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Different Kinds of Blues

randulo

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What is a blues?

BB King defined the blues as "A good man feeln' bad."

Musically, though, what is a blues? I hope some of you will add to this if I miss anything, which I probably will. In order to discuss this, I think it's best we agree on the degrees of the scale. In other words, if we're in C, the "one" (I) is C. The IV is F and the V is G. If you've jammed with blues players, you may have had someone calling the arrival of a chord. (Or is this only an American thing?) So someone calls out the tune, "It's a blues in E." Everyone's playing along, and after a few bars, they call our "four chord!". Why would they do that? Because there are two very common 12-bar blues structures: one is called "quick change":

[ I | IV | I | I |

The other is not, it's just four bars of the tonic (one) chord.

[ I | I | I | I |

So that's already two possible charts in a simple blues blues (as opposed to jazz blues, country blues or blues rock). After those first four bars, the classic blues goes to the four chord for 2 bars, the tonic for another 2, and then a turnaround, usually 4 bars. 4+2+2+4 = 12 or 1+1+2+2+2+1+1

The bare bones version of 12-bar blues is this (with the quick change):

[: I | IV | I | I | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I :]

From here there are dozens of variations, especially in jazz. Structure wise, 12 bar blues often uses breaks to allow more variety. In jazz many new chords come into play, but the common basic one looks like this:

[: I | IV | I | I7alt | IV | IV7alt | I | VI | V | IV | I VI |II V :]
The altered and sixths may be major or minor. Also, jazz blues is sometimes major seventh, not dominant.
And finally, jazz blues sometimes have a bridge. In conversation, this is called, unsurprisingly, "blues with a bridge") and is often the classic AABA structure, A for the 12 bar blues, B for the bridge. A common bridge used sometimes is a chromatic downward series of chords, or one based on fourths (like rhythm changes).


For example, blues with an 8-bar bridge:

[: I | IV | I | I | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I ]
[ I | IV | I | I | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I ]
[ VII | VII | VI | VI | bVI | bVI | V | V ]
[ I | IV | I | I | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I :]

Here's an example of that:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu8uEkeE3I4


Traneing In is Bb concert, I'll call it out in tenor:
8-bar Intro [: C Bb Ab G :]

A section [: C| C | C | C | F | F | C | C | A | Dm | G |C Am | Dm G :] with many variations in each chorus.
The bridge: [ Bb Bb A A Ab Ab G G ]
And a final A section.

Regardless of all these different ways to play the blues, major, major seventh, minor and substitutions, there is one principle that is pretty much universal: the structure of the main voice, whether the singer or the soloist. From the most basic 12-bar blues to complex jazz versions, it isn't a bunch of random licks strung together, but a coherent series of "statements", which refer to each other. Question and answer, theme and variation, repetition are all tools to make this happen.

There are dozens of possible turnarounds that also add spice to the mix. Some books about jazz blues will furnish the examples past the standard I vi ii V variety.

What else is there to say about blues?
 
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Wade Cornell

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Good summary! Although there are lots of jazz players who can play the blues extremely well it's important to not confuse the genres. Much of jazz is about players taking turns showing off their shops on a specific theme. In the blues it's more about story telling and feel. Your chops need to be in the service of the music rather than your chops being the subject.

it isn't a bunch of random licks strung together, but a coherent series of "statements", which refer to each other. Question and answer, theme and variation, repetition are all tools to make this happen.

This statement is right on!
 

thomsax

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And then we have the 8 bar blues ("Keys to the Highway" , "It Hurts me Too" ...) in various patterns/combinations. A blues is a song with lyrics. Songs without lyrics/vocal are jazz or classic songs ;). The beat in a blues song can be different. Surf beat, rock beat (straight) , shuffle (swing).... . You find the "quick change" or "qiuck four" from the first verse or maybe just to be in the second or third .. verse to create some interest? The turn arounds can also change ???

This is a 12 bars blues with an eight bar bridge, but we consider it to be a Rock & Roll song? Dione's songs "The Wanderer" from 1962. In a Rock key; concert D. 4 bar intro - 2 x 12 bar verse - 8 bar bridge - 1 x 12 bar verse - 8 bar saxsolo - 1 x verse - 3 x outro over A, G, D, D chords. A blues or a rock song? A fun song to play.

