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What Makes A Great Blue Song?

A McLeod III

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What makes a good blues song y'all? Bad life experiences? A feeling? A formula? I'm trying to write my first blues lyric. I've read the stories. I've listened to everybody from Robert Johnson to Keb Mo'. I'd sure like your oppinions and suggestions on this one.


I've played lots of blues songs but I never have been able to write one that sounded legitimate to me. Something heart felt-from the gut yet just a twist of Irony and humour to keep the story fresh. I wrote this little song, "Damn Wrong !" Went the "roots" production route on this one. Used 4-track tape and analog processors (a Radio Shack Stereo Reverb, an old Pioneer Dynamic processor) SM-58 for a mic (no compression), and used a friends Bassman amp for the guitar. It's amazing what you can get out of old bits and pieces that you store in the attic. Take a listen. Comments are real welcome. This is my first attempt at this genre. Here's the link:


www.soundclick.com/bands/2/musicallymrmmusic.htm Click on the link to "Damned Wrong"

"Life Is Just A Game And They're Many Ways To Play...All You Do Is Choose." SC 1976


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Perhaps it's something that apllies to all songwriting, but I think a genuine blues tune has to have a unique take on a common situation. Anyone can write "My baby left me', "my dog died", or "my VCR ate my 'Casablanca' tape", but a real artist will find a way to make all that into a poem with music that not only anyone can relate to, but that makes a sizable portion of the listening audience want to relate to it.


After that, it's all about delivery. BB King did "Only My Mama Loves Me, But She Could Be Jivin' Too". I mean, it's a total put-on, but when you hear it, there's a genuine sort of angst and alienation in the way he sings it. I couldn't pull that off, but BB King can. I'd say he knows more about the blues than I do...

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.





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Good point Picker... how a common everyday situation can be in ones own view a blue experience that others may have looked at in an entirely different way. BUT given the gift of delivery and phraseology one may turn a situation like coming home after a long road trip and finding different colored whiskers jammed in your razor cause for alarm... until you figure your woman ran out of blades!


Get them thinkin'....


The blues tunes that work best for me have an element of "dumb" and "wise-ass" in them. At least two holes in every pair of pants.


Oink oink! :D

I still think guitars are like shoes, but louder.


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I think they're are some great suggestions here. As for me, I always liked Robert Cray, so anything by him seems good to me. My favorite songs are "Foul Play" and "Right Next Door." Sure, they're both about some girl leaving or cheating or something, but the way they're written and put to music just makes 'em cool.
Shut up and play.
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I remember Muddy Waters once said "some folks think blues music is sittin' around feeling bad, but that's not it. It's expressing how you feel." You can have a bragging blues about how cool you are, or a sad blues about some situation, or a praise blues about something you admire. You can combine all those things in one. Brag about how cool you are, be sad that no one notices, and then wrap it up with praise for how beautiful your woman is (which is why no one noticed how cool YOU were) ;)


And I agree that the honesty of the delivery is what it takes to complete the package.

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Good blue paint?


I see a lot of people try to play the blues. (yawn.)


I see a handful of people who have studied the blues and play authentic styles. (yay!)


I see a couple of people, occasionally, who are real-life blues artists. They seem to come by it naturally.


A bunch of white boys thrashing their way through a 12 bar in A usually leaves me headed for the door.



"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."


Steve Martin


Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.



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OK guys...can't resist....an oldie but goodie:

How to Write Your Own Blues Song


1.  Most blues begin "woke up this morning."


2.  "Gots a good woman" is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line:


I gots a good woman (harmonica fleedle)

With the meanest dog in town.


3.  Blues are simple.  After you have the first line right, repeat it. 

Then find something that rhymes.  Sort of:


Gots a good woman

With the meanest dog in town.

He got teeth like Margaret Thatcher

and he weigh 'bout 500 pound.


4.  The blues are not about limitless choice or opportunity


5.  Blues cars are Chevys and Cadillacs.  Other acceptable

blues transportation:  Grehound Bus or 

Southbound Trains


6.  Teenagers can't sing the blues.  Adults sing the blues.  Blues adulthood means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.


7.  You can have the blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens.  Hard

times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a depression.  Chicago, St. Louis

and Kansas City are still the best places to have the blues.


8.  The following colors do not belong in the blues:

 a.  Violet

 b.  Beige

 c.  Mauve


9.  You can't have the blues in an office or a shopping mall, 

the lighting is all wrong.


10. Good places for the blues:

  a.  The highway

  b.  The jailhouse

  c.  The empty bed

     Bad Places:

  a.  Ashrams

  b.  Gallery Openings

  c.  Weekends in the Hamptons


11.  No one will believe it's the blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man.  (Let's hear it for Barkin' Bill!)


12.  Do you have the right to sing the blues?


Yes, if:

a.  Your first name is a southern state -- like Georgia

b.  You're blind

c.  You shot a man in Memphis

d.  You can't be satisfied  (or SASS-i-fied)

  No, if:

 a.  You were once blind, but now can see

 b.  You're deaf

 c.  You have a trust fund




13.  Neither Julio Iglesias nor Barbara Streisand can sing the blues.




14.  If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it's the blues.




Other blues beverages are:

 a.  "Wine" (in the class of:  Night Train, Red Lady 21, Ripple)

 b.  Irish Whiskey

 c.  Muddy water


Blues beverages are NOT:

 a.  Any mixed drink

 b.  Any wine kosher for Passover

 c.  Yoo Hoo (all flavors)




15.  If occurring in a cheap motel, bar, under a bridge or in a shack behind the truck stop, it's blues death.  Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a blues way to die.  So is the electric chair, substance abuse, or being denied treatment in an emergency room.


It is not a blues death if you die during a liposuction treatment.




16.  Some blues names for women

 a.  Sadie

 b.  Big Mama

 c.  Bessie


    Some women's names NOT for the blues

  a.  Muffy

  b.  Amanda

  c.  Any name given by Frank Zappa




17.  Some blues names for men

 a.  Joe

 b.  Willie

 c.  Little Willie

 d.  Lightnin'


    Some men's names NOT for the blues

  a.  Scooter

  b.  Jose (or Hose B)

  c.  Name of any member of congress (exception:  Jesse)




Persons with names like Sierra or Sequoia will not be permitted to sing the blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.




17b.  Other blues names (Starter Kit, add your own here)

a.  Adjective, Physical characteristic/infirmity

     (Blind, Cripple, Asthmatic, Smilin')

b.  Name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, Mellon)

     or nocturnal animal (bat, owl, opossum)

c.  Last name of a president (Jefferson, Johnson, Washington, etc.)


   Mix and Match



Lynn G
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Don't give me no Buick, no foreign cars, absurd.


Me, I wanna go down in a silver Thunderbird.


You can keep your ElDorado. Son you can take my word,

If there's a God in heaven, he drives a silver Thunderbird.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."


Steve Martin


Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.



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