Country Blues > Country Blues Licks and Lessons

Unusual intervals in country blues

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Gmaj7:
The "harmonic complexity in blues" thread got me thinking about this.
Blues uses minor and major scales, along with blue notes, which means that across country blues almost every interval is covered. The only one I can think of that isn't used (as far as I'm aware) is the minor second, which is a half step above the root.
It doesn't sound very bluesy to me; more reminiscent of flamenco or "eastern music". Is there any incidence of the minor second being used in country blues? I don't mean in turnarounds but rather whether there is any example of a player using this interval as a key part of their melody? Did anyone ever use the Locrian mode (which includes this interval) in country blues?
I suspect the answer is "no" to both questions, but maybe I'm wrong. There are all sorts of unconventional players in the genre (Buddy Boy Hawkins springs to mind) and who knows what they got up to.....
Are there any other particularly odd intervals that only turn up rarely in melodies?

Johnm:
Hi Gmaj7,
The odds against a flat II note being in the melody of a blues are very strong, because the great majority of blues have melodies comprised of notes derived from pentatonic scales, and the pentatonic scales that blues most often use, the minor pentatonic:  I-bIII-IV-V-bVII, and the major pentatonic:  I-II-III-V-VI, do not have any half-steps in them.  Since a Country Blues, or for that matter, almost any tonal melody, will have a I note in it, the half-step above the I note doesn't live in the Country Blues' melodic vocabulary.
That having been said, it's not impossible, and even fairly likely, that you could have a #I note in the melody of a raggy 16-bar blues that starts with a I-VI7-II7-V7-I progression, since the #I note would be the major third of the VI7 chord.  I can't think of any of those sorts of tunes right off the bat that have that note in the melody, but it's not at all implausible, and if arrived at step-wise, by going from I note in the I chord to #I note in the VI7 chord it would sound perfectly natural.  Functionally, that #I note would not be the same as a bII note, though, and it's much harder to think of a context in which a bII note would be natural-sounding.
All best,
Johnm   

waxwing:
I have noticed in the past that William Brown's "Ragged and Dirty" uses every note in the chromatic scale except the bII note in both the guitar part and sung melody, which track each other pretty closely. And he gets pretty close in "Mississippi Blues", too.

Another context that the #I/bII note might appear, again due to a raggy influence, is as the root of the (#I)dim7 chord, which is basically the I7 chord with the root raised a half step. I remember learning a Blind Blake tune in a Mary Flowers class at PT in which he did a half steps walk down of dim7 chords, but I don't remember if it walked down to or from the I chord, nor do I remember the name of the tune, but I think t did have a VI/II/V/I structure as well. Others may think of different examples. In the context of a walk down like that I don't know if it would be referred to as the (#I)dim7 or (bII)dim7? Of course, the note itself would appear in every 4th chord of such a walk down, but might not be considered the root. Which brings up another question: If a dim7 chord is played on the guitar it is usually in support of the melody note on the top treble string, but the dim7 is usually named for the base note of the voicing. So which would meet the criteria of the original poster's question?

It might have been "Depression Has Gone from Me."

Wax

Johnm:
Hi Wax,
It seems like the original poster's search was for bII notes in the sung melody, so if that note (or a #I note) was in the harmony but not in the melody it would not count for his purposes.  This would exclude a lot of turn-arounds or walk-ups and walk-downs where you pass through that note in the bass line or an interior line but against a diatonic note being sung in the melody.
All best,
Johnm

Gmaj7:

--- Quote from: Johnm on November 19, 2017, 06:37:04 AM ---Hi Gmaj7,
The odds against a flat II note being in the melody of a blues are very strong, because the great majority of blues have melodies comprised of notes derived from pentatonic scales, and the pentatonic scales that blues most often use, the minor pentatonic:  I-bIII-IV-V-bVII, and the major pentatonic:  I-II-III-V-VI, do not have any half-steps in them.  Since a Country Blues, or for that matter, almost any tonal melody, will have a I note in it, the half-step above the I note doesn't live in the Country Blues' melodic vocabulary.
That having been said, it's not impossible, and even fairly likely, that you could have a #I note in the melody of a raggy 16-bar blues that starts with a I-VI7-II7-V7-I progression, since the #I note would be the major third of the VI7 chord.  I can't think of any of those sorts of tunes right off the bat that have that note in the melody, but it's not at all implausible, and if arrived at step-wise, by going from I note in the I chord to #I note in the VI7 chord it would sound perfectly natural.  Functionally, that #I note would not be the same as a bII note, though, and it's much harder to think of a context in which a bII note would be natural-sounding.
All best,
Johnm

--- End quote ---

Hi John, thanks for the reply. That's pretty interesting and I hadn't though of it. I expect that to the listener, it would not sound like a #1 because as you say it is not functioning in that way. It would be a curious way to disorient the listener I suppose, if it were played slightly more ambiguously. e.g. how might it sound if you played the major third in the bass of the VI7 chord.

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