The beginning of the blues go all the way back to the folk songs of the enslaved Africans. Blues was considered secular folk music in the early 20th century. It started in the Alabama Black Belt and the Mississippi Delta. The formation of the blues rooted from African rhythms, field hollers, jump-ups, spirituals, and church music as African Americans would use the melody, tone, and rhythm they heard from them. Blues is a genre that expresses one’s feelings and is more lyrical rather than narrative. The blues is a representation of sadness that came from hard times such as oppression or hurt from love. There are three main categories of blues which are country, classic, and urban.
Country blues developed during the 1920s and 1930s in the deep south of the Mississippi Delta. They are often sung solo because they are a form of personal expression. To express how they are feeling, the singer may start and end with spoken word and they may use a different variety of vocal techniques such as rough or growling tones contrasted with a high falsetto. A very popular instrument associated with country blues is an unamplified guitar which could be a knife, tube, or a bottleneck. Another instrument that could als be associated with this type of blues is a harmonica. Subcategories of country blues include delta, memphis, georgia, alabama, and piedmont blues. Memphis blues uses unusual instruments such as a fiddle or a washboard which separates it from other types of blues. Piedmont blues is characterized by intricate fingerpicking in which the thumb alternates bass strings in a rhythmic pattern the treble strings. Famous country blue singers include Blind Boy Fuller, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and more.
Classic blues was a by-product of the great migration of the African Americans out of the rural south into the cities. Another name for classic blues is the city blues. They were very popular in urban environments. One would usually hear this type of blue in a nightclub, at a social affair or a bar. This style is usually accompanied by the two instruments and singers would use a twelve-bar style. Also it included a smooth, theatrical style with sophisticated speech and stricter vocal techniques. Classic blues is dominated by females. A few of these women that dominated this style of blues were Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Edith Johnson.
Urban blues was more of a nosier and larger genre of music. It was popular in places such as Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia. The electric guitar became a very popular instrument in this style of blues along with amplified blues harp, bass, and drums. The vocal tone in urban blues was usually shouting to match with the amplified sound of the instruments. One very popular musician was Muddy Waters.