Blues rock

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Blues rock is a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. It is mostly an electric ensemble-style music with instrumentation similar to electric blues and rock: electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, often with Hammond organ. From its beginnings in the early- to mid-1960s, blues rock has gone through several stylistic shifts and along the way it inspired and influenced hard rock, Southern rock, and early heavy metal. Blues rock continues to be an influence in the 2010s, with performances and recordings by popular artists.

A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. It is to be distinguished from musical form and musical style, although in practice these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Recently, academics have argued that categorizing music by genre is inaccurate and outdated.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, spirituals, and the folk music of white Americans of European heritage. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds or fifths flattened in pitch, are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Typically, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Contents

Blues rock started with rock musicians in the United Kingdom and the United States performing American blues songs. They typically recreated electric Chicago-style blues songs, such as those by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, and Albert King, at faster tempos and with a more aggressive sound common to rock. In the UK, the style was popularized by groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, who managed to place blues songs into the pop charts. In the US, Lonnie Mack, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Canned Heat were among the earliest exponents and "attempted to play long, involved improvisations which were commonplace on jazz records". [3] John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac also developed this more instrumental, but traditional-based style in the UK, while late 1960s and early 1970s groups, including Ten Years After, Savoy Brown, the Climax Blues Band and Foghat became more hard rock oriented. In the US, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band, and ZZ Top represented a hard rock trend.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Muddy Waters American blues singer and guitarist

McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who is often cited as the "father of modern Chicago blues", and an important figure on the post-war blues scene.

Although around this time, the differences between blues rock and hard rock lessened, [3] there was also a return to more blues-influenced styles. In the 1980s, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, recorded their best-known works and the 1990s saw guitarists Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd become popular concert attractions. Groups such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes, brought an edgier, more diverse style into the 2000s, as do contemporary artists such as the Black Keys.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds American band

The Fabulous Thunderbirds are an American blues rock band formed in Texas in 1974.

Stevie Ray Vaughan American guitarist, songwriter and recording artist

Stephen Ray Vaughan was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, and one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in the 1980s. He is commonly referred to as one of, if not the greatest guitar player of all time.

Gary Moore Northern Ireland guitarist, songwriter and record producer

Robert William Gary Moore was a Northern Irish rock guitarist and singer-songwriter.

Characteristics

Blues rock can be characterized by bluesy improvisation, the twelve-bar blues, extended boogie jams typically focused on the electric guitar player, and often a heavier, riff-oriented sound and feel to the songs than might be found in traditional Chicago-style blues. Blues rock bands "borrow[ed] the idea of an instrumental combo and loud amplification from rock & roll". [3] It is also often played at a fast tempo, again distinguishing it from the blues. [3]

The twelve-bar blues is one of the most prominent chord progressions in popular music. The blues progression has a distinctive form in lyrics, phrase, chord structure, and duration. In its basic form, it is predominantly based on the I, IV, and V chords of a key.

Boogie is a repetitive, swung note or shuffle rhythm, "groove" or pattern used in blues which was originally played on the piano in boogie-woogie music. The characteristic rhythm and feel of the boogie was then adapted to guitar, double bass, and other instruments. The earliest recorded boogie-woogie song was in 1916. By the 1930s, Swing bands such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Louis Jordan all had boogie hits. By the 1950s, boogie became incorporated into the emerging rockabilly and rock and roll styles. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s country bands released country boogies. Today, the term "boogie" usually refers to dancing to pop, disco, or rock music.

Jam session

A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To "jam" is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also 'free flow sessions', are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. Both styles can be used simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator or host acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be broadcast live on radio or TV or edited and released to the public.

Instrumentation

The core blues rock sound is created by the electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit. Often bands also included a harmonica, usually called "a harp."

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Bass guitar Electric bass instrument

The bass guitar is a stringed instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and four to six strings or courses. The four-string bass is usually tuned the same as the double bass, which corresponds to pitches one octave lower than the four lowest pitched strings of a guitar. The bass guitar is a transposing instrument, as it is notated in bass clef an octave higher than it sounds. It is played primarily with the fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, strumming, tapping, thumping, or picking with a plectrum, often known as a pick. The electric bass guitar has pickups and must be connected to an amplifier and speaker, to be loud enough to compete with other instruments.

Drum kit collection of drums and other percussion instruments

A drum kit — also called a drum set, trap set, or simply drums — is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments, typically cymbals, which are set up on stands to be played by a single player, with drumsticks held in both hands, and the feet operating pedals that control the hi-hat cymbal and the beater for the bass drum. A drum kit consists of a mix of drums and idiophones – most significantly cymbals, but can also include the woodblock and cowbell. In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments. Also, both hybrid and entirely electronic kits are used.

The electric guitar is usually amplified through a tube guitar amplifier or using an overdrive effect. Two guitars are commonplace in blues rock bands: one guitarist focused on rhythm guitar, playing riffs and chords as accompaniment; and the other focused on lead guitar, playing melodic lines and solos.

Distortion (music) form of audio signal processing giving "fuzzy" sound

Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive in the 2010s, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.

