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...they said, 'so we'll give you the signal when to end the tune and start the next tune, and you signal Mr. House'. I said, 'Signal him? How can I signal him? He closes his eyes - Jerry Ricks, Port Townsend 97

Author Topic: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords  (Read 39887 times)

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Offline a2tom

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2005, 06:33:40 AM »
Well, if we're going for minor chords, I know some Gary Davis tunes that use an A minor when playing in C.  I don't have a guitar in hand so I hope I am remembering right that Pure Religion is an example.  It is a great little passing chord - I've thrown it into some my own playing -  but the piece certainly doesn't have a minor feel.

Ooh, and Sam McGee's Franklin Blues (which isn't really a blues at all, as near as I can tell) uses a D minor in C.  (again, I think that is right - I am so hands on oriented I can't remember these things without a guitar in my hands!)

tom

Offline frankie

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2005, 07:56:55 AM »
Well, if we're going for minor chords, I know some Gary Davis tunes that use an A minor when playing in C.? I don't have a guitar in hand so I hope I am remembering right that Pure Religion is an example.? It is a great little passing chord - I've thrown it into some my own playing -? but the piece certainly doesn't have a minor feel.

Very many of his religious songs in C use this change.? Being, generally speaking, more harmonically sophisticated than the average blues musician, Rev. Davis made frequent use of the relative minor and circle of fifths harmonization.? You find Bminor in the key of? D, Eminor in the key of G, Dminor in the key of F.? To list out all the songs where he used minor chords to flesh out his harmonies would almost be a list of his entire repertoire.? On the other hand, it's my opinion that Rev. Davis is really best thought of as a gospel musician, and indeed, seems to have thought of himself in that way as well.? The whole notion of his music being "Holy Blues" seems kind of revisionist to me - as if tacking the word "blues" to what he does would somehow make him more palatable to a mainstream audience.

Ooh, and Sam McGee's Franklin Blues (which isn't really a blues at all, as near as I can tell) uses a D minor in C.? (again, I think that is right - I am so hands on oriented I can't remember these things without a guitar in my hands!)

Yep - there's a Dminor in there for sure.? If we're going to include Rev. Davis, we might as well include Franklin Blues.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2005, 03:09:57 PM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2005, 09:09:53 AM »
Two I'm not sure about without more listening and a guitar in hand but: Blind Lemon's Right of Way Blues, played in E, has minor tonalities to my ear, without necessarily going to obvious minor chords. The other Lemon tune - again hard to tell - but Struck Sorrow Blues, in A and sort of Matchbox-like in a mournful way, sure seems to have a minor quality between the guitar and the vocal melody when he goes to the IV chord. Whether or not he hits an actual minor chord, I can't say. Probably the first time he does it is the easiest to hear in this poor recording. For better ears than mine.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2005, 10:53:19 AM »
And as I was scanning banjochris' listing of the BWMcT tunes last night I remembered that Dying Crapshooter's Blues is in Dm, and of course the van Ronk St. James Infirmary Blues is in Am.
All for now.
John C.
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Offline GhostRider

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2005, 12:39:00 PM »
Hi all:

Some great suggestions. It's time for the "list":

Bill Williams
Pocahantas

Blind Blake
Rope Strechin' Blues

Blind Willie McTell
Dying Crapshooters Blues, Dm

Various
St. James Infirmary, Am

Lonnie Johnson
Blue Ghost Blues, E

Blind Lemon Jefferson
?Right of Way Blues, E
?Struck Sorrow Blues, A
Wartime Blues

Geeshee Wiley
Last Kind Word

Blind Boy Fuller
Weeping Willow Blues

Mance Lipscomb
Ain't It Hard, Am

Dave van Ronk
Sportin' Life Blues, D

Tampa Red
If You Want Me to Love You

I left off the religious tunes (although they're great) and Franklin Blues

Alex
« Last Edit: February 11, 2005, 01:36:32 PM by pyrochlore »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2005, 12:51:23 PM »
Hi all,
Good to map them all out in one post, Alex.  I just thought of another:  Kentucky guitarist  Bill Williams' sensational A Minor instrumental "Pocahantas".  It's kind of like a much tougher and groovier precursor to the Nashville guitar instrumental "Windy and Warm".  You can check it out on the Juke if you've never heard it.
All best,
Johnm

