Blues Vs Jazz, Understand The Difference

For a musical newbie, you are more than likely to mix up blues with jazz because they share a lot of similarities.

But here’s the truth: 

The core, origins, styles, and choices of these music genres are actually VERY different when properly looked at.


Though many believe that jazz came out of the blues or that jazz has its roots in blues. 


You don’t want to give way to common belief to dismay you from the actual facts. Right?


In this article, you will discover the true differences between Blues vs Jazz.

Here we go with the introductions first:

What Is Blues?

Blues is a genre of music based on traditional blues chord patterns, scales, and emotive lyrics, often performed by a solo guitarist/vocalist. 

In addition:

A reiterating progression of chords such as the 12 bar blues is played to lyrics. The lyrics are mostly a narrative about the woes of life: loss, love, maltreatment, and poverty.


What Is Jazz?

On the flip side:

Jazz is a music genre developed partially from ragtime and blues. It is often characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, deviation of music pitch and the use of original timbres.


Let’s get to the origin story.

Musical Background Of The Blues And Jazz

Before you can completely understand the differences between blues and jazz, there has to be a proper understanding of their respective origins. 


Let’s see: 


Blues originated in the Delta region of Mississippi sometime after the Civil War (the late 1800s). African American work songs, spirituals, and field hollers/calls formed the basis of blues. 


Blues was originally rural music, played by individuals on low income and easily available instruments such as a harmonica or a guitar played with a slide. 

In addition:

The songs were originally slow laments with flat notes or blue notes, which gave it a completely different sound than European music.


The music structure, when combined with European music elements, solidified into a 12 bar blues pattern, coupled with an AAB lyric pattern. 

In this type of lyric pattern; 

  • The first line is sung 
  • The second line repeats it 
  • Then the third line resolves the thought.


In between the vocal lines, a space is left for the instrument to respond. This is called “call and response”. 

Call and response can also be sung between the main singer and background singers


Between two musical instruments.


Jazz originated in New Orleans, Louisiana in the early 1900s. 

Unlike in the Delta, slaves had been allowed to get together on weekends and play drums and dance. 

Fun fact: 

This preserved the drum rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the tradition of embellishments and improvisation. 


When African American musicians then played in horn-based bands, they carried on this tradition. The blues was also an influence, adding blue notes to the musical scales used.  

To top it off:

Almost any kind of song can be played in a jazz style, including blues songs, therefore there is a much wider variation in song structure in jazz. 

In general 

Jazz is not about what is played, it’s about how the tune is being played.

Difference Between The Blues And Jazz

Now, let’s get started:

Cultural origins 

  • Blues: 

Late 19th Century origins, mainly from the southern USA. 

  • Jazz: 

This has an Early 20th Century origins, a blend of cultures (African American and European) in the Southern USA.

Musical Origin

  • Blues: It was derived from Bluegrass, R&B, and Rock.  
  • Jazz: It comes from Calypso, Funk, Soul, and Swing.

It’s essential to know that Blues was around way before Jazz.


Blues can be considered an element of Jazz music.

Stylistic Origin

  • Blues: 

African American folk music with spiritual origins is inspired by African American churches and spiritual songs. 

  • Jazz:

It consists of a blended mix of African/European musical techniques and traditions from home, church, work.

Instruments Used

  • Blues: 

The guitar, piano, bass, harmonica, drums, double bass, vocals, saxophone, trumpet, fiddle, trombone. 

  • Jazz: 

The guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, trumpet, drum kit, clarinet, double bass, tuba.

There’s still more:

The Focus Of The Music 

  • Blues 

For blues music, you’ll most likely find a single guitar player or vocalist, with a vast experience of emotional and personal lyrics laced throughout the music.

  • Jazz:

For example: 

It has been widely acknowledged that the main focus of jazz music is the relationship between the instruments and the phenomenal dynamic created with sound. 


Due to this, quite often jazz music doesn’t involve any lyrics at all and instead puts the instruments right at the centre of the sound.

The Beat And Tone Of The Music 

The tone and beat of the music is another major difference: 

  • Blues: 

It is melancholic, sharp and slow.


The format/rhythm of the music can sound very similar from one song to the next. 

  • Jazz: 

This music is often a lot more lively and upbeat than blues music. Jazz is mostly associated with swinging and swaying movements, lively atmospheres and even abstract, unpredictable noise.

Definition Of The Music 

  • Jazz: 

Jazz is so unpredictable and can take on many different forms, speeds, tones. Jazz is flexible and undefined as well.

  • Blues:

The notes and rhythms of blues sound similar and sometimes predictable.  

Notable Artists

  • Blues:

Some popular Blues artists include Sonny Boy Williamson, B.B. King, Big Bill Broonzy, Eric Clapton, Gus Cannon, Ma Rainey and John Lee Hooker.  

  • Jazz:

Some popular Jazz musicians include Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock.

In Conclusion 

Reading this article must have surely given you a lot of insight into the differences between blues and jazz. 


You’ve now got bragging rights to talk about blues or jazz amongst your friends and also share some knowledge and get other people on the right track about the differences.