How To Write A Blues Song Disclaimer

I wrote this how to write a blues song hub for amateurs. I am no professional songwriter, and I am not a professional song writer. If you have found this hub looking for a professional how to advice for writing blues songs, look somewhere else. I enjoy writing songs, and blues just happens to be my favorite type of music to play and improvise.  Writing a song and being creative with music is something special. Only those who experience this understand.

The feeling that blues music offers surpasses other genres for me. Blues music is a gift to me, even if I am not a gifted blues writer or player. Blues changes my emotions and calms me. Writing music is a therapeutic activity I would love to share with others. These directions for how to write a blues song, although not extremely technical, will hopefully encourage and inspire you to try it on your own.

How to Write if you Haven’t Lived the Blues

This is the how to for writing a blues song. Blues is a feeling and a genre of music. When someone says “You’ve got the blues,” it either means you are a cool cat or you are depressed. This hub focuses on the cool cat meaning. This is not about how to write a depressing song, so let that myth of the blues be busted. The blues is a “cool” genre of music that was born out of African American influences. You can literally trace the evolution and migration of blues music all the way to Chicago. Writing blues songs is an American tradition.

Some people say that you have to experience the blues in order to write blues songs. These people would tell you that you need to come against some hard times before you could possibly know how to write or perform blues. Those people have a limited view of the blues. There are at least two paths to writing blues songs. You can write a blues song the hard way, or the easy way.

The hard way includes getting yourself in trouble, losing your job, girl/guy, money, drinking your worries away, and wearing sunglasses everywhere, including indoors, at night. If most of these things apply to you, then you just need to get yourself a harmonica and a guitar and you will be ready to write blues songs about your own life.

This hub will attempt to give direction and inspire without living the blues. These are directions for those of us who love blues for its expressive potential, even if we didn’t live through its creation. This is for those who haven’t picked cotton, migrated to Chicago, or played on the street corner for change.

Blues Song Patterns And Styles Vary

One of my first songs I wrote was a blues song. The pattern of blues
songs makes it a quick and easy write compared to most other song
forms. There are no real rules for the blues, just a bunch of things
that most blues songs have in common. For example, John Lee Hooker
didn’t really care if he changed through a chord progression, but he
sure could boogie. Then there are blues virtuosos who play variations
of chord progressions and beautiful tasteful solos that make you want
to cry. It’s all up to you what you want.

Most blues contain some of the universal characteristics such as:

  • Relationship Issue Related Lyrics
  • Shuffle Rhythm
  • Turn Around to the progression
  • Repeating or Call and Response Lines
  • Spiritual Related Lyrics
  • Feature Piano, Guitar, and/or Harmonica

How to Write a Blues Song Step One: Immerse Yourself

This seems a no brainer, but you have to start listening to blues if you don’t already. Whether you use your MP3 player or your old record player, listen for chord changes, repeating lines, and soulful melodies. Even better, go see someone play blues live. You will get to see the emotion needed to play and sing in the blues style, and you will come home with the smell of blues on you just as much as the smell of alcohol and smoke. Seeing legends like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Ray Charles will give you inspiration that will last at least a day. Buddy Buy exudes an electricity as he performs that will give you chills down your spine. He has performed a few times in Indianapolis at festivals, and walks through the crowd every time.

Besides listening to the legends you can immerse yourself in some newer blues guys, who are potentially more evolved and sophisticated. Chris Cain and Robben Ford exemplify progressing styles of guitar solos. They will make your spine tingle with their soothing smooth tones. Keb’ Mo’ is another guy who is a must for the aspiring blues writer to study. Keb’ Mo’ is half Robert Johnson, and yet he is still one hundred percent unique. He’s the Billy Joel of blues, and the best chance for keeping blues mainstream besides Clapton.