Offline a2tom

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2005, 05:47:11 AM »
As I was playing it last night, I realized that Blind Boy Fuller's Careless Love hasn't been mentioned I don't think.? The song is in A, but the first bar and again later on he really rides the C natural as the first note, only to transition to the half bar A major a bar or two later.? I know Stefan Grossman calls the first part A minor in this transcription of the tune, although I am not clear as I sit here without my guitar that one really plays this with a fully fingered A minor chord.? The C stands out as a single note, and I usually play it with only my index finger sitting on the 2nd string first fret.? Its an interesting tune, since the same C then comes back as the melody note at the beginning of the fourth bar as part of the D7 chord as well.

I suppose it might be debatable whether that is really A minor or not.? But I think it is since I was so intrigued by the progression of the tune that I deliberately arranged another tune over the same progression to understand it better.? In my tune, I do play the fully fingered A minor in the first bar and transition the same way to the A major.? It ends up being the basic tonal feel.? Maybe I'll post that someday, but I have other things to work on first, and I don't really have the time to even be writing this...

Back to work,

tom
« Last Edit: April 04, 2005, 03:11:29 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2005, 09:12:23 AM »
Hi Tom,
In an instance like you describe with "Careless Love" as played by Fuller, I always try to decide whether it is in major or minor by seeing how it sounds with "boom-chang" chordal back-up, first in minor, then in major.  Done with that test, "Careless Love" definitely sounds major, with the blue third C note clashing with the harmony.  I think if you back it up with minor all the tension goes, because the chord and melody note are in agreement.  In minor, it has a folky sort of sound to me, like "Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair", or something like that.
Another blues with minor chords is Blake's "Rope Stretchin' Blues".
All best,
Johnm

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2005, 10:14:29 PM »
Hi all:

I spent the evening with Funny Papa Smith  (well, at least the Document complete CD). Always a worthwhile endeavor, this guy had so many great musical ideas.

Anyway in 11th and 12th bars of"Corn Whiskey Blues" he plays the following turnaround (Key of E, capo I)

E/Am-E

He also play a variation of the Mamlish Blues riff and his arrangement also bears some resemblances to parts of "This Old World's in a Tangle"

Alex

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2005, 05:16:25 PM »
Hi all,
I was thinking about this thread and realizing that Robert Pete Williams has a lot of minor blues, most often in Dorian mode, with a major IV chord and minor I chord.  Here are a few of his minor titles:
   * "Louise", "Lord, I'm Going Home Soon", and "Jesse James" from "Long Ol' Way From Home" on Fuel
   * "When A Man Take The Blues", from "When A Man Take The Blues"--Robert Pete Williams, Vol. 2 on Arhoolie
   * "Angola Special", "Pardon Denied Again", "I'm As Blue As A Man Can Be", "Up and Down Blues", and "Levee Camp Blues" from "I'm As Blue As A Man Can Be"--Robert Pete Williams, Vol. 1 on Arhoolie
There's a ton of great material here.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #25 on: May 06, 2005, 10:01:38 AM »
I was thinking about this thread and realizing that Robert Pete Williams has a lot of minor blues, most often in Dorian mode, with a major IV chord and minor I chord. 
Wow, John, you just clued me in on how to look at the chordal backing required for various modes. I've long been aware of what modal scales were, Gre being an Orff teacher, but in Orff they mostly use drone notes as backing to give the children more freedom to improvise. Whenever I asked Gre about chordal backing she wasn't really able to respond. But now I see that different combinations of Major and minor chords of the I, IV and V will give you the different modalities. And I guess maybe a diminished chord comes into play as well, like for the root in Locrian. Cool, I'm gonna have to investigate this further, as it's probably not just that simple. Thanks much.
All for now.
John C.
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Online Johnm

