[Dixielandjazz] Playing blue notes

Robert Smith robert.smith at mitransport.no
Wed Mar 16 00:24:31 PST 2005

Several families of instruments can produce blue notes. These are:
the violin family;
the slide trumpet family;
the human voice;
fretted string instruments (by pushing the string to one side with the finger on the fret);
Swanee whistles
keyboards with a glissando lever.
Other instruments can "bend" tempered notes, e.g. woodwinds, valve brass (half valving)
Instruments with fixed notes (e.g. pianos) can only produce pseudo blue notes by playing two adjacent notes together (in Ken Gates' example E and Eb). Thelonius Monk does this.
I think most people can hear blue notes when they hear Bessie Smith sing, or when Johnny Hodges plays the blues, just to quote a couple of examples - there are a thousand others.
Outside OKOM, composer David R. Holsinger (ASCAP) wrote "The War Trilogy: 1971", and in the 1st movement ("Rebirth and Awakening: New Day One") he has written quartertone glissandoes for the trombones, e.g. from B to a flattened B#. This can certainly be heard. In fact, Ken, I'm sure you will hear the difference when the notes are played in sequence.


Bob Smith

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