The Emotions of the Blues

What is the Blues?

               The Blues is a genre of music that was generated in the deep south of the United States. This genre is a more lyrical form of music. Artists rely on their vocal ability as well as their lyrics to present their music. The Blues is one of the most expressive genres of music. Instead of telling a story, many blues artists are expressing feelings through their music. The most popular sentiment that the blues express would be sadness and melancholy. These feelings are primarily involved in love but can extend to other problems in people’s lives. Blues was popular among many African Americans during the Great Depression and again during the Civil Rights era. Many people were going through tough times emotionally and seemed to gravitate toward the music. The Blues often encapsulated everything that they were feeling during the time. Even if they didn’t relate much to the music, they could feel the emotions through the artist’s use of different vocal, rhythmic and instrumental techniques.

Techniques of the Blues

                    Blues Artists used vocal techniques such as melisma to express feelings, which is sustaining a single syllable across several pitches. Rhythmic techniques such as syncopation and instrumental techniques like bending strings on the neck of a guitar create a whining voicelike sound. These techniques helped convey the feelings of the artists in the music. This, combined with heartfelt lyrics, would create a perfect Blues song. Techniques such as these made the lyrics feel even more natural as they conveyed their feelings through different vocal, rhythmic and instrumental plans. Not only could you feel the emotion in the lyrics but also in the music behind the songs. This all-around emotional experience is one that made the Blues popular.

Popular Blues Artists

           Popular Blues Artists include W.C. Handy often considered the creator of Blues. He combined the Blues idiom with popular ragtime music of the time. His work helped developed the conceptual framework that can then be used for improvisation. He drew on vocal melodies of African Americans folklore and added his orchestral arrangements. His most popular songs include “St.Louis Blues” and “The Memphis Blues”. 

       Another Popular Blues Artist is Bessie Smith. Smith was one of the first blue recording artists. Smith is considered one of the greatest blues vocalists of all time. Smith sang about poverty, love, betrayal and oppression. Many people were drawn to her music because of her emotional intensity and contralto voice. Her most notable songs include “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” and “Empty Bed Blues”. 


           Another popular artist includes Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey is known as “the mother of the blues”. She has contributed significantly to the evolution and form and growth of blues music. Rainey had a deep contralto voice that she used as a powerful instrument to depth of her songs in everyday life and emotion. She is also known for her flamboyant performances. Her most popular songs include “Trust No Man” and “See See Rider”. 

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