What Is a Jazz Fusion Guitar?

by Lawrence Koenig

Traditional jazz is a musical expression that allows a musician to play in an improvised free-formed style. Jazz fusion refers to the combination of traditional jazz with rhythm and blues and funk bass lines. Often referred to as "jazz rock," jazz fusion emerged in the late 1960s and flowered in the 1970s and 1980s. Although this music requires distinctive guitar playing technique, the guitars used to play this music are standard electric models.

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History

Until the 1960s, the worlds of jazz and rock were seen as entirely separate spheres, but as one discipline affected the other the meld became a new distinctive form. Jazz fusion guitar began when smoother melodies and the baselines of both funk and R&B began to influence jazz in an entirely different direction. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter were all early practitioners of jazz fusion.

Jazz Fusion Style

Jazz fusion guitar is a free-form style that also incorporates electronic-based sounds and R&B chords and structure. Jazz fusion was initially dominated by other solo instruments such as the trumpet and the saxophone. But as jazz guitarists began to pull in the rhythms and stylings of their counterparts, an entirely new style of guitar play emerged. Jazz fusion has its own chords and scales and course of study offered by guitar instructors.

Jazz Fusion Artists

With such a specific genre of music such as jazz fusion, you can expect several standout artists who specialize in this singular unique expression of jazz. Mike Miller, a Los Angeles based guitarist, John McLaughlin, a Yorkshire guitarist, and Roman Miroshnichnenko of Russia are a few prominent jazz fusion guitarists. Most fusion guitarists perform with several bands over their careers along with their solo careers and live performances. Brad Barr, Emily Remler, and Andy Summers are also prominent guitarists carrying on the tradition of jazz fusion.

Studying Jazz Fusion Guitar

Guitar students wishing to master this form of music must learn the specific scales, chords and styling that other fusion guitarists have established over the years. This includes learning legato phrases, arpeggio and pentatonic phrases. Students must also master several electronic effects required, such as a heavy reverb. Most Jazz fusion guitarist settle on a style that incorporates three notes per string, which is difficult to master.

About the Author

Lawrence Koenig has been a technical writer since 1988. His expertise includes the U.S. military, hospitality and transportation industries. Koenig holds a Bachelor of Science in literature from Oral Roberts University and he is pursuing a Master of in Education.

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