Vocal Coach Mark David Williams

Singing Blue Notes

What style do you typically sing? Do you like to be precise when interpreting written music? Do you feel the need to put your own vocal signature on a song? This week, I discuss the inclusion of “blue notes” in certain styles of music.

Question

Hi! Gospel and blues is famous for blue notes and people singing notes which are between the piano keys. I understand that classical singing mostly sing the 12 notes of the octave but that blues and gospel singers have to learn blue notes as well. What can you say about this?

Answer

Thank you for your question! I appreciate this questions as I was trained in many styles as a Commercial Music Major at Belmont University. The first two years are foundationally classical and include a variety of languages and Art Songs. I loved it!

And then the final two years were studying and singing all different styles. My voice teacher was a Jazz singer rooted in Classical music. That being said, I was learning a lot about Jazz my final two years of school. I loved that too!

So to answer your question really makes me draw upon personal experience and you could possibly get a different answer from another coach or professional. Classical music really is about staying on the notes. They are written with purpose and intention and often are accompanied by a full orchestra. There is a precision needed in the pitch and execution of rhythm and basically what is written on the page.

A singer can learn a lot by trying out different musical styles

Jazz, gospel and blues leave much more room for interpretation of the notes and rhythms and for adding in ‘blue’ notes. There is freedom to scoop, to change a line rhythmically, to sing a different note and to just ‘feel’ the song with the band. In other words, blues and gospel singers will naturally learn blue notes as well, because it’s just a natural part of the style—and the more you sing within the style the more naturally the ear and voice will include some blue notes.

Perhaps a better way to look at it is not so much a ‘have to,’ but more of a ‘freedom to do so’. It can be very liberating for someone who has only ever sung what is written to sing what is ‘unwritten’. Being able to sing what’s written and what’s not is a really great vocal ‘tool’ to have. I hope this helps give some insight. I appreciate and respect all styles and I feel that a singer can learn a lot by trying different styles of music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *