Blues music encompasses many diverse genres. While it might be tempting to classify all blues music under one umbrella category, each style offers something distinct.
Chicago or electric blues has its origins in Muddy Waters’ music, featuring heavier tones with jazz influences that can be heard across juke joints nationwide.
Delta blues is a genre characterized by solo performances by vocalists playing guitar. Performers typically use slide guitar and sing in an expressive range from quiet introspection to passionate cries. Originating in Mississippi Delta juke joints (roadside drinking establishments with music and dancing), or plantations settings.
Music of this genre is distinguished by jagged guitar lines and piercing slide riffs that contrast against its dark subject matter in lyrics, as well as musicians employing an unassuming bassline which provides a dynamic foundation to each song.
Music of this genre is perfect for songwriters and producers looking to add authenticity to their latest project, while inspiring improvisational styles that form the backbone of rock music and other popular genres. Additionally, this form of blues can serve as an educational tool when teaching students about American history.
Piedmont blues is a genre of fingerstyle guitar music which captures the rhythmic styles associated with African-American culture, most famously in the Southeastern United States during the 1920s and 1930s. This genre employs an alternating thumb bass string rhythm pattern to accompany syncopated melodies picked with fore-fingers; its highly syncopated style ties closely with an earlier string band tradition featuring ragtime, gospel, and country dance songs.
Music Maker artist Etta Baker was an adept vocalist of this style; other performers included Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and Elizabeth Cotten who shared in its performance.
Piedmont blues musicians typically used a light, fingerpicking style resembling ragtime piano for fingerpicking their instruments; Delta and Texas blues had harder, jaggier sounds. Piedmont’s popularity began to decline after World War II; it was eventually replaced by hillbilly and country blues styles.
People typically think of blues as consisting of guitarists and harmonica players playing in dingy bars, but since its inception in the southern U.S., it has taken on multiple regional styles that incorporate various textures and instrumentation.
Blues instruments typically used by musicians include guitar, harp and harmonica; although some musicians also employ bass drums and electric piano. Blues music is known for its chromaticism incorporating pitches from both major and minor scales in its soundscape; additionally, it utilizes its signature blues scale with its flattened fifth that draws inspiration from the minor pentatonic scale.
Contemporary blues is an umbrella genre comprising many forms of blues that has had a substantial impact on culture around the globe. Used by various genres from rock and roll to country music, contemporary blues is often associated with emotions ranging from joy, anguish and sadness – part of both American folk tradition and adopted globally by cultures worldwide.
Boogie-woogie is a piano-based blues genre incorporating 12-bar blues with specific basslines. The genre was designed to get audiences dancing, which differentiates it from other blues genres. Boogie-woogie also emphasizes rhythm over melody, patterns over chords, and danceability over harmonic composition – characteristic features that were popular with working-class communities such as lumberyard workers, railroad workers, and urban rent parties that used this music form as background noise.
Boogie-woogie’s exact origin is unknown, although Marshall, Texas claims it as its birthplace. Most likely influenced by ragtime and sometimes called Fast Western music, it can often be identified with syncopation where accents fall off beats during performance.
A basic boogie-woogie pattern consists of two bars of the I (C) chord followed by one bar of IV (F), then back to two bars of C chord. This bassline is also known by other names: Texas and Pacific, Black Diamond or Swamp Poodle among many others. Though more challenging than standard blues progressions, boogie-woogie can still be learned through practice.