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Got a head full of foolishness, my baby got a ramblin' mind. - Jaybird Coleman

Author Topic: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing  (Read 15395 times)

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Online Johnm

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2005, 06:12:55 PM »
Hi all,
Continuing in this idea of trying to identify different Blues vocal phrasing archetypes, I noticed one while listening to Bukka White's early recordings.? You could call it a "repetition blues" or "stammering blues", I guess, and a couple of examples will show how it works.? From William Harris's "Bullfrog Blues":
Got the bullfrog blues, mama,? can't be satis-?can't be satis-?mamlishfied, I got the bu-
? ? ? ? ? ?|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? |? I-four beats ?|?I-four beats? |? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
? ? ? ? ? ??-ullfrog blues and I can't be satis-fied? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?got the bu-
? ? ? ? ? ?| IV-four beats?? ? ? ? |IV-four beats|? I-four beats?|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
? ? ? ? ? ? -ullfrog blues and I can't be satis-fied? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ?Have you ev-
? ? ? ? ? ?| II7-four beats? ? ? ? | V7-4 beats? ?|?I/IV7-4 beats|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? |
From Bukka White's "Fixin' to Die", we find:
Just as sure as we's livin', babe, sure we's born to die, sure we's born to die, just as sure as we's liv----(first 4 bars)
iving, sure we's born to die-------------I (second four bars)
know I was born to die, but I hate to leave my children crying----Your mother trea-(last 4 bars)
It is kind of interesting that in two tunes that groove so differently, the phrasing should have so many similarities:
?* The phrases in the second, third and fourth bars of the first line in both songs start on the + of the first beat in the measure.? This has the effect of making the repetition of the phrase really rhythmic and funky.
?* Both songs resolve the final repetition of the opening line across the first four bars into the second four bars via a held note.? This creates a tremendous rhythmic tug in addition to getting that cool effect you always get from holding a note across a chord change.?
One final note about this archetype--It is relatively easy to employ it with any conventional blues lyric, so if you like the punchy rhythmic effect of the repetition, you can customize your own version.
All best,
Johnm
?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2005, 11:20:42 PM by Johnm »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2005, 12:13:27 AM »
Yeah, John, and of course, Willie Brown's Future Blues is another (perhaps earlier?) song that employs this technique, but only on a few verses. Really fun to sing those "repetition blues". Did either of Willie's cohorts, Charlie or Son, ever employ this style?
This makes me also think of the repeated interjection, like "Can't you hear me talkin' pretty Mama" from the Sheiks' Stop and Listen or the various songs incorporating "Hey Lordy Mama, Great God Almighty" as an interjection between lines. They don't really fall into the Chorus Blues scheme, do you think?
All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2005, 12:48:51 AM 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 Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2005, 10:12:46 AM »
Good call, John C., on the next archetype I planned to do, the "response" archetype.  I agree that they are not chorus blues as described earlier.  For one thing, the response tends to happen in bars three and four of the first four bar phrase, unlike a chorus, that arrives on the IV chord.  Your choices are perfect, too--I hadn't thought of "Big Road Blues".
I ain't goin' down that big road by myself, now don't you hear me talkin' pretty mama, Lord, I ain'-----------------------(First 4 bars)
in't goin' down that big road by myself-----------I don't car-(second 4 bars)
ry you gonna carry somebody else-----------Next ver-(third 4 bars)
Or from Shirley Griffith, "Meet Me in The Bottom":
Meet me in the bottom, bring my boots and shoes, tonight ya mama, great God almighty(first four bars)
Meet me in the bottom, bring my boots and shoes-----I just co-(second 4 bars)
me by here, I ain't got no time to lose--------Well the wo-(third 4 bars)
Of course, "Meet Me In The Bottom" is much the same as Buddy Moss's "Ooh Lordy Mama". 
Once you think of these different archetypes, you realize other songs that fall into them.  One that falls into the "repetition" archetype is Teddy Darby's "Built Down On The Ground", a real beauty.  I will have to think if Charley Patton or Son House did any of that type.
All best,
Johnm

