the drums are the main percussion instrument, and they maintain the song’s rhythm and momentum and can also play a major role in dictating the “swing” and style of a tune. Typically, a drum set consists of a bass drum and a foot pedal for playing. In front of the drummer are the snare drum, toms, and cymbals. Generally, a drum kit used for jazz is not as complex as ones young players may see rock bands using.


Today, jazz tunes are often performed with at least one guitar. The guitar is a very versatile instrument, similar to the piano in regards to its role in the band. It requires coordination for playing chords and rhythm, but can also be used as a soloing instrument. Typically, jazz bands have amplified guitars, but don’t always require the use of several pedals like some rock, blues, or country bands might have.

Renting Vs. Buying Jazz Band Instruments

Jazz Band Rental

Without a doubt, renting an instrument is the most flexible option for beginners. With renting an instrument, repair and maintenance services are offered to keep the instrument in optimal playing condition. Renting also will give you the ability to exchange the instrument until the player feels like they have found the right instrument. Instruments that are rented to students are offered at affordable monthly rates.


Purchasing an instrument requires a little more commitment than renting one. In the long run, it may be less costly than renting, but you do lose some flexibility.

If you are considering purchasing an instrument, here are some guidelines to help you decide if buying is the right option:

  • The instrument will be played for at least two years
  • The budget to purchase the instrument
  • The space to store and practice the instrument

Buy a Jazz Band Instrument At CIOMIT!

Whether you want to upgrade to a more professional instrument or are just getting started, CIOMIT offers a large variety of new and used jazz band instruments to suit any budget, from beginner instruments to high-quality professional instruments. Our expertise working with both school bands and seasoned professionals has shaped the selection of instruments we offer and allows us to pair musicians with an instrument that complements their style and musical development. Contact Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology for more information about buying and renting instruments!

If you are still considering a few Jazz Instruments, and would like help deciding what to play we invite you to join us at Instrument Setup Nights at CIOMIT.