The blues started out simply in the Mississippi Delta and East Texas as a primarily vocal music style. Years of evolution lead to the wide range of blues styles today, but they all pay tribute to the blues style of old by focusing on an emotive voice.
We’ll look at the 5 main types of blues music that evolved over the decades so that you can know a bit more about each and grow to appreciation them individually and come to know how the music evolved.
Different types of blues
This is the original blues form. It evolved during the last years of slavery in the American south. This would be the late 1800’s. Who it evolved with, slaves, is largely responsible for the soulful, evocative and passionate music that we now know today as the blues.
Being the music of the slaves lead to this music developing in the Delta region of America with few instruments being used. Cigar boxes and harmonicas were the first common instruments, while actual guitars and slide guitars later entered the musical form.
The other major form of blues is one which evolved in Chicago. It first began to make itself known in Chicago clubs in the early 30’s and came from it’s rural origins to the urban center as the Great Depression began – poverty and hardship were again fueling blues musicians.
With this bigger stage now set, the blues music of old had to evolve. A single person with an old cigar box guitar or a harmonica wasn’t enough to please music fans in the big city. Chicago blues now included:
- multiple guitar players
- jazz style horn sections
- upright bass
While it was a successful musical venture for the form it also began it’s demise as Chicago blues soon became rhythm and blues (the R&B we know today) and more importance was placed on instrumentation and less emphasis was on the evocative vocal abilities of old.
This musical genre is a little harder to nail down as it is also known as East Coast or Southeastern blues and is characterized by a particular style of guitar playing. This style is known as fingerpicking and uses the thumb to play a steady bass line, while the forefingers play a melody. It had a ragtime feel to it, but with a heavy blues influence on the vocal styles.
This style was one of the first to move away from the heart wrenching styles of old and use a more uptempo beat. It was heavily influenced by the big band, swing and boogie-woogie music of the time and as such made frequent use of horns. It is largely credited with the birth of R&B and rock n’ roll music.
This style all comes down to the introduction of amplification for the guitar. The first electric blues players began recording in the 1930’s and really came into their own in the 1940’s, frequently crossing over with Chicago blues as artists wanted more volume to please audiences.
This style of blues continues to be highly influential and is widely loved by all styles of music artists. The 1960’s saw a boom of electric blues players in England which lead to the blues-rock style that is still popular today thanks to the likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Black Keys and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.