I am currently a member of the "Blues Singers Group" on this site. I went on it just a bit ago to check on the activity. I am sad to see that there has been little activity since mid February. Talk about being blue about something, with all the talent & intellegence I have seen since joining this site I would have thought more contributions would be proffered. Singing the Blues is akin to playing the Blues on guitar, or sax, or harmonica, or piano. We attribute W. C. Handy with the 1st Bastion who held the Blues tune up like a torch, blazing in the twilight of inspiration. If not for Bessie Mae Smith @ 1919 who with her voice launched a timeless hit, we may never have heard Handy's " St. Louis Blues". Louie Armstrong may have never joined her with the Coronet & this song may have passed on into obscurity. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Louie Armstrong, B.B. King, the names go on & on forming & forging a foundation that gave us around 100 years later a place in our hearts for the love they had & we share of the blues. I 1st believe that with any form of singing, warm up is required. Your voice is an instrument, & thus must be treated as such. Most musicians have a warm up routine. Guitarists may run thru open chords to limber up their fingers, & then run a few pentatonic scales just to keep your right & left hands timing just so. A Saxaphonist may limber up his keys & ensure the reed is seated just right in the ligature. The point being the voice needs tuning up. The differance with singing the Blues, is that there is so much emotion added into the song, that in all reality, a Blues song could be in perpetual evolution. Meaning that each night you could hear a varaience in the songs composition.
Before delving depper into how the Blues can shape the singer & the song, we must try to capture the essence of what exactly is "The Blues" The older Blues players had (even before age assisted) had the Blues etched into their soul, and you could actually see it when you faced one of these Icons. Be it a damaged gait in the way they walked as if the weight of their world was upon them, or in the depth of their eyes that held you captive when they shook your hand. A hand that was caullosed and weathered and felt like worn leather. The pain, or joy, or confusion of a world turned upsidedown for so long that had been taught to be kept down inside of themselves. The only outlet was in the form of music. The feelings began to pour thru their fingers, up from their diaphrams. between vocal chords, and out for all the world to see. Paul Cezanne one of the later impressionist's said about his medium of art; "We all share the same misery, for a moment come and share it's beauty" His work was dark & moody & he was identifying his work as beauty. Sounds much like the Blues eh?
The Blues to "The Modern Vocalist" is something or some things that tug onto the heartstrings of the vocalist. In these times (2009) society is indeed blue! The future is bleak, the economy sucks, people are losing their homes left & right. Banks are getting bailed out all the while handing out huge bonuses' to the shareholders. Confidence is low, fear is high, crime is on the rise. Men feel emasculated because they are out of work. Woman are in a flux as what to do. Jobs that are available don't make it past the week. As these realities begin to hit home, the Blues slowly creep in. Working gigs are fading away to Karaoke, or Open Mike nights. Then somewhere from deep inside you have this feeling...its slow...sultry...deep...painful. It comes out of your body. It makes you want to peel away your skin. Now your up there on a cramped stage as the band senses your vibe & rolls out a group of chords that gives you a chance to open up that bottle you have kept stopped up, or crack open that door that holds the pain and you lash out the words like you never have before. Your bandmates don't know what to do. They look at the Bass Player & Drummer for direction on the downbeat. The rest of the group seems to "feel" what you are trying to say. Four minutes later the Guitarist has taken your lead and is harmonizing with your voice. You all feel a sense of commonality as you wind down the song. You're soaked in sweat like you never have been before. The song ends & for the 1st time you are emotionally drained from singing one song! Your head may spin, you close your eyes & realize you have exposed a very private side of yourself. It's then that you feel naked to the audience. Yet the people are going wild. You realize that your emotions have taken over and you are singing the Blues! No teacher has taught you this, this came from deep down inside you. It's warm & powerful. You feel elated as it carries you the rest of the night. You go home...too jazzed to sleep, but so drained of emotion that all you can do is sit in your comfortable chair, drink in hand running the sets thru your mind, your performance, the bands performance, knowing how magical it was. Could it be repeated again the next night? It's then that you realize you really sang the Blues, instead of singing the Blues!
Leading up to the other question in the title? Does getting the Blues make you sing ...better? One argument is that as listedhaving the Blues causes you to supress these feelings until you can find a suitable outlet? I feel having or getting the Blues makes you a naturally better singer. When you sing, you take a story put to music and sing along with the music. As you know the melody is not a monotonus group of notes. The notes go up...down...fast...slow...atempo...off-beat...stacatto. In having all these opportunities to emote, having the Blues gives you a medium to express all that you have kept down. What's even better, is the fact that the audience shares the same highs & lows. You are a representative of all what people are thinking...feeling....hiding. By doing what you are doing on stage, you allow the average joe/joanne to feel your pain too. For one moment in time, you all come together and magic is created by the haunting saddness of the Blues. It is my opinion that both questions are answered in the affirmative. You sing for an outlet of these feelings, & the feelings make you sing better because of the power of the release of the Blues. Can you be taught to sing the Blues? Only if you can be taught to release the weight of your world in front of strangers, & celebrate in the beauty of what we all see as bad, but as bad as it is, we ALL share these doubts, fears, secrets, and wishes of celebrating the beauty that is the BLUES!
So....what do you think?
Listen Til it Hz