The popularization of 20th century Blues

Introduction to Blues

Blues is a dynamic category of music that was brought about by artists infusing mixtures of different musical elements. These elements include ; 

A walking bass, call and response, specific chord progressions, flattened ‘blue’  notes. dissonant harmonies, melisma and syncopation.


The History of Blues

The very first glimpse of the genre occurred in the late 1860’s  the midst of the most catastrophic, vicious, and heart wrenching period for Black people within America. This period of time was so destructive due to the emancipation proclamation being enacted by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and black individuals experiencing hate crimes as a result of it. Blues is believed to not be a musical manifestation of the pain of a slave, but of the experiences of the free man, woman, and child. Blues really became prominent in society in the early 20th centurary around the creation of Jim Crow Laws- formal, codified system of racial apartheid that dominated the American South for three quarters of a century beginning in the 1890s. 

Categories of blues

There are numerous categories of blues, two of the most fundamental categories of the genre are classical, and country blues. 


 Country Blues consist of solo sung songs resulting from the category being created for one individual’s personal expression. Country Blues singers utilize unamplified guitars, Ostinato patterns in the guitar, Bottleneck used on the frets of the guitar, and usually men in falsetto voices, singing growling like noises in harmony. 


Classical or City Blues was a category of blues which was infant dominated by the female musicians in the early 1920s and mid 1930s. 

Some important elements of classical blues are the specific chord progressions, a walking bass, call and response, dissonant harmonies, syncopation, melisma and flattened ‘blue’ notes. 

One artist in particular that is accredited with being one of the most influential Classical blues singers was Ma Rainey or the “mother of blues.” Her presence was performing on stage, and her unique voice is how her music became so highly regarded over years. Here is one of her famous pieces called “ Moonshine Blues” 


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