The origins of blues music can be traced back to the 1800s. This was the period when the lives of the African-Americans were plagued by slavery. In its early years, blues included chants, work songs, spirituals, and simple songs. Blues is a music genre as well as musical form. Just like most of the musical genres, blues has five basic elements, such as harmony, rhythm, form, melody, and timbre.
Vocal and instrumental are the two types in blues music. The former deals with sadness, bad luck, and struggles. However, blues is not just about the tragic aspects of life. It can also be about exuberant, joyful, and positive feelings. This type of blues also celebrates life. Many blues artists also use a musical instrument such as a piano or guitar while singing.
The most popular instrument used in blues has always been the guitar. Instrumental blues deal with self-expression through the improvisational style of famous instrumentalists. Here are some interesting facts about this musical genre:
1. Pattern of lyrics
A single line was repeated four times in the lyrics of early traditional verses of blues. The current and the most common structure became a standard only in the 20th century’s early decades. The standard lyrical pattern in blues is AAB, which consists of singing a line over the four first bars. It repeats over the next four bars and then a longer concluding line repeats over final bars.
2. Early form of blues
Earlier, blues used to take the form of a loose narrative frequently. It was often the reflection of the troubles that the African-American community experienced. A trance-like rhythm and call-and-response is reinforced and then a repetitive effect is formed. This is called a groove.
3. First published blues song
It was in 1908 that the first publication of blues sheet music took place. The first published song that used the word ‘blues’ was I Got the Blues by Antonio Maggio. At the beginning of the 20th century, chroniclers started reporting about blues in Deep South and Southern Texas.
4. First appearance
The first appearance of blues dates back to the days after emancipation. Later, the Blacks went to ‘juke joints’ to listen to music, gamble, or dance. Often, the early blues songs were an expression of the newfound freedom of the slaves in America.
5. Common characteristics
It were the strange behaviors of individual performers that shaped the blues genre. Despite this, there are a few characteristics common in all blues songs. One of them is the call-and-response sounds. One can attribute this to the unaccompanied vocals and oral traditions of the slave community. Later, blues evolved into a number of sub-genres and styles.
6. Possible African origins
There are several elements in blues music that one can trace back to the musical traditions of Africa. They include the call-and-response format. Many believe that the origin of blues is in the African-American community’s religious music. It is possible that a few other forms might have had an influence on this musical genre.
7. Origin of the term
It is highly possible that the term ‘blues’ might’ve come from the term ‘blue devils’. George Colman’s one-act farce in 1798 titled Blue Devils could be an example of the term’s earliest usage. The first copyrighted composition of blues was Dallas Blues by Hart Wand.