Thursday, April 11, 2013

Me and The Devil - Robert Johnson

Blues Music - Blues Guitar Lessons

For the majority of people, playing acoustic guitar in the authentic way is a bit more than simply copying the musical style. The idea kindles a continuing fascination with a time in American folklore that still speaks to us in the present day - the lives of the first blues artists and musicians give us a profound insight into the times and trials of life for negros in those times.

You don't have to listen too hard to hear the beat of the classic blues music in many modern jazz, rock and pop music. The blues is the root of 60s rock music, which came from Chicago electric blues, which came from the music of Big Bill Broonzy, which came from .... well, you get the idea.

While it's obvious that there were different styles of guitar blues, it all came basically from one place, and possibly from one physical are - the Delta of The Mississippi. The first African slaves labored hard hours in the fields gathering cotton and pulling big sacks in their wake. Work gangs were very common in the South, where a negro could be jail|jailed} for almost nothing, and then made to labor on county roads or on the bosses farms. It was a huge spiritual relief to sing or chant a rhythm to help the work flow and give a {sense of community|some comfort}. This is how the 'field hollers' were {created}. Field hollers had a limited range musically and the words were really repetitive, which became an enduring feature of all songs in the blues style.

The first slaves were taken from Africa, were there was a deep tradition of story telling and elementary music accompanied by hypnotic rhythms, frequently accompanied by drums and instruments with a single string created from gourds or the skins of animals stretched out across a frame. It's probable that the first rudimentary guitar had very few strings, with a sound box fabricated from a large cigar box. Without a doubt, only really simple music could be created from these beginnings, but the vocal nuances could be at the same time subtle and powerful.

The Blues Guitar Comes To Pass ...

At the turn of the twentieth, an innovative method of merchandising gave a new impetus for blues music and was vital for creating the rich variation we now associate with it. The Sears company created a system of commerce by mail, and distributed catalogs far and wide across America. This had never happened before - cheap factory made instruments were available to the masses. Amongst the many products on offer, one could purchase a Harmony guitar for one dollar. Blues music was on the verge of a breakthrough!

As one might suppose, a factory made acoustic guitar was not the best quality instrument, and probably hard to keep in tune - in the southern humid weather, it was just about impossible. This was probably why slide guitar was one of the first blues guitar styles to appear. It was easy to create a simple tune as the strings were tuned to an open arrangement such as open G, C or D - it wasn't even necessary to know any chords! In open G, for instance, it was a lot easier to keep the guitar tuned than when using normal or 'Spanish' style tuning. Even if the guitar was out of tune, one could vary the position of the slide whilst playing, so it wasn't that important - particularly for a skilled guitarist.

Many of the first blues musicians were adept at this style, such as Son House (who taught Robert Johnson), John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. However, Son House played bottleneck guitar throughout his playing, whilst the others diversified into other finger picking styles. House used a National steel guitar-steel guitar called a National, which was all metal construction housing a patented 'cone' amplifier system. The natural acoustic amplifier effect was a big help when performing for house parties, or in noisy places, for example. These musical events often involved heavy drinking and frequently, fights about money or women.

Diversity In Blues Music

As guitar became more available and the ability to make music spread, inevitably musicians began to experiment with ways of playing and definite styles emerged, at time depending upon a particular region.