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Discovering music: the blues
Discovering music: the blues

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12 Musical techniques

Now that you have learned about the context and content of blues songs, in this section you will be introduced to two technical elements of the Blues. W. C. Handy, the composer of ‘Memphis blues’, one of the first blues pieces to be written down and published as sheet music in 1912, wrote about his inspiration for this piece sometime later. He described how he had heard singing in the plantations and had noted down what he heard – a plaintive melody which suggested a repetitive chord sequence. These two elements, a melody that is melancholy, wistful or sad and a specific pattern of chords, are fundamental to the blues, whether in the form of dance music or the more familiar songs and you will now examine them in more detail.