Analyzing Blues Music

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The Blues: Genre Analysis The blues is a musical genre that originated among African-Americans in the Southern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From these humble and provincial origins it has come to be appreciated all over the country and the world, and has also spread its influence even more widely by way of its offspring, jazz and rock. While the word "genre" is certainly appropriate, the blues can be defined more specifically as a closely related set of melodies, harmonies, rhythmic patterns and bar structures. Unlike many musical genres, the blues is very tightly focused in fact it could be said without much fear of exaggeration that all blues songs are variations on one song. Nevertheless, as time went on the blues lost some of its stereotyped or formulaic aspect and loosened up its structure to encompass a variety of forms of expression. Basically, blues melodies are built around a major scale with fairly strong pentatonic character. However, the third tone of the scale tends to be sung (or to the extent possible, played) slightly flat (a "blue third"), or to be bent from the minor third up to the major third. Less often, the seventh and fifth tones of the scale are given similar treatment. The harmony (provided by the guitar or piano in the original solo format of blues performance) relies mainly on the I, IV, and V chords, although some versions also make use of the VI and II. The typical progression moves from the I chord to the IV, back
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