Tip #49 – Bending Through a Melody With Blue Notes

Let’s start by answering a question that you probably had: “What is a blue note?”

And the answer is actually not set in stone… because there are two alternating definitions of “blue notes.”

The first definition comes from the idea of what scale degrees are changed from a major scale to a regular minor blues scale. Those would be the:

| b3 – b5 – b7 |

So, by this first definition, anything out of the ordinary from the major scale of the key that acts as a flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degree qualifies as a “blue note.”

The other definition goes smaller, into quarter-tones. This states that blue notes are even further out of tune with the standard major scale, being quarter-tones apart (either higher or lower in pitch) from the said flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees.

If the instrument you are writing for has the capability of hitting quarter-tones (with bends, slides, tunings, etc.), play around with incorporating those notes from around the flattened-3rd, 5th, or 7th scale degrees. If not, just use the simpler definition of blue notes to achieve a bluesy sound.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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