4 Prominent Features of Blues Music

There’s no denying that blues is among the most popular genres of music. Ever since its introduction to the world by the African-Americans, blues has undergone several changes. Some of the famous music genres have emerged out of blues. They include rhythm and blues and rock.

Blues originated in the southern areas of the United States. It combined the African and Western cultures. Some of the early blues musicians were Robert Johnson, Bukka White, and Bessie Smith. In the early days of this music genre, banjo and piano were used extensively.

Melody and harmony

A musical combination’s first, fourth, and fifth chords is the main focus of the harmony of blues. If the piece starts in chord A, next chords would be the chords 4th ‘D’ and 5th ‘E’. For the starting chord G, the chords that follow would be C and D. This bears similarity to the standard combinations of chord.

With regards to melody, blues music also emphasizes on the flattened 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes. These notes are of a major scale and played traditionally in the scale of blues music.


Rhythm is one of blues music’s unique feature as well. It is based on the repetitive pattern of 12-bar and 48-beat. The three chords are played for 12 bars. In case of different chords, the bar is normally divided into beats of certain numbers. For instance, the 1st chord would be played for 16 beats.

For the 4th chord 8 beats would be played and 8 beats are played again for the 1st chord. What follows is 4 beats for the 5th chord and 4 beats for the 4th chord. Finally, 8 beats are played for the 1st chord.


In blues music, the placement of lyrics is in a different manner as well, just like rhythm, harmony, and melody. There are three lines in a conventional blues song’s verse. The first two lines are almost the same with lyrics in the form of a question. Then, the third line follows, which is more like a response to the first two lines.

Considering these arrangements, the lyrical structure forms an AAB pattern. When it comes to theme, the lyrics of blues focus more on disappointing stories and sadness. The examples are poverty, violence, racism, death, and other thematic aspects.

Musical instruments

In the early years of blues music, the use of banjo was common as the main instrument. The later years saw the addition of guitar and piano. With the innovations in music over the years, blues music has seen the use of many other instruments. Today, the blues scene include musical instruments like drums, basses, and harmonica.

The use of modern instruments are the reason why blues music has many branches in recent times. Even in terms of lyrics, this form of music has undergone several changes. This is also true in case of most of the musical forms today. Over the years, there have been many sub-genres of blues. They include hip-hop, R&B, and rock and roll. Much of the heavy metal music also has roots in blues.

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