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2005, 02:35:34 PM »
Hi JohnC.,
Yes, your inference of the I chord in Locrian mode being a dimished triad is right on the money.? For any of you who might be interested in the Greek modes, a relatively easy way to think of them is deriving from a "white note" scale on the piano, using no sharps or flats.? So you can think of the C major scale as being the "parent" scale.
? ?C---D--E--F--G--A--B--C
Now, in that major scale, the half steps fall between III-IV and VII-VIII.? You can construct the "diatonic" triads off of each successive note of the scale by figuring out what notes of the scale will be the third and fifth for each note of the scale.? (Diatonic means not using notes outside the scale, as opposed to chromatic, which would include all the sharps and flats as well.)? Using this method, you end up with a I chord of C-E-G, a II chord of D-F-A, a III chord of E-G-B, a IV chord of F-A-C, and so on, right on up the scale to the VII chord, B-D-F.
Having figured out what notes constitute the various diatonic triads, what you find is that the various notes of the major scale end up having the following chord types rooted off of them.
?C-------D-------E-----F-------G------A---------B---------C
Major? ?Minor? ?Minor? Major? ?Major? Minor? ?Diminished?? Major
Since all major scales are structurally identical, this ordering of the diatonic chords will be the same no matter what key you're playing in.

The Greek Modes are formed by playing scales starting on different notes of the major scale.? They are as follows:
? ?*? Ionian, or I mode, is the same as the major scale, and runs from I to I
? ?*? Dorian, or II mode, runs from II to II
? ?*? Phrygian, or III mode, runs from III to III
? ?*? Lydian, or IV mode, runs from IV to IV
? ?*? Mixolydian, or V mode, runs from V to V
? ?*? Aeolian, or VI mode, runs from VI to VI
? ?*? Locrian, or VII mode, runs from VII to VII
Since the structure of the parent major scale has not been changed to construct the modes (you are just starting on different notes than the original I note), you can figure out both the scale of the different modes and the diatonic chords associated with them pretty easily.? So the Dorian, or II mode, based off of the C major scale, will contain the following notes and diatonic chords:
? ?D------E-----F-------G------A--------B-------C-------D
?Minor? Minor?Major? ?Major? ?Minor Diminished Major? ?Minor
So it is, that when Robert Pete Williams plays a Blues in D Dorian, his I chord is minor, his IV chord is major, and his V chord (if he hits one) is minor.? It is a beautiful, spooky sound, especially the major IV chord in a minor key, which really has an eerie sound.? In the Dorian mode, you can also see that the half-steps fall between II-III and VI-VII.

All the modes will not work equally well in a blues context.? The III mode, Phrygian, won't work well for a blues at all, but just strum its I chord (E minor in this case) followed by its II chord, III chord, back to II, and back to I--Spanish music!? The modes that occur most frequently in songs and fiddle tunes coming out of the British Isles and surviving in Appalachia are the Dorian mode, the Mixolydian mode and the Aeolian mode.? These mixed with a lot of music coming out of the African and American black traditions to make some pretty great music.
Thanks for mentioning that point, John C, it's great to see how this stuff works.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 06, 2005, 04:11:19 PM by Johnm »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2005, 11:05:48 PM »
Hey John M,
Thanks for laying it out so clearly (as you did on the BLJ thread, too, while we were fumbling around with nuances -G-). And Gre thanks you, too. You always seem to be leading me to look at the next thing.
All for now.
John C.
P.S. JohnM, I had editted your post to get the notes and their chordal types to line up better, but I take it you editted it back, so it must look totally different in whichever browser you are using. In Safari, the names are stretched out a lot more than the notes. Can still make sense of it, tho', no problem. Sorry, just tryin' to help.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2005, 11:19:06 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Online Johnm

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2005, 12:32:16 AM »
Hi John C.,
Hey, no problem with the editing help--I can use all the help I can get in that area!  You are right, that for some reason, even when I preview a complicated post and it shows up fine in the preview, when I take it to the post step it sometimes ends up kind of garbled looking.  I need to get a newer operating system, I think, or better skills--maybe both.
All best,
Johnm

Offline a2tom

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Re: Blues in Minor/With Minor Chords
« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2005, 05:50:50 AM »
The theory is good to see layed out again - too far in the dim recesses of my mind and youth to be able to recall it!  Thanks.

A tiny hint on getting things to line up - use the bid red A button on the posting page to insert some font face tags and then change Verdana to Courier.  This a fixed-width font and whatever you type between the tags ought to line up if you count spaces (or actually type it out in Courier in a text editor first and then paste between the font tags.  Takes out the guesswork.

Each      of        these     words     takes     ten       spaces.
1234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890

even thought they were NOT spaced correctly in the text editing window, which is using a variable width font.  Slack - any way to be able to edit in different font face?

tom

 


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