In-depth Analysis of the Blues Music
Blues refers to a name used to show both a music genre and a form of music. There are different types of Blues genres. There is the traditional Country genre used to describe the version that was in the rural Mississippi Delta including the other rural locales. The jump Blues are a genre of Blues that are easy to dance to and consist of a combination of Blues and swing founded by Louis Jordan. The Boogie- Woogie Blues is the piano-based genre that was publicized by musicians such as Pete Johnson, Albert Ammon among others. Then there is the Chicago Blues that refers to an electrified version of the Delta Blues. The cool Blues are a more complex piano-based genre that borrowed a lot from Jazz music and lastly, there is the West Coast Blues that was largely marketed by musicians from Texas who moved to California. West Coast Blues are angelic and draw a lot of inciting from the swing beat.
The Blues is a slow type of music that originated from the Mississippi Delta back in the last decade of the 18th Century. Afterwards in the 1930s Black Americans moved into Chicago and introduced Blues music in their new locality after which this type of music was also adopted in Memphis. It was later in the 1950s that the Blues music evolved from being more of Country music to become Urban Blues which resembled city music and was largely accepted nationally though it remained African Americans music deterred by racial barriers despite artists such as B.B King moving around the country playing it to the crowds. In the 1960s through unpopular among the Whites, some of their kids were getting to know it which led to its acceptance among Rock bands such as the ‘British Invasion’ whose activities were centred around Blues music. It was a group of white youths who had moved to Chicago South and adopted not only their music but their way of life who broke the barriers of racism reaching out to both White and Black Americans with Blues music while acknowledging the real originators of this type of music including Muddy Waters, and B.B King among others. It was as if there was an important secret had been unleashed and Americans were now embracing the undiluted form of Blues transforming musicians lives as in the case of Riley B King who rose to fame at the age of 14 years after having survived on 2.50 dollars every month before venturing into music (McLaughlin & Braniff,, 2020).
Many wonder why this type of music was called Blues. in the past 17th century there was a term known as ‘blue devils” that was used to mention hallucinations that were related to high withdrawal from alcohol. but later it was shortened to ‘the blues’ a phrase that stands for sadness or a state of mental depression. Later couples would engage in romantic dances while having drinks in the rural juke joints with the ‘bluesman’ singing and playing the guitar. Although W. C Handy later forced an unnatural structure into the Blues music, the three-line blues came from call and response songs that were created by slaves while working in the fields (Gussow, 2018). The songs were based on the chores that were to be done where the lead singer would repeat the first line twice giving the subsequent singers enough time to come up with an appropriate reply that would form the third line. The song was mostly sad to show emotion and express the identity of the slaves back then.
The Blues type of music has a distinct structure and form that is characterized by a chord progression known as the 12 bar blues or blue changes. This is usually the beginning point for many musicians getting together as it forms the core structure from which the music is constructed. This type of chord is usually present almost in every existing Blue song but has also been used in Jazz music. An example of a Blues song with this chord is ‘Pride and Joy”. The Blue changes type of chord extends up to 12 bars that are repeated through the whole song. It consists of I, IV, as well as V chords. Blues songs have a call and response in addition to some improvised sections. Blues song uses the AAB lyrics that normally has no chorus and use the last line as the refrain. In this type of music, the refrain acts as the response to the previous, statement, question or comment in A sections. Chord I is usually dominant in the very first A section while the IV chord appears in the following second A section. Lastly, the V chord is seen in the B section or refrain. It is important to note however that not all Blues music utilizes the 12 bar structure and in some songs, the 8, 16 and 24 bars have been used with AAB lyrics layout. A good example is ‘Carol’ sung by Chuck Berry in 1958 where the 24 bars were used (Bennett, 2019).
With regards to harmony, Blues music is usually a blend of both the minor and major tonalities. It resembles other Western songs in terms of keys but incorporates a lot of modal interchanges. The song could be in for example a major key but obtains a minor I chord resulting in ♭3 as well as the ♮11. The Blues notes are intended discordances used to go against the rules of harmony. Blues have distinctive harmony characterized by the blues scale and V7 turn around chord and is mainly related to dormant, sub dormant as well as tonic keys.
Another interesting characteristic of the Blues music is its melody and texture. Most of the melodies fall within the Blues scale that comprises distinct scales with different pitch numbers and related features. Blues have a homophonic texture as in the case of a musician playing the piano and singing simultaneously. It is also characterized by Blue notes sung at the varying pitch that is different from the standard in addition to riffs that form either the introduction or the refrains in a song. Another feature of the Blues melody and structure is the walking baselines made up of notes that are of equal intensity and time span (1/4 notes) creating feelings of forwarding movement.
Blues music are known for using a lot of Jazz and Swing rhythms including syncopation in which a single initial beat that has long notes which are emphasized by the singer. The time signature for Blues is 4/4. Swing rhythm is necessary for creating most blues songs. The blues rhythm calms and relaxes the mind hence can make one fall asleep easily due to its slow tempo. The Blues music also uses triplets in their rhythm. Blues music are generally loaded with emotions that can be expressed in a variety of ways. The most common dynamics used in these songs are string bends, staccato chords unusual harmonic phrasing as well as Glissandos.
There are a number of instruments used in creating Blues music. In the early day (the 1800s), the Banjo which is strung was the dominant instrument used in Blues music. Later the guitar and the piano were added in the 1900s. In today’s modern world other instruments popular with blues include the brass instruments that usually play with mutes, then there is the saxophone, the acoustic as well as electric guitar, Dixieland drum and the double bass used to create a walking bass line. The wide variety of instruments adapted for Blues music is the main reason for the evolution of blues music into the many genres present in the world today (Mora, 2016).
The blues music has impacted many of the well-known musical styles. Its 12 bar structure offers platforms for musicians to freely bring out their ideas with a structure with possibilities of being interpreted in many different ways. Styles such as rhythm ‘n’ blues, hip hop among others got inspiration from Blues music which played an integral part in shaping their work as many confess. There have uncertainties on the continuity of this type of music as in the case of the famous Blues musician Buddy Guy who expressed his fears in that many young people are neither listening to Blues songs nor venturing into creating more of such songs which might result in Blues fading from the memory of people with each new generation (Cremin, 2019). The songs are also not played as many times as other genres on the radio. To ensure this type of music remains legendary, it would be important to change the production of this type of music to adopt new technology and create a variety of sounds. In addition creating and encouraging new collaborations to both re-invent songs of pioneer Blues musicians as well as create new songs to enhance continuity in the constantly evolving music world.
Bennett, A. (2019). Reviews: Time in the Blues. Popular Music, 38(2), 350-352.
Cremin, D. H. (2019). Waiting for Buddy Guy: Chicago Blues at the Crossroads by Alan Harper. Middle West Review, 5(2), 163-165.
Gussow, A. (2018). WC Handy and the “Birth” of the Blues. Southern Cultures, 24(4), 42-68.
McLaughlin, N., & Braniff, J. (2020). How Belfast Got the Blues: A Cultural History of Popular Music in the 1960s. Intellect Books.
Mora, R. (2016). Piedmont Blues. Network Journal, 23(2), 57.Order Now