from the Jazz Index
Jazz is an original American art form that began in the southern United States in the early 20th century. Two basic elements set this art form apart from classical music: 1) Improvisation and 2) Rhythm.
One of the basic differences between jazz and classical music is that jazz musicians improvise. Musical improvisation is a creative process that requires the jazz artist to be spontaneous, composing music with on their instrument or scat singing music that has never been played or written down before.
Another important difference between jazz and classical music has to do with the way rhythms are performed. While most classical and jazz music looks the same, the rhythms are performed differently. Classical music typically places an emphasis on the first and third beats of each measure. Jazz music switches that emphasis to beats two and four of each measure, as well as placing an emphasis on the upbeats. The tension created by switching the emphasis to the second and fourth beats and the stressing of upbeats within the measure is called syncopation.
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