Rhythm guitar guitar technique; part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

Lead guitar is a musical part for a guitar in which the guitarist plays melody lines, instrumental fill passages, guitar solos, and occasionally, some riffs within a song structure. The lead is the featured guitar, which usually plays single-note-based lines or double-stops. In rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, punk, fusion, some pop, and other music styles, lead guitar lines are usually supported by a second guitarist who plays rhythm guitar, which consists of accompaniment chords and riffs.

While 1950s-era blues bands would sometimes still use the upright bass, the blues rock bands of the 1960s used the electric bass, which was easier to amplify to loud volumes.

Keyboard instruments, such as the piano and Hammond organ, are also occasionally used. As with the electric guitar, the sound of the Hammond organ is typically amplified with a tube amplifier, which gives a growling, "overdriven" sound quality to the instrument.

Vocals also typically play a key role, although the vocals may be equal in importance or even subordinate to the lead guitar playing. As well, a number of blues rock pieces are instrumental-only.

Structure

Blues rock pieces often follow typical blues structures, such as twelve-bar blues, sixteen-bar blues, etc. They also use the I-IV-V progression, though there are exceptions, some pieces having a "B" section, while others remain on the I. The Allman Brothers Band's version of "Stormy Monday", which uses chord substitutions based on Bobby "Blue" Bland's 1961 rendition, adds a solo section where "the rhythm shifts effortlessly into an uptempo 6/8-time jazz feel". [4] The key is usually major, but can also be minor, such as in "Black Magic Woman".

One notable difference is the frequent use of a straight eighth-note or rock rhythm instead of triplets usually found in blues. An example is Cream's "Crossroads". Although it was adapted from Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues", the bass "combines with drums to create and continually emphasize continuity in the regular metric drive". [5] Cream also uses some of the lyrics from "Traveling Riverside Blues" to create their own interpretation of the song.

History

Eric Clapton in Barcelona, 1974 Eric "slowhand" Clapton.jpg
Eric Clapton in Barcelona, 1974

Rock and blues have historically always been closely linked, and electric guitar techniques such as distortion and power chords were already used by 1950s blues guitarists, particularly Memphis bluesmen such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson and Pat Hare. [6] [7] In 1963, American rockabilly soloist Lonnie Mack created an idiosyncratic, fast-paced electric blues guitar style [8] that later came to be identified with blues rock. His instrumentals from that period were recognizable as blues or R&B tunes, but he relied heavily upon fast-picking techniques derived from traditional American country and bluegrass genres. The best-known of these are the 1963 hit singles "Memphis" (Billboard R&B #4, Pop #5) and "Wham!" (Billboard Pop #24). [9] However, blues rock was not named as such, or widely recognized as a distinct movement within rock, until the mid-late 1960s. At that point, Mack's earlier recordings were rediscovered and he came to be regarded as a pioneer, or close stylistic forerunner, of what, by then, had become known as "blues rock guitar". Other American artists, such as Paul Butterfield and Canned Heat are now also considered blues rock pioneers. [10]

In the UK, several musicians honed their skills in a handful of British blues bands, primarily those of Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. [10] While the early British rhythm and blues groups, such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, incorporated American R&B, rock and roll, and pop, John Mayall took a more distinctly electric blues approach. [10] In 1966, he released Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton , the first of several influential blues rock albums. [11] When Eric Clapton left Mayall to form Cream, they created a hybrid style with blues, rock, and jazz improvisation, which was the most innovative to date. [12] British band Fleetwood Mac initially played traditionally-oriented electric blues, but soon evolved. [13] Their guitarist Peter Green, who was Clapton's replacement with Mayall, brought many innovations to their music. [14]

The electric guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix (a veteran of many American rhythm and blues and soul groups from the early-mid-1960s) and his power trios, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, had a broad and lasting influence on the development of blues rock, especially for guitarists. [10] Clapton continued to explore several musical styles and contributed to bringing blues rock into the mainstream. [10] By this time, American acts such as the Doors and Janis Joplin further introduced rock audiences to the genre. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is known for incorporating a mixture of blues rock, progressive rock and psychedelic rock into his guitar work. Gilmour has described Hendrix as an inspiration for his style of playing.

In the late 1960s, Jeff Beck, with his band the Jeff Beck Group, developed blues rock into a form of heavy rock. [10] Jimmy Page, who replaced Beck in the Yardbirds, followed suit with Led Zeppelin and became a major force in the 1970s heavy metal scene. [10] Other blues rock musicians on the scene in the 1970s include Dr. Feelgood, Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower.

Beginning in the early 1970s, American bands such as Aerosmith fused blues with a hard rock edge. Blues rock grew to include Southern rock bands, like the Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while the British scene, except for the advent of groups such as Status Quo and Foghat, became focused on heavy metal innovation. [15]

Blues rock had a rebirth in the early 1990s–2000s, with many artists such as Gary Moore, Mad Season, John Norum, Gary Clark Jr., Susan Tedeschi, the White Stripes, [16] Jack White, Rival Sons, John Mayer, [17] Blues Traveler, the Black Crowes, [18] the Black Keys, [19] Jeff Healey, [20] Philip Sayce, Clutch, [21] the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion [22] Joe Bonamassa, [23] Greta Van Fleet, and Guy Forsyth. [24]

See also

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Further reading