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2005, 12:16:43 PM »
Hi all,
I was listening to Johnny Temple's "Lead Pencil Blues" the other day and realized that it had an example of another vocal phrasing archetype:  "The Break".  "Lead Pencil Blues" is a chorus blues, in which different phrases are sung over the first four bars, with the chorus arriving in the fifth bar, simultaneous with the IV chord, and continuing to the end of the form.  After about two or three times through the form, Johnny comes to the break which works as follows:
My baby told me this morning,she's feeling mighty blue
      | I-four beats                        |  I-four beats         |
    lead in my pencil                   just wouldn't do.
| I-four beats                     |  I-four beats              | 
    And she said,                    "Been ready all night,
|  I-four beats                    |  I-four beats              | 
   lead in your pencil, daddy,         just won't write."
|  I-four beats                       | I-four beats            | 
At this point, the IV chord and chorus return.  These 8-bar "breaks", elongating the first four bars of the 12-bar form, expand the narrative possibility in a chorus blues, which normally has only the first four bars of the form change from verse to verse.  I'm not sure, but I believe such breaks may only occur in chorus blues.  When you think about it, they happen quite a lot in later blues, like the Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters, or the songs of Willie Dixon.  I don't know where the break first showed up-- it may have been around as long as the Classic Blues of the teens and '20s and such singers as Mamie and Clara Smith. 
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 23, 2006, 07:08:57 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2005, 11:42:27 PM »
Hi all,
I was wondering if anybody could think of another 12-bar blues that follows the lyric model of Luke Jordan's "Church Bells":? No chorus, no refrain, no repetition of lyrics or lines in any of the verses.? I know of 8-bar blues in which there is no repetition of lyrics or lines, but I can't think of any other 12-bar Blues that follows Luke Jordan's model.? Can any of you think of any others like that out there?
All best,
Johnm

Edited to add:? I realized after posting this that the very last line of the song is repeated:
? ?She had the nerve to ask me would a matchbox hold my clothes.
It seems an unusual form, nonetheless.
Johnm
« Last Edit: April 04, 2005, 03:15:10 PM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2005, 03:50:03 AM »
"Baby, Quit  Your Low Down Ways" by Blind Boy Fuller pretty much falls into the 12 bar, no chorus, no refrain, no repetition model.  There are some lines that repeat from verse to verse (and one repeated verse), but they're not in every verse, and to me they never seem to form a chorus or refrain.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2005, 11:08:43 AM »
Haven't come up with any 12 bar forms that don't have any of the criteria, John M, but was singing Tommy Johnson's Canned Heat Blues the other day and thought of this thread, since it seems to have so many different forms. Let's see,
1. AAB
2. AAB
3. AAA
4. ABC
5. ABB
6. AB(blank)
Also there is the response phrase "Canned heat, Lord, killin' me" used in several verses.
 Most interesting, I think is verse 5 with the ABB form. Any other examples of verses with the second line repeated instead of the first?
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2005, 11:46:47 PM »
Hi all,
I was teaching Robert Wilkins's "I'll Go With Her" to a student last week and realized that it followed a phrasing pattern I have never seen used in any other blues.  It is a 12-bar blues in which the same phrase is sung twice, but unlike other blues in which this happens, like Peg Leg Howell and Eddie Anthony's "Hobo Blues", it does not fit the first singing of the phrase over the first four bars and split the repetition of the phrase over the next two four-bar phrases.  Instead, "I'll Go With Her" splits the form into two six-bar phrases, and divides the phrase and its repetition equally over the two phrases, in this fashion.  Each measure has four beats though they don't show as being the same lengths.

