Style Sheets

Comparison of Rural and Classic Blues Style

Rural Blues
Classic Blues
1. Black Folk society 1. City society
2. Product of an agrarian society and attendant subject material 2. Urban environment
3. South 3. North
4. Usually pure and an extension of folklore and folk song 4. Shows an assimilation of a great many elements of popular music, including popular theater and/or vaudeville
5. Usually find blues singers in three contexts:
  1. singing for themselves and their immediate friends
  2. blind and/or otherwise disabled blues singers
  3. slightly commercial performers working picnics, dances, etc.
5. Professional blues singers found in nightclubs bars, at social affairs, etc.
6. Usually men 6. Originally mainly women; both men and women
7. In-group directed 7. Audience directed
8. Broader variety of subjects 8. Often sex oriented, though veiled
9. Songs about boll weevils, drought, crops, etc. 9. Songs about bed bugs, roaches, rats, "the block," etc.
10. Bad diction, malapropisms, faulty rhyme, etc. 10. Sophisticated speech, smooth diction
11. Bleak, austere, but often infused with hope 11. Hard, cruel, stoical, often speaks of hopelessness
12. Stringing together of stock phrases; lines often disjunct and unrelated 12. Emphasis often on lyrics that tell a story
13. Rough style 13. Smooth, theatrical style
14. Harsh, uncompromising, raw 14. Contains diverse and conflicting elements of black music, plus smooth emotional appeal of performance
15. Improvised 15. Standardized, formalized, etc.
16. Less structured, "free" form 16. Classic 6, 8, or 12 measure form
17. Use of pedal points, chord drones, prolonged and indefinite rate of harmonic change 17. Standard blues changes: I IV I V IV I
18. Unaccompanied voice, or mostly solo, with guitar accompaniment; also ad hoc instruments 18. Instrumental accompaniment using conventional instruments
19. Spontaneous expression of thought and mood 19. Written material, formal orchestration, musical arrangements
20. Spontaneous beginnings, fade-away endings 20. Clear cut beginnings (includes use of introduction) and endings
21. Structural elaboration is usually accidental 21. More elaborate structures (tags, endings, modulations, etc.)
22. Expressive rubato and erratic tempi 22. Wide tempo choices, but rigidity once established
23. Melody straight, range relatively narrow and confined; nasal quality with restricted use of melisma 23. Melody influenced by instrumental practices; wide range and extensive use of melisma
24. Rhythms crude, simple and erratic 24. Rhythms sophisticated, refined, often standardized
25. Scale choices relatively limited -- usually blues, pentatonic, major 25. Greater scale choices -- blues, pentatonic, diminished, etc.
26. Greater use of vocal ornamentation for personalization (growls, slides, etc.) and to relieve the monotony of solo voice and solo instrument 26. Stricter vocal technique
27. Solo or ad hoc instruments 27. Groups usually organized
28. Usually "in-group" black 28. More readily acceptable to and adapted by white world

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