I have coached a lot of blues singers and had a lot of success with them. When I say “blues” I mean straight up 12-bar form blues – country blues and Chicago blues as well as blues-influenced music such as jazz blues and bluesy music in other genres that is not straight ahead blues or 12-bar form.
There is a mis-conception with people about the Blues. There is thinking that, for instance, Billie Holliday was a blues singer. Billie was actually a jazz singer but was highly influenced by blues. In fact, “jazz” singers prior to Billie were all very influenced by the blues and mostly sang blues or heavily blues-infused music. Billie was considered the first non-blues jazz singer and represented a divergence of urban jazz singers from the shouty, blues singing they were doing prior to Billie. But a lot of people think she is a blues singer and so I wanted to put this up here.
When musicians say “blues” they generally mean one of two things:
- 12-bar chord structure of the blues (See Wikipedia Blues article)
- A style of singing that has evolved around this structure
Prior to the acceptance of the 12-bar blue chord structure there were a number of things that are sometimes thought of as the blues that pre-dated this structure and helped create it, including my personal favourite, a form with only one chord in it the whole way through. IMO you have to be a master improviser to sing over a chord structure with no changes and make it interesting. Pre-blues forms include “shouts” and songs that used to be sung by African and African American slave workers during their forces labour. I want to ut this all out there to make sure that people who really want jazz know that I offer and excellent jazz program and that it differs from blues in substantial ways.
With true blues there are two general tactics I take. Some blues requires really serious singing skills. Especially like Rock Blues, Chicago Blues, etc. There is a lot of belting that goes on in these styles and training the voice to do these techniques without causing damage that occurs in many blues voices can really help the sound, function (hitting the high belt notes, holding notes out, etc) and longevity of the voice over the years or even over the course of a tour or even a set. In other styles of blues, great technique is not necessary to carry off the tune, but we still want to get the singer as safe a vocal technique as possible as untrained blues singers tend to be hard on their voices. Stylistically, sometimes it’s a good thing to get out of the way and allow the artist who has worked hard to develope their style to keep going that direction. Other singers might not have worked their style as much and might need help with a feel (aka: groove, style). The Blues-12 feel (12/8) or shuffle is an important feel to be able to master in order for a tune to “read” as blues and not “bluesy” rock or some other genre.
I love blues and I love working with Blues singers, so hit me up for a first lesson and we can see what we can do to make singing more comfortable, get your tune to read as blues, and lessen the chance of injury.