I'll go with her,I'll follow her, I will       to her burying place
         |       I      |         I            |IV7|     IV7             | I | I |
      I'll go with her I'll follow her, I will   to her burying place
|     V        |         V7                       |    I        |      I       |I|I|

I had known Wilkins was an innovator, but I don't think it ever registered for me before how completely this song diverges from the commonly encountered 12-bar forms.  I hesitate to call it an archetype, because I think it is one-of-a-kind.  I think Robert Wilkins was a kind of genius.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 23, 2006, 07:13:29 PM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2005, 05:03:40 AM »
John:

I completely agree with your assessment of Robert Wilkins. I would probably use the term "singular" when referring to many of his songs as well as to the man himself. If pressed to sum up the man and his music in general terms, I would probably say that "its all Robert Wilkins, yet its all different."

Stu

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2006, 10:03:59 AM »
Hi all,
I realized yesterday that there is a 12-bar blues archetype that I don't believe we have previously identified.  It is employed by Mance Lipscomb for "Rocks and Gravel" and by John Hurt on "Monday Morning Blues".  It involves starting both of the first two four-bar phrases on the IV chord, a la:

   |      IV      |      IV      |       I      |       I      | 

   |      IV      |      IV      |       I      |       I      |

   |      V7      |      V7     |       I      |       I      |

"Monday Morning Blues" differs slightly from "Rocks And Gravel" in that the V7 bar that begins the last four-bar phrase is 6 beats long and is followed by three bars of I, the first of which is likewise six bars long.
I had noticed this type of 12-bar form previously but just figured out yesterday that what it is really like is a 16-bar blues with the first four bars (of I) removed.  Interestingly enough, when Mance Lipscomb solos on "Rocks and Gravel" he switches to a 16-bar form.  Can anyone think of other 12-bar blues that start the first two four-bar phrases on the IV chord?
All best,
Johnm


Offline GhostRider

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2006, 12:11:19 PM »
John:

I've always been interested in this form of the 12 bar blues.

Two other tunes come to mind which use this form, "Willie Mae" and it's family of derivitives, by Big Bill Broonzy and "Rising River Blues" (and "Ghost Woman Blues") by George Carter.

That makes 4 out of 4 great tunes in this form (Monday Morning Blues is my favorite MJH song.)

also, how' bout "Make Me a Pallet", "Ain't No Tellin' etc? (These are 16 bars).

Alex
« Last Edit: September 20, 2006, 12:12:34 PM by GhostRider »

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #26 on: September 20, 2006, 04:34:35 PM »
Those are good ones, Alex.  I had forgotten about "Rising River Blues", but it is squarely of this formal archetype.  Another one I chanced on since this morning is John Hurt's "Big Leg Blues", another great one, though he goes to a conventional 12-bar structure for his solos on that one.  I did think of "Ain't No Tellin'" and the other songs in its mold, but as you say, with a 16-bar structure, they fall in a slightly different archetype despite sharing the same first two four-bar phrases with this archetype.

Edited to add:  Later in the day, thought about "Goin' Down Slow", which is also in this category.  I think there are a ton of these and they are going to just keep turning up.

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 20, 2006, 09:55:14 PM by Johnm »

skeptiktank

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #27 on: September 21, 2006, 09:26:42 AM »
Wonderful thread. Regarding 12-bar formats that starts with IV: the rolling and tumbling family often follow this format.

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2007, 01:03:59 PM »
Thanks for alerting me to the existence of this thread, John! This is what I needed!   :D
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Offline tenderfoot84

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Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
« Reply #29 on: March 12, 2007, 06:01:32 AM »
hi waxwing,

to answer a question you posted a while back on this thread, charlie patton does sing at least on repitition blues: moon going down.

"now the smokestack is balck and the bell it shine like... bell it shine like... bell it shine like gold"

i wouldn't be surprised if he had any more but that's the only one that sprung to mind when i read your post.

i'm not sure if son house recorded any repitition blues in the same way.
Cheerybye,
David C

 


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