Blues music surrounds us everywhere. What do Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and Aretha Franklin have in common? Their music uses the blues directly!
While traditional blues forms are fairly easy to distinguish due to their speed and smooth tone, various other blues forms emerged to keep the blues alive in America's changing culture.
Let's get to the history of the blues.
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With roots in African American spiritual and work songs, blues music has taken hold within the African American community to inspire a spiritual or emotional connection with its people.
Although there are many forms of blues music, a good standard definition of blues music is a song based on a twelve-bar blues chord progression, often attempting to draw attention to social injustice.
African-American labor and spiritual songs, sometimes called field whoops, helped enslaved workers on railroads and cotton fields coordinate their labor.
These call-and-response chants not only gave them a sense of community, but allowed the slaves to express the kind of emotions they felt when they faced injustice on a daily basis.
African American spirituals evolved into what is known as rural or traditional blues. This traditional blues was often passed down orally from generation to generation and introduced the use of the guitar as an accompaniment. Like the spirituals, these songs were meant to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
One of the greatest gifts blues music brought to America was the ability for African Americans to express themselves and advocate for equality in the 20th century.
While there was still a significant divide in how white Americans viewed African Americans in the early 20th century, blues music, particularly classical blues, appealed to many white listeners.
For the first time, a mixed audience of blacks and whites took place, and African Americans were beginning to gain a foothold in the world of professional music.
Blues music set the stage for Classic Blues, Mississippi Delta, Country Blues, Boogie-Woogie Blues, Jump Blues, Chicago Electric Blues, R&B, Rock n' Roll, Soul, Funk and more.
Probably not blues music, there wouldn't be much music at all.
While the many variations of the blues have their own specific styles and techniques, there are a few distinctive values that most, if not all, blues songs share.
First on the list are curved notes. Bowed notes are defined as any pitch outside of the traditional European scale structure.
For example, if a traditional C major scale consists of the notes: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, and a composer plays an F sharp or an A flat instead of an F or an A flat natural, this would happen add a slope. Note.
When you listen to blues music, bent tones are everywhere. They often add a sense of freedom or excitement to a song, and can also be used as accents to add emphasis to a word or phrase.
The final common theme in blues music is the use of the one rhythm that is accented. Usually there are four beats in a bar. A bar is simply a method of separating each group of four beats.
In blues music, the first beat of each bar is accented. If only one guitar is played, it strums on beats one and three. The bass drum plays on one and three.
Some other examples of rhythms being accented in music to indicate a genre can be seen in waltz music and reggae.
Waltzes also emphasize the beat, so you might be wondering, "What makes that different from blues music?"
Waltzs have bars that consist of only three beats; Therefore, when the tempo is accelerated, these waltzes can be counted as one-beat bars. With blues music, this is not possible for two reasons: the tempo of blues music is usually relatively slow, and it has non-negotiable total bars of four beats.
Although reggae music is a derivative of R&B and also an ancestor of blues music, the beat is often left unaccented. As the kick drum continues on one and three, you'll hear the rhythm guitar on two and four.
The final distinguishing feature of blues music is the twelve-bar phrase. A blues song consists of approximately three four-bar phrases, totaling twelve bars.
Three chords are used within this twelve bar phrase. Surprisingly, most blues songs only use these three chords to create their song.
To expand on this explanation, a twelve bar blues phrase can be broken down into three four bar phrases.
These four-bar phrases can be broken down into a four-bar phrase and then into three consecutive two-bar groups.
Let's call them set A, set B and set C.
The A phrase is made up of the first degree of the scale, also known as the tonic chord. Phrase B contains the fourth degree of the scale, or the subdominant chord. The C phrase has the fifth scale degree or dominant chord.
Scale degrees can be defined as the number of notes removed from the original key name. Using the example of the C major scale again, F would be the fourth scale degree in that key since it is four notes away from C (counting C as one).
With this information, the standard form of a 12-bar blues phrase should look like this (phrase letter followed by the number of bars it will occupy): A(4), B(2), A(2), C(2) , A (2).
Now that you're an expert on the form, it's time to delve into the masters of the twelve-bar blues.
"Tom Rushen" is a Mississippi Delta blues song that tells the story of an African American man who is abused by a white man named Tom Rushen.
This song uses many of the same elements as country blues, but uses the music to talk about the daily struggles of African Americans during that time. The twelve-bar blues pattern is clearly heard in this simple song.
With roots in the ragtime era of Tin Pan Alley, "St. Louis Blues" is an all-instrumental orchestral song that demonstrates what classic blues is all about. It was intended to appeal to a white audience while also incorporating traditional blues aspects.
Handy continually uses doubled notes throughout the piece while maintaining a marching feel. The first half is still stressed despite the cut-off time mark. It's a real mix of blues and classical music from the early 20th century.
One of the most recorded songs of all time, there have been multiple renditions of this song in the years that followed, all adding various blues elements to varying degrees.
A country-blues favorite, "That Black Snake Moan" chronicles the singer's struggle with personal demons.
Jefferson spoke mainly of the disadvantages he faced as a blind African American. This song showcases the raspy vocals and guitar work of the Mississippi Delta blues.
During the big band craze, blues emerged in the form of boogie-woogie blues. The "Rocket Boogie" is an excellent example of solo piano making use of the accented rhythms of the blues while utilizing the blues' doubling notes and twelve-bar phrasing.
The form of this song is very improvised while staying within the chord shape. The use of drums, bass and guitar adds to the song's dance feel while staying true to its blues roots.