How to Write a Blues Song Step Two: Choose a Theme

You lost your job, your best girl left you, your baby is cheatin. Whatever the theme figure out what you want to say. Blues songs don’t have to be about suffering, but they commonly are because blues are rich with feelings. Personal struggles give the songs more live and validity. Write your song in first person for the most personal touch. For example, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed cause you were missin this morning.” The one line describes a lot more that’s going on than simply getting up in the morning. Many blues lyrics create inferred ideas that are metaphors. Many times they are sexual or spiritual. The term “rock n roll” has sexual meaning. B.B. King sings one called “Rock me Baby.” Buddy Guy’s show stopper is when he sings “Love Her With a Feeling” which includes the lyrics: One leg in the east… …one leg in the west… …I’m right down the middle… …tryin to do my best!. Then the crowd goes hysterical, especially those who aren’t familiar with the song.

How to Write a Blues Song Step Three: Write the Music

Hopefully you play an instrument, but if not try this. Try tapping the rhythm as you sing your song. Another option is to download some generic blues background tracks to sing to. These are helpful if you want to learn how to solo on guitar, harmonica, piano, etc. You can work out your parts. Then you can record yourself with your computer with an inexpensive computer mic or use some studio recording equipment for the real deal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember it’s the blues, so it can sound a little rough.

12 bar blues is a common simple structure of blues you may want to try first. 12 bar stands for 12 measures, and you can read all about it at the pbs.org website explanation of 12 bar blues.

How to Write a Blues Song Step Four: Edit Your Blues Song

You should perform or play your song for people to get their feedback. Use some people who are musicians as well as others who aren’t. This will give you a chance to polish the song further and make sure it is listenable for the average person. You may get suggestions about lyric fit, timing, or melody changes that will improve your song. When you are done, write another one. You will only get better with time and practice. I have included a link to a sample of one of my original blues songs: “My Misery,” and I included a video of me playing the first blues song I ever wrote. Maybe it will give you some ideas. Don’t copy them too much, I did copyright them. Please share it if you are able to write your own blues song.

Blues Song Lyric Examples

Below are a couple examples of blues songs that I have written. Use these to look for some characteristics of the blues, but don’t try to copy everything. The blues is a flexible style of music.

The Blues will be Around

WELL I GOT A GUITAR A FEW YEARS AGO

I STARTED PLAYING WITH MY BROTHER’S PIANO

BACK THEN I STARTED WITH THE BLUES

IT’S JUST THE KIND OF MUSIC YOU JUST CAN’T SEEM TO LOSE

THE BLUES’LL BE AROUND AS LONG AS I’M NOT DEAD

WELL NOW I’M ALWAYS STAYIN’ UP REAL LATE

CAUSE THE TUNES I’M PLAYIN’ JUST CAN’T SEEM TO WAIT

NOW I’VE GOT A RYTHYM GOIN’ IN MY HEAD

SOMETIMES I EVEN PLAY LAYIN’ IN MY BED

THE BLUES’LL BE AROUND AS LONG AS I’M NOT DEAD

WELL IT STARTED WITH THE SLAVES SINGIN’ WHILE THEY WORK

AND CARRIED OVER TO THE SONGS THEY SANG IN CHURCH

RAY CHARLES STEVIE RAY AND B.B. KING

THEY PUT A LOT OF FEELING IN THE WAY THEY SING

THE BLUES’LL BE AROUND AS LONG AS I’M NOT DEAD

My Misery Lyrics

Sometimes I’m tired
Sometimes I’m blue
I feel so shameful
When I think of you
You reach in my head
You wash away my misery
 
I get so hung up
I need something new
I feel so dirty
I made a mess for you
You reach in my head
You wash away my misery
 
You scrub the shame
You sweep the hurt
You mop my heart
Every time you flirt
You reach in my head 
You wash away my misery
 
There ain’t no feeling like when
I’m walkin with you
You give me peace like I 
Never thought I’d feel
 
If I ask you to
You’ll stay with me
Won’t let me go
You’ll End my suffering
You reach in my head 
You wash away my misery
 
You scrub the shame
You sweep the hurt
You mop my heart
Every time you flirt
You reach in my head 
You wash away my misery

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