"The Blues: History & Music"

Listening Guide

Here are some of the questions that you should try to answer as you listen to a musical example:

Key Points:

-Is there an introduction?

-Do the lyrics follow the iambic pentameter and AAB form (i.e. the first line repeats, whereas the third line is original)?

-How many times does the artist sing the blues song, (look for different verses over the similar harmonic pattern)?

-What instrument does accompany the vocal performer?

-What instrument does play the fill-ins?

-Do the instrumental solos try to emulate and extend the blues vocal style (swoops, smears, bent notes). Do they mimic the expressive inflection of the human voice?

-When you hear the melody sung, do you hear the singer interpolate the blue note?

-How is the dynamic range?

-The use of shuffle rhythms ( a shuffle rhythm divides each beat into two unequal parts; the first is long, the second is short).

-The use of call-and-response between voice and instrument

-The use of musical phrases that start high and end low.

-The use of smooth continuum between sung and spoken words.

-How is the vocal performance style? (Raw, harsh, unfiltered, strong, acrid powerful, high-pitched vocal sound)   

-Examine the lyrics. How would you classify them? Examine content: is the content sexual, romantic and/or sad?; does it contain racial, cultural, magical and/or religious connotations? Does it contain dark images and/or metaphors?


"The Blues: History and Music" is an Educational Site Designed and Edited by Prof. Sylvia Constantinidis.