The melody of blues doesn’t go with the sense of the key that rules in Western European music, nonetheless is still closely related to classical music. Back in the day, original blues musicians adopted as their own the traditional “major” and “minor” scale.
All these adaptations that give birth to all the rich spectrum of black music; when blacks began to make music in America, faced with European music and adopted with amazing rapidity the pentatonic musical feeling to the European tonal system and instruments.
So, the problem was in the two notes that were missing for the European “octave”. In the beginning, the early musicians simply played or sang because of insecurity at times, the third minor and others the major, as well as the seventh, completely arbitrarily, without having as a reference the European “academy“.
The Feelings and The Identity
The simultaneity of feelings, happiness and sadness, appeared and juxtaposed on every composition. Therefore, part of the blues identity is to be emotionally ambiguous. This innovative use of these two notes (third and seventh), could be considered dissonant, but it’s part of the identity of blues and is called ‘blue-note’. Later with the contribution of the Be-bop, the musicians added one more note, the fifth diminished.
The Melodic Construction
In the beginning, blues as a musical composition isn’t a piece of diatonic music based on classic C-D-F scales, its built is based on a succession of three tonic notes. A blues melody can’t be transported to another key.
Also, the technique of construction in the blues often produces combinations in that unique feeling that only blues can transmit, all this because the chord structures are corresponding to the European tradition and the ‘blue-notes’ that comes from African music.
Highlighting Characteristics of The First Blues Singers
1. The isolation in the musicians; feeling that was used to consolidate a style in each of the bluesmen, most of the early bluesman were true lone wolves. A representative singer of the Mississippi Delta blues was Robert Johnson.
2. The figure of the tramp or hobo; the first globetrotters who traveled for free in the wagons of the steam locomotives. Some names like John Lee Hooker with his Hobo blues, B.B. Broonzy still resound.
3. The guitar as an extension of the body, there is a lot of blues players with little technique but with a lot of feeling and a unique depth in their voice. The guitar incorporated the use of the slide or bottleneck, the repetitive riffs, and the harmonica.
- Archaic Blues or Peasant: Was born on the banks of the Mississippi of plaintive strings driven by skillful black fingers picking cotton, musicians who were mostly blind. They sang the first songs of pain, indignation, lament, and longing for their lost freedom and expressed their protest with feeling.
Each phrase that they ripped within the bass, and later in the guitar, penetrate in the brain of the brothers of race. Lemon Blind Jefferson, Blind Blake, Charlie Jackson, Huddie Leadbelly, Son House, and John Temple were the first archaic, folk or country blues singers.
- Urban Blues: Conceived after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the migration from the countryside to the city in the US It was massive. Once in the cities, the black folks, poetized their poverty, loneliness, their anonymity and transformed it into songs, into blues.