Why I Like Blues Bands and Blues Guitar

By Rick Hart

It is hilarious. I never understood it till I got a bit older. But I have always appreciated blues music.

And I assume the reason I never realized it is because I never had the to put on the music I loved.

You see back in the 60's when I was actually getting into music they didn't have all the labels that we applied to music today. Back then the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin would play all types of music. It was just "Stones Music" or "Zeppelin Music". Those great bands mixed blues with rock'n'roll and their own musical ideas and emotions. It was only later when I wanted to dig into their music more that I began to realize they were listening to old blues musicians for their inspiration.

Dang, plenty of the words of Led Zeppelin songs were thieved from old blues songs. Why their huge hit "Whole Lotta Love" pretty much steals the lyrics from Willie Dixon song "You Need Love". Nicking blues lyrics was not unusual in those days.

But I'm getting off the beaten track.

I started playing guitar back in the late 60's. Back then I was playing all kinds of music on my guitar. I played Grateful Dead songs, Beatle songs, Rolling Stones songs, and even folks rock songs. All of them had songs that pulled influences from the blues. Eventually I changed into a fulltime blues guitarist and had my own blues bands.

Take The Loving Spoonful. At best they could be represented as a folk rock group. Their hits included Summer In The City, Do You Believe In Magic, and Daydream. But one of my favorite songs was a blues tune called Sportin Life that was on their first album. It was an old traditional tune and the writer isn't known. But I play that song to this day. Its an element of my usual blues repertoire.

Just proves that back in the 60's the groups would play all sorts of music and the blues was a typical thread in numerous bands playlist. It took the Blues Brothers to turn the world on to the entire history and way of life of the blues. Thanks to Elwood and Jake for turning us on.

But again I get off the track.

What was it about the blues the made me adore it? I have given that some soul searching and here's what I think makes The Blues special.

It's Easy

The musical language of the blues is simple. Sometimes a song is made up of only three chords. Plus the chords are played in a easy pattern, often made up of twelve bars. For people that understand the basics of music the chords are the I, IV, and V of the chords of any specific key. Those Roman Numbers are shorthand for the 1st chord, also known as the root or tonic chord. The 4th chord in the scale also known as the subdominant or "4" chord. And the 5th chord of the scale, AKA the dominant or "5" chord.

It's Emotional

Although the basic scale used in blues is the standard pentatonic scale, most notes are usually played "blue". By that it means some notes are raised slightly to make a fascinating strain. This creates the distinctive feeling that all blues music brings. It adds strain and a "moaning" feeling to the song. This is tough to describe technically, and as in many emotional communications, words don't seem to do it justice. But anyone that has heard a blues song knows what I am talking about.

There's Lots of Kinds

This blues harmonic structure can be applied to several different rhythms. The rhythms can be standard, or funky, or shuffles, or latin in feel. This "groove" outlines whether the blues is from Memphis, West Coast, New Orleans, Kansas City, or Chicago... Or anyplace in between.

But the truth is there isn't any way to describe why I love the blues. It's a mixture of many things. The tonality and the rhythms are part of it but those by themselves can never describe why The Blues touches me. It is simply a feeling.

And when you concentrate on it...

Can we truly communicate why you adore a sunset, or being at the ocean, or what makes an individual beautiful?

No we will not

We just can tell!

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