Features of blues songs

Most blues songs:

  • have four beats in a bar
  • are built on the 12-bar blues form
  • use three four-bar phrases

They have a three-line verse structure where the second line repeats the first, for example A A B. Sometimes singers improvise the words. The repetition of the first line gives them time to think up the third line. For example, from Crossroad Blues by Robert Johnson:

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees

Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please"

Crossroad Blues

Many blues songs feature a short instrumental break (solo) after each line – a form of call and response.

Blues lyrics

The lyrics are raw and full of emotion, dwelling on love and loneliness. They tell of injustice and hopelessness, and the longing for a better life. They were passed on from musician to musician through oral tradition. They often use slang and double meanings.