Introduction

Blues are an example of a type of music that is completely indigenous to America and that has had profound influence on a wide range of American music from bluegrass to rock and roll. There are many different musical and poetic forms that are called the blues, however, this page is going to focus on a single one, the 12 bar (measure) blues.


Learning Activity

Activity: click on "Activity to do with students about the blues" and do that (by yourself or in a group). Also try out playing blues music on the Virtual Keyboard (this uses a computer keyboard and alphabet letters rather than musical notes; the "music" is written out for you in the Virtual Keyboard format)...

Twelve Bar Blues Musical Form

Although the form can change drastically, the standard, traditional 12 bar (measures of music, not drinking spots) blues involves 4 measures (I), 2 measures (IV), 2 measures (I), 2 measures (V) or else 1 of (V) and 1 of (IV), 2 measures of (I).

Blues Poetic Form


(I)
You ain't nothin' but a hound dog cryin' all the time

(IV)..............................(I)
You ain't nothin' but a hound dog cryin' all the time

(V).....................................(I)
You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine

How To Play the Blues on Virtual Piano

Using the information below, total musical novices can play a blues bass line and learn how to do some basic improv.
http://www.virtualpiano.net/

The virtual piano allows you to use a standard computer keyboard. The following letters will yield a 12 bar blues bass line pattern.

Bass line

(played over and over again):
wryuiuyr wryuiuyr tuopPpou wryuiuyr 9QertreQ wryuiuyr
G...........G.......... .C..............G............D...............G
I put space in there so you can see the different chords, but you play it without pausing and it does not need to be fast.

Improvisation

For each chord there are notes you can play to create your own melody. Here are the notes and you can play them in any order. This is what musicians call a "blues scale," a collection of notes you use in blues improvisation.

G blues scale

wEtTyio

C blues scale

tYuops

D blues scale

9QwEty

A simple way to get started is to play the scale forward and backward while the chord is playing. When the C bass line is playing for 8 beats, play the C blues scale forward and backward.

Books About the Blues

Here are examples of books for children and older readers about the blues:



Examples of Blues

Big Mama Thornton singing "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog"



Elvis's version of Hound Dog


Big Mama sold Hound Dog to Elvis for $75. Years later she was asked what she thought of the fact that he made millions from her song. She said, "I'm still around to spend my $75."

Bessie Smith, The Empress of the Blues, singing Back Water Blues (images from Hurricane Katrina)



John Lee Hooker "It Serves Me Right to Suffer"



BB King Three O'Clock Blues




Mississippi John Hurt "Stagger Lee" a ballad in blues form



Mining Camp Blues Alice Gerrard



Jimmy Rodgers



The original Hank Williams Sr.



Ricky Scaggs at age 7 playing a 12 bar blues tune with Flatt and Scruggs



The Blues at Capital University

BAD DREAM BLUES

by Sarah Johanson, Sarah Santilli, Jason Tamashausky

Went to make some dinner, and what did I find?
Oh I went to make some dinner, and what did I find?
Couldn't find nuthin' in my fridge, but a used up lemon rind.

My roommate done tol' me, no room for you in my refridgerator!
My roommate done tol' me, no room for you in my refridgerator!
So I ran out the door yellin', "I guess I'll see you later."

Headin' out to Main St., to find myself a meal.
Headin' out to Main St., to find myself a meal.
Up and down the aisles of Kroger, grabbed myself some Quaker Oatmeal.

Strolled up to the checkout, my oatmeal in my hand.
Strolled up to the checkout, my oatmeal in my hand.
Nuthin' in my pocket, but a paperclip and rubberband.

Woke up the next morning in my uncomfortable bed.
Yes I woke up the next morning in my uncomfortable bed.
It was all a bad dream, and now I'll be well fed.

The Grad School Blues

By Kristen Bowman, Steve Snyder and Lisa Wharton

Well I’ve been drivin’ down the highway, lookin’ for my sign,
Well I’ve been drivin’ down the highway, lookin’ for my sign,
I’ve been on the road for hours and I’m not gonna be on time.

My fridge is so tiny, can’t even store my food,
My fridge is so tiny, can’t even store my food,
I told housing they better fix this before we come unglued.

I’ve been lookin’ in the library, tryin’ to find a clue,
I’ve been lookin’ in the library, tryin’ to find a clue,
Well I ain’t got a topic and I don’t know what to do.

I've been working on the wiki, but I don't know what that is,
I've been working on the wiki, but I don't know what that is,
I'm havin' a lot of fun but I hope there's no pop quiz.

My laptop won’t work- it makes me so mad,
My laptop won’t work- it makes me so mad,
I talked to I.T. but he was just an undergrad.


"Musicianship Blues"

By Tenessa George, Julie Porretta, and Heidi Ridenour



No Snowday Blues



The Junior Block Blues

Workin hard all day and night,
Writing lessons trying to get them just right.

Thinkin about that darn Praxis test,
Hopin I do my very best.

Background checks and applications,
Causin a lot of aggravations.

Despite these Junior block blues,
Teaching is what we love to do!

By: Carly Rittenour, Tera Yoder & Mauna Haines



Bird Blues

byTheresa Cooper, Dameon Jones and Marsha Owens

Birds are lousy they drop where they perch
Like on Sunday mornin’s while I’m walkin’ to church
Ya never know where they’re goin’ they move as they please
They swoop without warning they should stay up in the trees
So when you see a bird you may get down and blue
Remember to stay away or you’ll get the bird flu.


Tobie's Rug Tripping Black and Blues



The Rug Tripping Black and Blues

Went into the bathroom, tripped on a rug.

Went into the bathroom, tripped on a rug.

Then I fell over, bagged my face against the tub.



Knocked me unconscious for quite a while.


Knocked me unconscious for quite a while.


Now my face is purple, green and yellow--- way not in style.



This response to an accident is a demonstration of when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Can't Get Nuthin' Done
by Mike McClain, Katy McEwan, Kailyn Mowery, Jenni Gill
On the net, tryin' to find some inspiration.Oh, I'm on the net, tryin' to find some inspiration.Try so hard, but all that happens: procrastination.
(Other verses to be written later)