The Origins of Contemporary Guitar Playing
Anyone interested in modern guitar music sooner or later wants to know it's origins. Well, it all started with rhythm and blues. Lets examine where the blues came from, how it evolved and just which muscians made this style of music so popular. And we have to concentrate on the blues guitar sound and the way it affects our feelings.
The blues as a musical phenomenon began around the beginning of the 1900's when W.C. Handy published a book of well known songs, two of the most notable being Memphis Blues and St Louis Blues, the music came out of poor black neighborhoods and told the story of poor peoples lives. The popularity of the blues grew and soon it was popular way outside the neighborhoods where it began.
The blues was first played on the piano. However, the guitar is easily carried and it soon found a prominent place in blues and jazz music. Blues guitar players like the twelve string guitarist Leadbelly and electric guitar player B.B. King were exceptional guitar players who really advanced the popularity of the blues. Other blues musicians playing in saloons and bars played slide guitar and changed its sound by using a bottle-neck or the edge of a knife to add emotion to their playing!.
In the 1950's young white performers like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley were discovering the blues and it was renamed to rock and roll, but make no mistake, early rock and roll was all blues. While this was happening, electrical blues guitar like B.B. King were discovering and creating fantastic lead guitar riffs, which added an entirely new dimension to their music. Throughout the progression of the blues the guitar had always been used for solos in jazz bands but soon guitar solos did with individual notes what the vocalist does with words.
Blues guitar can be played in any key and is. There are three basic forms of the blues, eight bars, for example Heartbreak Hotel, sixteen bars like Saint David Infirmary and twelve bars like "St. Louis Blues". Twelve bar blues dominates and is preferred by the listener compared to the other two, and it became the foundation of many excellent outgrowths of classical blues music.
You may be astonished to discover that blues players from the beginning knew nothing about Western musical theory. They learned to play from family members from traditions passed down much as the young white blues players of the nineteen sixties learned from studying the mucsic they heard on records.
Guitarists in the United States and Britain took the blues as a base and created their own unique styles. The old blues players actually began embracing some of the audio innovations discovered by young white guitarists. And so it goes. The blues inspires, leads to the development of new ideas, and the new ideas come back to influence the traditions of the blues. It is a continuous circle that keeps expanding!