Music GCSE: Blues and ragtime

Howard Goodall looks at the origins of the blues and popular song in the early 20th century.

He considers the impact of early recordings of Afro-American spirituals with examples of folk and blues songs, such as those from the slave plantations of the American deep south.

He explores other influences, such as military marching songs and ragtime, and demonstrates the typical "blues" notes, such as flattened 7ths and 3rds and the workings of ragtime syncopation.

This clip is from the series Howard Goodall's Story of Music.

Teacher Notes

Use this clip to highlight the key compositional features of the blues. Explain the concept of 'blue notes'.

Ask the students to work in pairs to compose up with a call and response based on the blues scale.

Students could then write some blues inspired lyrics to accompany their 12 bar blues composition.

Curriculum Notes

This topic is relevant to, GCSE, AS Level and Higher Music in the areas of music history, notation, composition, music theory and understanding styles.

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Stravinsky, Russian music and modernism
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