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Bebop or bop is a form of jazz which uses a fast tempo and complex improvisational techniques. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. Hard bop later developed from bebop.


Many Big Band musicians in New York City would associate at Minton's Playhouse, a small jazz club. There the musicians were free to improvise as they wished, free of what some considered the restrictions of an audience expecting smooth, dancable versions of popular songs.

The creation of bebop language is generally credited to Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, who, among others, took part in jams at Minton's.

Bebop was criticized by some contemporaries for being too technical. (Louis Armstrong opined famously that bebop was incomprehensible "Chinese Music.") Gillespie was quoted as saying that this demanding techinque was exactly his goal, to elevate the music to a level where only the most elite musicians could participate.

Several earlier swing-era musicians are often cited as influencing the development of bebop, including saxophone players Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and guitarist Charlie Christian. Though Armstrong expressed a dislike for bebop, he was revered by many boppers, who sometimes "quoted" his musical phrases by incorporating fragments of Armstrong's recorded improvisations in their own songs.


Many bebop tunes were based on chord progressions (also called chord changes) from popular songs, which allowed recording artists to avoid paying copyright fees. The chord changes to the song "I Got Rhythm" by George Gershwin were so often used that they are often referred to simply as "Rhythm Changes." Jazz musicians had always improvised solos over chord changes, but writing entirely new compositions based on existing chord changes was an innovation.

The typical bebop combo consisted of bass, drums, and piano, with two horn. Perhaps the classic 1940s bebop combo was Charlie Parker on alto sax, Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Max Roach on drums, Percy Heath on bass, and Bud Powell on piano.


The name bebop (also called rebop) is an imitation of a characteristic quick two-note phrase that was played together by the lead instruments to introduce a solo or end a song.

Another proposed etymology for Bebop--possibly apocryphal--states that Gillespie had performed a song titled "Be-bop." An audience member asked "What was that?" meaning the style or form of music. Gillespie assumed the question regarded the song's title, and replied, leading to the genre's name.

Bebop Musicians

Other notable musicians identified with bebop:

Jazz | Jazz genres
Bebop - Dixieland - Cool jazz - Free jazz - Hard bop - Modal jazz - Soul jazz
Swing jazz - Acid jazz - Jazz fusion - Jazz rap - Nu jazz - Latin jazz - Smooth jazz