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How Do I Become a Blues Musician?

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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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To become a blues musician, the aspiring artist should learn to play or sing in a blues styles. The musician may already be an accomplished instrumentalist or vocalist. In other cases, someone without that background can learn how to play an instrument or sing in the blues style. A budding musician can take lessons from an instructor, find instruction on websites, use books and videos to learn how to play the blues, and also study the works of premier blues musicians.

Although blues can be played on any instrument, the guitar and piano are common choices for blues artists. Using either instrument, someone aspiring to become a blues musician can learn a few simple chords. Once he knows a few chords, he can enjoy playing songs and continue to advance his skills. Someone who already knows how to play an instrument will be able to advance more quickly.

The blues usually makes use of what is known as a pentatonic or blues scale, which helps give blues music its distinctive sound. This scale primarily uses five notes, compared to the seven notes used in classical music. A pentatonic scale can be played in all the major and minor keys.

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Another important feature of blues music is the 12-bar chord progression. It describes the chords used in the song and the bars in which the chords are used. Chord progressions are frequently denoted using Roman numerals, such as I - IV - V. The I represents the root chord of the key, the IV represents the fourth chord, and the V represents the fifth chord. A common 12-bar progression is I - I - I - I - IV - IV - I - I - V - IV - I - V.

To authentically play the blues, someone who would like to become a blues musician will want to immerse himself in the music of artists from various genres of blues, such as the Delta, Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago styles. Among all the blues songwriters, singers, and guitarists, Robert Johnson, who was born in 1911 and died in 1938, was one of the most influential. Although he lived only a short time, his music influenced highly respected musicians and groups such Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. Studying his recordings is suggested for anyone who would like to become a blues musician. A few other musicians whose work is worth studying include Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, BB King, Junior Wells, and Buddy Guy.

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