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What is meant by the term "blue note"?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassplayerwolf, Nov 27, 2001.

  1. bassplayerwolf

    bassplayerwolf

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    My guitar friend and I were quizzing each other on theory, and he asked me what the term "blue note" meant? I didn't know, and he didn't know - for sure our quizzing didn't go so well. :D

    So, inquiring minds want to know, what does it mean?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and btw, theory is not dead with this aspiring musician.

    Thanks.

    bassplayerwolf
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    Wow, I was sure that when I opened this thread, it was gonna say something like, "WHATZ A BLUE NOTE, DO IBANEZ MAKE THEM? CAN U TAB THEAZE BLUE NOTES OUT 4 ME??" But it turns out to be an actual theory question. This is way cool...:)


    STEPPENWOLFTONES,

    A "blue note" is a note from outside of a given tonality which gives that tonality (or chord, etc...) a dissonant "bite". The most common blue notes are the b3 and b7 in Major, and the #4/b5 in minor. Most blue notes come from the vocal practice (later imitated by horn players and guitarists) of "sliding" into notes from either a half step above or below rather than landing right on them, which produces a "dirty" or "bluesy" sound which most often resloves to the "correct" note from within the tonality. (i.e. - the b3 most often resolves to 3 in major, the #4 resolves up to 5 or down to 4 in minor, etc...).

    Hope this helps....

    DURRLMAN HESSE
  3. jazzbo

    jazzbo

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    ....and you just can't get a better answer than that.
  4. anon5458975

    anon5458975

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    Learn something new every day, cool thread!

    I'm curious about something though. Is a blue note considered the same thing as a passing tone? Or is a passing tone a note "inside" a given tonality? I'm not clear on this.

    I really haven't studied anything to do with passing tones yet but it's the first thing that popped into my head after hearing your definition of a blue note. Somehow I immediately related the two terms.
  5. jazzbo

    jazzbo

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    Also, would a b9 be an example of a blue note?
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    MY OTHER BROTHER DURRL,

    Generally, a passing tone is considered to be a non-chord tone that fills the space between two chord tones. For instance, if the chord is Cma, you could use a "D" passing tone to connect the C and the E. but in my experience, passing tones are almost always notes from within the overall tonality...they're just not as strong and centered-sounding as chord tones. A "Blue note" is more like a chromatic approach tone that scoops or is bent into a chord tone...but then, I'm not sure if there's an "official" definition of the term BLUE NOTE that is widely accepted as concrete fact.


    JAZZBERRY BORET,

    Um, yes and no. The b9 is certainly a fairly dissonant note, but it tends to function as an upper extension chord tone. I guess it might sound "blue" if you scooped into it...I'd say that it isn't, but I can't back that up with anything other than the way I hear things.
  7. Joe_Atlanta

    Joe_Atlanta

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    I think your definition in your first post is common usage. My old ('72) Harper's calls it a "half-flatted note (somewhere between natural and flat) on the third, fifth and seventh degree of the scale........the use of these notes give an effect of wavering between the major and minor modes."

    If anybody has access to http://www.grovemusic.com/, I'd be interested in what it says.

    BTW, I call a b2 the "Jaws" note. :cool:
  8. JimK

    JimK

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    So, did this 'vocal practice' begin with the North American slaves doing their interpretation of European harmony while singing their work songs?
    (i.e. the "wavering" effect, the illusion your ear is 'thinking' "something ain't quite right...yet it's sounds so cool). ;)

    It's important to note(if you're a student of music, I guess)that these "American" slaves were not permitted to keep their sacred drum/percussion instruments...therefore, the vocals.
    On the other hand, slaves in the Carribean were allowed to keep their percussion instruments...therefore, all that Afro-Cuban stuff emerged.

    Historians?
  9. bassplayerwolf

    bassplayerwolf

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    Thanks everyone for the information.

    I think I understand now.

    bassplayerwolf
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    Originally posted by Chris Fitzgerald
    I'm not sure if there's an "official" definition of the term BLUE NOTE that is widely accepted as concrete fact.



    Well..my Oxford Dictionary of Music, has the following under "Blues" :

    "Tonality predominantly major, but with the flattened 3rd and 7th of the key (the "blue notes"). Harmony tended towards the plagal or subdominant."

    But if I look at an online Dictionary, I get the following :

    "Main Entry: blue note
    Function: noun
    Etymology: from its frequent use in blues music
    Date: 1919
    : a variable microtonal lowering of the third, seventh, and occasionally fifth degrees of the major scale "

    http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary
  11. cassanova

    cassanova

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    ok im a bit stupid when it comes to theory, whats a b3 and b9 etc.. is that the 3rd and 9th notes of a B scale?

    flame away
  12. not quite Flea

    not quite Flea

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    i thought i knew my theory sh*t pretty well,
    now i feel so stupid....Thankz!
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings
    we're using the 'b' as a 'flat' sign. 'flat' 3 and 'flat' 9.
  14. cassanova

    cassanova

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    so that means that the 3 and 9 scale tones are going to be flat correct? I think Im right about that, I just wanna make sure, because theory confuses the heck outta me.
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Supporting Member

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    To be totally correct, it means the 3rd and 9th tones will be "lowered". That's a somewhat anal difference, but if the 3rd is a Bb, for instance, the lowered 3rd would be Bbb (B double flat).

    But yeah, man, you got it.
  16. cassanova

    cassanova

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    yeah, that is a somewhat of an anal difference, but at least i know the correct term or whatever ya call it for it now. Thanks!!!

    can ya tell im the product of too many years of tab :(
  17. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight Supporting Member

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    Not to just go around plugging myself, but at www.activebass.com I made a lesson in the basics section (# 904) dealing with blue notes, if you would like to get more of a grasp on how to use them.
  18. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight Supporting Member

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    Forgot to add, when I made this lesson I didn't know as much theory then as I do now, so the terminlogy I'm using doesn't sound the most professional.
  19. jazzbo

    jazzbo

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    I think more songs should be written in obscure keys, just to mess with the horn players.

    "Hey guys, CHEROKEE in G#!"

    "Alright ladies and gentlemen, we're going to start our second set tonight with OLEO in Fbb. We hope you dig it!"
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    Heck, that's nothing...I play Oleo in Cbb all the time. We make it look so easy, the audience never suspects.

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