The deep soulful walking bass, peppered with sultry guitar riffs, and lyrics that the audience can relate to are what has kept the blues as a music form alive. The blues arose from African American oral storytelling tradition and it is still possible to pick out some of these elements in the format. The blues are about the everyday problems in life, large and small.
The blues are about voicing your feelings. Misery loves company so the first step is to pick a problem that you want to talk about to the audience. Write that problem down in the first line. Now, say it again, repeating it in the second line. This drives the topic home. These first two lines must have 16 syllables in each line. This can change slightly, but the two lines must be exactly the same. The first two lines can be sung in a call and response, with one singer delivering the first line, and a second singer echoing. This hearkens to traditional African call and response singing styles.
The third line should state the first half of the solution or the consequence of the problem, or just the solution. The fourth line finishes that thought. They should be nearly the same number of syllables as the first two lines. The fourth and first line should rhyme. This is the basic blues format for a verse. Some artists vary this slightly, but a blues song must still stick to the rules to be considered a true blues song.
The most common form of blues songs is known as the 12 bar blues, or AAB, format. In this format there are two verses (A), followed by a refrain (B). There are several different ways to use this format in writing a blues song. The first A verse can pose the problem, with the second A verse expanding on the problem, instead of using one verse for the problem presentation. This allows the writer to include more details about the problem. The solution, or ultimate consequence, of the problem is included in the refrain. The question that the writer has to ask in the refrain is what will happen to the person, given the situation laid out in the first two verses.
The blues is a formal poetic form that helps people make connections with one another. Singing about our problems can make it better. You can write a blues song about any complaint in your life. Chances are you are not alone and someone else might be able to share in your experience. It is not unusual for blues audiences to offer words of support and encouragement, which can make both the audience and the performer, feel better. Shared experience is the heart and soul of the blues. The best part about writing the blues is that people will never tell you to stop complaining. The next time something gets you down, or you feel like the world is on your shoulders, turn it into a blues song. You never know, you just might be the next Muddy Waters.