What Are Blue Notes?

blue notes

I wanted to share a music article with you that I wrote awhile back. Are you familiar with the term Blue Notes?

Blue notes are specific flattened tones used in jazz and rock melodies. They create a specific quality of sound known as "blue."

When I play a simple melody line from a nursery song, like London Bridges, it is easy to pull out the melody of a familiar tune. If I wanted to color in more sound, like adding color to a painting with crayons and paints, then I would throw in an Eb note that moves to the E note.

Blue notes like to return to their neighbor tone one half step higher. Blue notes and their half step higher tones add a special feeling that first sounds a bit dark, then it has a lighter sound to the song.
 Neighboring tones lead to chord tones. Let's talk a little more about these neighboring tones when the melody goes back and forth with a non-harmonic tone that is a half or whole step placed in the melody.

An upper neighboring tone is a note that is chromatically and/or diatonically above another note. When we talk about a lower neighboring tone, we say that is a note diatonically or chromatically below another note.

Why do we use these specific tones? Well, they serve as a way for the piano player to improvise. When we flat a tone that will provide the melody line with that tension and release sound. Remember that neighboring tones are non-harmonic. Usually you will play them on a weak beat.
blue note in music

Here are a few written examples of music notes to play in a measure. Start with single notes in your right hand.

Example One:

B, B, Bb, B, D.

Example Two:
D, Eb (blue note), E, C, D, C.

Blue notes are flattened tones on the 3rd and 5th steps of the major scale that always return to the neighboring tone one half step higher. They make a huge difference in sound. Begin by playing these notes in a row to hear what I am saying: C, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G.

Just within one measure, you will find places to add blue notes for improvising. The choice is yours. Here is what I mean. Play these single notes for one measure that receives four beats to the measure. So that means you will be playing some eighth notes along with quarter notes; Eb to E, Eb to E then play Gb to G.

Have fun creating new melodies with Blue Notes.
You may be interested in Backpocket Band Software

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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