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The Blues as a Musical Genre

The blues is one of the distinctly American musical forms, an arrangement of melody and rhythm that could not have developed anywhere else in the world because it reflects the countryÆs history as all as its particular blend of immigrants. This paper examines the blues as a musical genre, giving first some background and basic description of the blues, before examining the contributions of one of the greatest blues musicians, the guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan who left his mark forever on the blues before his untimely death in 1990.

Blues is a mixing of African-American folk and popular music, predominantly in 4/4 time. Blues lyrics tend to deal with the hardships of life and the vicissitudes of love, which is where the title of the musical form takes its name. Blues lyrics are typically cast in a three-line stanza consisting of an initial line, its repetition, and a new third line (A A B). Blues music uses a scale in which the third, fifth, and seventh notes are freely bent, or microtonally flattened in comparison with the standard major scale. The music is generally 12 bars long, falling into three phrases of four bars each (one phrase for each line of text). Each phrase of sung text is normally followed by instrumental improvisation, creating a call-and-response pattern (Patowski and Crawford, 1994, p. 11).

Blues singing, rooted in various forms of black American slave song, has a long history in the United States. It was widespread in the southern United States by the late 19th century, although it was not much known in other parts of the country until the last century.

By the early 20th century, distinctly different sub-genres of the blues has developed, including ôarchaicö and ôcountryö blues, which differed widely in their lyric and musical form in that singers typically accompanied themselves on guitar or harmonica (Patwoski and Crawford, 1994, p. 14).

In 1912, with the publication of "Memphis Blues" by W. C. Ha...

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