With its soulful orchestral writing and powerful social message, "A Change is Gonna Come" is one of the most important blues/R&B songs of all time.
The song tells how African Americans still face many dangers and prejudices in society. Cooke is committed to an equal world. The solemn tone in which she sings is filled with a sad and hopeful tone.
"Black Night" is a prime example of crooner blues. Soft voices tell the story of a man who cannot find his way in the dark night.
While the vocal style on this song is undoubtedly very different from the usual gritty blues vocals, improvisation and off-notes are still evident.
Featuring an electric guitar that accompanies a solid, gritty voice, "Still a Fool" is the perfect song to realize that rock n' roll's true roots lie in blues music. The song is about a singer who falls in love with another man's wife.
While the tempo and chord progression are consistent with a blues song, the use of electric guitars was innovative at the time and helped create the Chicago Electric Blues and laid the foundation for rock 'n' roll.
The fast tempo of "Maybellene" sets it apart from the blues songs. Berry shows signs of a cheating girlfriend over a fast drumbeat and between guitar riffs.
While this song falls more into the rock 'n' roll category, it's a prime example of how the blues created the rock genre. The singer still sings about personal conflicts over a 12-bar blues phrase while emphasizing beats one and three.
"Georgia On my Mind" is a mix of many genres but still fits into the blues category. As he sings about the loss of his love, Charles uses blues crooner vocal technique over bent-notes style piano dialogue, a choir and a string ensemble.
As it moves on, it's the emotional lyrics and slow tempo that keep this modern song true to traditional blues.
Known as the "Father of the Blues", W.C. Handy was a former school teacher who toured the southern United States playing and composing for classical blues bands.
He composed the hits "Memphis Blues" and "St.Louis Blues". His goal was to draw white audiences to his music through orchestration, while also exposing them to styles integrated with blues music.
His tactics often worked, and his music became extremely popular with black-and-white audiences.
Blind Lemon Jefferson was born blind, but that didn't stop him from singing the blues across America. He is often credited with creating country blues.
With singles like "That Black Snake Moan," his style is characterized by clean vocals, call-and-response tactics, and his use of humor and storytelling in his music.
AlthoughcocinaStarting out as a gospel singer, he broke into the world of rock n' roll and blues in 1956. He wanted to bring spirituality to the world of rock.
The song "Change is Gonna Come" is his best-known song and shows how in his work he tried to bring about social change through emotions.
Charles Brown had a soft voice which he often used in the blues crooner. Although some of his styles differed greatly from the traditional blues, he was a gifted songwriter.
He emphasized that people need to stay in touch with their roots while having a sense of pride and independence about where they came from and where they are now.
Muddy Waters was the first to really integrate the electric guitar into blues music. He initially did this to be heard among the noisy crowds in bars.
Eventually, Waters had an entire band play with him and created the Chicago Electric Blues genre.
His frequent use of distortion and feedback on electric guitar paved the way for rock 'n' roll style guitarists while still retaining many of the themes exhibited on Mississippi Delta Blues.
The transition from African American spirituals to true folk or traditional blues occurred in the late 19th century south between the Mississippi Delta and East Texas.
While the country blues still existed in Country Whoops for working people to sing along to, thanks to W.C. Handy to incorporate into your classic blues compositions.
W.C Handy also helped introduce audiences of all races to new techniques in blues music, such as B. curved notes and pounding rhythms.
Traveling blues musicians like Gertrude "Ma" Rainey helped introduce traditional blues to black audiences in the United States.
By the 1920s, the Mississippi Delta Blues style had become popular, characterized by its narrative of the lives and daily struggles of African Americans.
In the 1930s, country blues emerged. Blind Lemon Jefferson kept all the elements of the Mississippi Delta blues style but added guitar riffs and humor to please the crowd.
Guitar playing soon became a more central part of the blues. Robert Johnson was such a fine country blues guitarist that people thought he sold his soul to the devil to learn his skills.
Before World War II, big bands came into their own when country blues found its way into the hands of solo pianists who needed to be heard in loud places.
Pianists like Pete Johnson began to implement blues elements such as bowed notes and more rhythmic bass lines while playing with bands.
After World War II, most big bands broke up into smaller bands due to lack of funds.It became a staple of the blues genre as the burgeoning economy asked for an increase in music.
In the 1960s, the social justice movement grew louder among African Americans, as seen in Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come.
Jump blues and Chicago electric blues came out of R&B. The use of stage presence and electric guitar with vocals in traditional blues music helped set the stage for rock 'n' roll, reggae, and funk music.
In today's musical landscape, traditional blues is most commonly seen in the form of R&B. As of 2020, R&B is the third most popular music genre in the US.
If you want to hear great blues music, you can get it on most free streaming platforms such as B. search for the genreSpotifyo Youtube.
Note that searching for R&B returns different results than searching for Chicago Electric Blues. Listening to others will give you an idea of what they like and don't like.
You can also find great blues music in your community. Part of the beauty of blues music is that it is meant to create an emotional and spiritual connection by telling stories about everyday life.
Visit your local bars and restaurants to meet up-and-coming artists. Blues music can be a powerful experience when subjected to live performance.
While there will always be innovations in blues music as it is still loved, played and rediscovered by millions of people around the world, appreciating the history of the blues is crucial.
Blues music isn't just a stage-setting art formseveral different genresmusic, but a powerful voice that has told stories of injustice, lost love and forgotten opportunities over time.
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