View: https://youtu.be/0FFtht9k87k
 

randulo

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And then we have the 8 bar blues ("Keys to the Highway"
Yes, that is indeed another form, thanks for the addition.
There's also the John Lee Hooker "change to the four chord randomly" blues form. :)
This is a 12 bars blues with an eight bar bridge, but we consider it to be a Rock & Roll song? Dione's songs "The Wanderer"
Until I heard the song in my head (it was a hit in my high school years IIRC) I never thought of it as a blues. It's what I'd call blues rock, not a blues, but blues changes.
 

thomsax

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We play lots of "blues songs". "Bring It Back" (J.J. Cale), "Hi Heels Sneakers" (Robert Higgenbotham aka Tommy Tucker, 24 bar pattern ), "Mustang Sally" (Sir Mack Rice, also 24 bar pattern), "Midnight Hour Blues" (12 bar blues, contryblues made by piano blues player Leroy Carr, we play something i Elvin Bishops version with 3-horn arr.) "Memphis Soul Stew" (King Curtis, without the talk and intro it's a 12 bar funky blues. ... Same, same but different! The blues is great. People get together and play. Quite easy!?!?! The blues and R&B makes me clever ...... It's fantastic. Use the blues and have fun. Don't think too much.
 

thomsax

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Until I heard the song in my head (it was a hit in my high school years IIRC) I never thought of it as a blues. It's what I'd call blues rock, not a blues, but blues changes.
Or a R&B songs. My wife (classic piano and playing Bach and that stuff on big church organs. Could probably play the B3 organ with bass pedals fine ....) jumped in played "The Wanderer" and other sogs. " - Easy and great" , she thought. The piano is more used as a percussion instrument.
 

thomsax

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The blues first child was Rhytm & Blues. Rock & Roll took a lot from country. Chuck Berry, Little Richard ... were not Rock & Roll in begining. But Elvis, Pat Bone. Jerry Lee Lewis, ... was Rock & Roll. I think John Lennon once saidsomethinlike. "- If we ever going to rename Rock & Roll, we can call it Chuck Berry "
 

randulo

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Cue the "randulo algorithm" : You may also enjoy...
Screen Shot 2020-05-22 at 08.48.34.png
From Musicmap:
"Blues is almost as old as popular music itself. Its rich history streams through various genres, just like the Mississippi river carried musicians from Minneapolis to southern New Orleans. [Note: I'm from Minneapolis.]
At first, Blues was dominantly associated with anything vice; it was regarded as the song of outlaws and criminals. But Blues must rather be seen as an outlet or cry for the people on the border of society: the poor, blind, unfortunate and particularly, the black. Blues before R&B was regrettably known as “race music”. Blues wins-over hearts because that’s where it comes from. It is sincere, but also blunt. No roses without thorns."
 

thomsax

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For me the blues is song with lyrics. Ok, you can find instrumental blues (jazz;)) but in the early days it was an everyday problem that they sang. Hard work, no food, no money ..... later on they also gave us a solution .... moving to Mexico, replace the wife ........ . When the days became better the blues bacame R&B. R&B was searching for love and happiness?


I know a guy who is playing modern 12 bar blues songs. He is very succesfull and making a lot of money. His songs are often about "how to make love in his Porsche Carrera" ..... "how to get a parking lot big enough so they don't scratsch his Porsche"..

I try to sing and play some Willie Dixon blues songs. Something in the style as Jimmy Carpenter
too late.JPG

View: https://youtu.be/qczCQYJHNmM
 

ArtyLady

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John Setchell

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Cue the "randulo algorithm" : You may also enjoy...
View attachment 14611
From Musicmap:
"Blues is almost as old as popular music itself. Its rich history streams through various genres, just like the Mississippi river carried musicians from Minneapolis to southern New Orleans. [Note: I'm from Minneapolis.]
At first, Blues was dominantly associated with anything vice; it was regarded as the song of outlaws and criminals. But Blues must rather be seen as an outlet or cry for the people on the border of society: the poor, blind, unfortunate and particularly, the black. Blues before R&B was regrettably known as “race music”. Blues wins-over hearts because that’s where it comes from. It is sincere, but also blunt. No roses without thorns."
I was astounded when I visited USA from UK in 1969 and was criticised by my whitey hosts for liking blues & Motown. “Why do you like that race-music man?” It hadn’t occurred to me that it had a racial aspect (for me it hadn’t). They were listening to Beach Boys and Iron Butterfly. I rest my case!
 
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