The Secret Origins of Blues Music

The blues is a kind of music that can be vocal, instrumental (blues guitar) or both. It employs the ‘blue’ notes which are established on a ‘minor pentatonic’ scale most of the time, otherwise known as the blues scale.

Blues music was inferred from the African-American communities in the U.S. out of work songs, spiritual songs, field hollers, chants, shouts and elementary ballads that rhymed. A lot of facets of the blues are indicitive of African influence.

The call-and-response aspect of the music came straight from African origins and there were a lot of licks that would get duplicated thrice or more. This later developed into a line repeating twice and then on the third time around there would be an ‘answer line’. You will be able to still discover these characteristics of early blues in modern day music, especially hip-hop.

The term ‘The Blues’ refers to the ‘blue devils’ which means down spirits or unhappiness.

The blues guitar brings a fundamental role in blues music as well as contemporary music. It has shaped Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Bluegrass and even heavy rock genres The original blues of the early 1900’s, otherwise known as “poor man’s blues” was usually linked with hard times, oppressiveness from white folk, ruthlessness of the police, gambling, economic depression, floods, magic, farming and dry periods. This music was fueled by a lot of brokenheartedness and anger. Not uncommonly a lost loved one or an generic harsh environment prompted the lyrics and the tone of the blues guitar.

After the world war, you began to see blues songs that were about human relationships and sexuality. Also, wit was widened to the mix. Here is a funny example:

“That must be your woman, cause mine don’t look like that… I said That must be your woman, cause mine don’t look like that… Have you seen my baby? She’s so big and fat…”

The blues guitar style came forth from the American South’s instruments of the time which were the banjo and the Diddley Bow. This was a home-made one stringed instrument that was popular in the early 20th century. Figures such as Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House and Blind Willie McTell were a part of the delta blues style which used a lot of finger picking styles and slide guitar innovations.

Eventually, after WWII ‘electric blues’ became progressively popular where the blues guitar was played on electric guitars as were the bass guitars. This was most prevalent in the Chicago area.

The history of blues guitar and poor man’s blues is rich with culture and stories of good times and bad. I could go on for days about the history of the blues guitar but let’s make this part 1 so you don’t fall asleep on me!

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