The blues share a lot of similarities with European folk music when it comes to harmony. Both genres make use of chords, and the blues specifically uses a lot of seventh chords.
The Origins of the Blues
The blues evolved from African American folk music, and has its roots in the work songs, spirituals, and field hollers of the Deep South. The blues shares many harmonic and formal aspects with European folk music. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the blues and its connection to European folk music.
The African Connection
The origins of the blues are closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals. The word “blue” in popular culture came from black people in the American South describing their feelings of sadness and despair. The first appearance of the blues is often dated to after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, there is evidence that musical traditions similar to the blues were present inafrica evenbeforethe transatlantic slave trade began.
The European Connection
Despite the overseas origins of the blues, the music shares a striking similarity with European folk music in terms of its harmony. The blues scale, which is often used in blues songs, consists of six notes that are played in a pattern of root, flat third, fourth, flat fifth, fifth and flat seventh. This pattern of notes is similar to that of a minor pentatonic scale, which is commonly used in European folk music. In fact, the minor pentatonic scale is thought to be one of the influences on the development of the blues scale.
The Three Pillars of the Blues
The blues share three fundamental aspects of harmony with European folk music: the prevalence of the minor third, the use of the blues scale, and the use of the blue note. The minor third is the most important interval in the blues, and it is also the most important interval in European folk music. The blues scale is a minor pentatonic scale with an added chromatic note, and it is the most important scale in the blues. The blue note is a chromatic note that is played at a slightly lower pitch than the other notes in the scale, and it gives the blues its characteristic sound.
The Call and Response
The call and response is a fundamental element of the blues. It’s used in both the vocal and instrumental parts of a song and is often thought of as the musical conversation between the singer and the band. The call (or question) is usually sung by the soloist, while the response (or answer) is provided by either the other instruments in the band or, more often, by the audience.
This back-and-forth between singer and band/audience creates a sense of interaction and community that is essential to the blues experience. It also reflects the African tradition of music as communal conversation, which was brought to America by slaves. This tradition can still be seen in African American religious services, where call and response is used to preacher and congregation.
The Blue Notes
The term blue note can be used to describe any note that is played or sung below its major or minor scale degree, or any harmonic note that is played or sung with a flattened third, fifth, or seventh. The flattened third is also called a minor third, and the flattened seventh is called a diminished seventh. When discussing the blues scale, the flattened fifth is sometimes called the blue note. The blue notes are essential to the sound of the blues and give the music its distinctive flavor.
The use of blue notes is thought to have originated with African-American musicians in the early 1900s. These musicians were influenced by the music of their homeland, which often featured reduced fifths and sevenths. They began incorporating these sonorities into their own music, creating a new sound that would come to be known as the blues.
While the exact origins of the blues are disputed, there is no doubt that these iconic notes have played a major role in shaping the sound of this beloved genre. From early pioneers like W.C. Handy and Muddy Waters to modern masters like Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer, countless musicians have used blue notes to create some of the most memorable songs in history.
The swing is what gives the blues its distinctive “groove”. It’s a very important part of the feel of the music, and it’s something that sets the blues apart from other types of music.
The swing is created by the way the beats are grouped together. In most music, each beat is equal – there are four beats in a measure, and each one is worth one quarter note. In 4/4 time (which is what most blues is written in), there are four beats in a measure, but the first and third beats are worth two points, and the second and fourth beats are worth one point. This creates a “swung” feel, where the notes on the first and third beats have a slightly longer value than the notes on the second and fourth beats.
This swing feel is created by playing eighth notes (or sometimes sixteenth notes) on the first and third beats, and quarter notes on the second and fourth beats. This creates a kind of “long-short-long-short” feeling that gives the blues its distinctive groove.
The Relationship Between the Blues and European Folk Music
The blues share many aspects of harmony with European folk music. The use of minor keys, chromaticism, and blue notes are all important elements of the blues that can be traced back to European folk music. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between the blues and European folk music, and how these two genres have influenced each other.
The Chord Progressions
The chord progressions in blues are similar to those found in European Folk music. Both genres often use the I, IV, V chords. The I chord is the tonic (the starting point of the scale), the IV chord is the subdominant (the fifth note of the scale), and the V chord is the dominant (the fifth note of the scale). In blues, these chords are usually played in a 12-bar format, which means that each chord is played for 12 beats. In European Folk music, these chords are often played in an 8-bar format.
The Melodic Phrasing
One aspect of the blues that is shared with much of European folk music is the melodic phrasing. In both cases, the melodic phrases often consist of two 4-bar phrases, each of which ends on the tonic (root) chord. This creates a feeling of resolution and allows for a certain degree of predictability, which is offset by the use of embellishing notes and passing tones.
The Use of Instruments
The blues often make use of a call-and-response pattern between the vocalist and the band in which the vocalist sings a line and is then answered by the band. This form is also often used in fiddle music, particularly in British and Irish traditional music. The blues also make use of improvisation, which is a key element of many folk traditions. In both the blues and folk music, instruments are often used to create an atmosphere as well as to provide accompaniment for the singer.