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The Blues

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When was brought to Chicago it became a more powerful, hard-edged type of music, but kept its original form. This consisted of the two basic kinds of traditional blues: the Slow Blues and the Fast Blues. The names do not define the tempo of the two, because both can be played either way. The Slow Blues is the most common kind of Blues and is the category that most Blues fall into. It is made up of the standard 12-bar, three-line, 4/4 Blues and can be played in uptempo or down. Fast Blues is also twelve bars long and played in 4/4, but has four lines of verse. This is the form that evolved into Boogie-Woogie and Blues Shout in the twenties and thirties in Chicago. There are also rarer forms of Blues such as sixteen-bar forms with four lines of verse, eight bar forms with two lines of verse, and other variations. Which form is the earlier, more basic one remains unknown but the Fast and Slow Blues are probable because of their African origins.
To add to the musical form used to create , musicians innovated three main practices that all have origins in West African musical traditions. Cross-rhythms are multitudinously used in and are the foundation of West African drumming. The most common way of creating this beat was by separating the melodic line from the groundbeat, putting the two in rhythmic conflict. To do so, the musician would sing or play in a manner that emphasized the off beat. The second main innovation was the way musicians expressed rising emotions with falling pitch by bending or flattening certain notes with one's voice or instruments. This technique produced 'blue notes', which were also practiced by the Akan people of Ghana. The final innovation Blues musicians practiced was the use of a variety of vocal techniques such as coarse gutter tones, slurs, and falsetto singing. Together these innovations gave Blues a sound unlike any other type of music.
To further explain the sound of the Fast and Slow Blues you must understand the way lyrics are broken down. Traditionally, Slow Blues consists of three line stanzas, usually a couple that rhymes with the first line repeated. Each line takes up four bars, often ending in the middle of the third bar, with the accompaniment filling out the last bar and a half. The first two lines create drama because of the repetition, and the third is known as the punch line because of the delivery of a resolution.

For example- Love is like a faucet, it turns off and on,
Yeah, love is like a faucet, it turns of and on,
But when you think it's on, baby, it done turned off and gone

In the Fast Blues the pattern is almost the same except one of the lines, often the first, breaks in two lines of rhyming for two bars which fill the space usually played by the accompaniment. The repetition of the shorter lines makes the music seem faster than the other.

For example- Nickel is a nickel,
Dime is a dime,
Get you a gal,
You can have a good time.

This shortened form is the basis for Boogie-Woogie piano music, which was predominant in Chicago.

After listening to the Blues you will realize that it is made up of a number of themes and does not also keep the same mood. The Blues is not necessarily meant to be sad, down, or depressing. It is a very soulful music, and depending on the singer's mood the Blues could be sorrowful or joyous, which adds to the variety of Blues music.


When people think of the Blues' lyrics as the only aspect of Blues music they are forgetting that it is performance music. The delivery of the song, plus the attitude and involvement of the singer take the Blues to another level that cannot be experienced by sitting down and ...

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