Watch the Smooth vs. Jazz online guitar lesson by Paul Brown from Smooth Jazz Handbook
There are a lot of similarities in smooth jazz and jazz and there are also a lot of differences. For me, jazz is more about improvisation, and smooth is more about the song itself, the main melody. In jazz a lot of musicians say goodbye to the melody and start to experiment with the chords and the harmonic structure and take that to wherever they want to take it. Sometimes it has to do with the song and sometimes it doesn't. In smooth jazz, in the solo sections you are taking the melody and expounding on a theme and coming back to the melody. There is a lot more theme involved like pop music. Typically in a pop song you'll have the A section. like a vocal song, you have a little verse and then a pre-chorus, and then a hook or a chorus. And then a second verse and a second pre-chorus and a second hook, set up like a pop sing, or an R&B song. Where a jazz song is more set up with an A section, the head. Then they usually go into soloing and sometimes that soloing has a reflection of the song and sometimes it doesn't. The basic difference between the two is the smooth jazz is more rhythmic oriented and jazz is more harmonic oriented. When you're soloing you're actually thinking about the harmonic structure and where you can go and where you can take it. In smooth jazz you are sticking more within the boundaries of the harmonic structure and thinking more rhythmic ideas. I think that opens up a big world for a lot more musicians because I think it's a lot more difficult and cerebral to go off on these tangents in terms of the harmony of the song. In a pop song you are sticking to the structure and seeing how you can weave your way through it and tell a story through the melodic structure that's laid out. That to me is the biggest difference. You can dig into a song and it doesn't have to be complicated. The use of restraint is very important in smooth jazz. There's a lot of musicians in smooth jazz, like a Bob James or a Bony James. They have the ability to play jazz or play anything. It just flows out of them, but they have an incredible amount of restraint in their playing and it really works well within smooth jazz because you can do a lot with a little. You can say a lot with a few notes, you don't need a million notes, you don't need something to be dissonant or somehow angular and in smooth jazz everything is a little bit less angular and smoother.