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Can it be done? Mississippi Delta Blues music has always been played on either a guitar, a harmonica, or both. I suppose This is because you can sing, play the melody AND the accopmaniment with only a guitar--and with a harmonica you can play both melody and accompaniment.
I wonder, however, if you can get away with doing call-and-response with your sax instead of a guitar. Can you sing and then play and sing and play?
 

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Sure, why not? I have on a number of occasions played with country blues musicians: just an acoustic guitar and a sax sometimes. It's fun, though you have to stay within the idiom mostly. (I grew up in Mississippi.)

And there ain't nothin' traditional about it. But who cares? Those old bluesmen were not purists. They'd use any instrument they had. Accordions, fifes, whatever the hell. A sax if somebody had one.

As Big Maybelle put it: "Twenty-one horns and a old bass drum / Somebody beatin' on a ding-dong. . . ." (Opening of the original "Whole Lotta Shakin'.")
 

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Slim Harpo sometimes has sax 'standing in for' the harp player. The only real thing to watch is not to overplay- Delta Blues is a very minimal style with a lot of space in it, frantic noodling doesn't cut it!
 

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A tip. If you want to do Mississippi Delta blues on your sax the first thing you have to do is "un-instrumentalise" yourself. By that I mean, really, really woodshed on singing along with the recordings and thinking like a singer. Ditch the so-called "blues scale" immediately. Forget about sax technique and how many notes you can play. Flush tritone substitutions. Then start to play your sax as if it is your voice. If you can do this, then and only then, can you start to put some more extended musical/instrumental techniques into your playing.
 

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gary said:
A tip. If you want to do Mississippi Delta blues on your sax the first thing you have to do is "un-instrumentalise" yourself. By that I mean, really, really woodshed on singing along with the recordings and thinking like a singer. Ditch the so-called "blues scale" immediately. Forget about sax technique and how many notes you can play. Flush tritone substitutions. Then start to play your sax as if it is your voice. If you can do this, then and only then, can you start to put some more extended musical/instrumental techniques into your playing.
Precisely. Voice and harmonica are the models for this. Harp is the Mississippi saxophone, and sax is the New York harp.

What you learn from the harp*: perfect the bent note.

*That's "harmonica" for REAL New Yorkers! lol
 

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makes sense. I still think it would b ekinda funny to see someone singing a line then playing response... But that's probably because I've never seen it done before.
I actually would like to take up harp. My friend gave me a very good one from Germany but it seems to be very complicated.
At any rate, I'll try experimenting with the call and response thing... If I ever make a video of it, I'll post it here and we'll see if it sounds any good.
thanks!
 

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I'm no expert on blues idioms (if someone wants to save me the trouble of looking up a definition of "delta blues", thanks), but Clifford Jordan has done an album of Huddy Ledbetter tunes called "These are my roots". Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?
 

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PrezFan said:
I wonder, however, if you can get away with doing call-and-response with your sax instead of a guitar. Can you sing and then play and sing and play?
I know a couple of guys who play sax and sing in the blues idiom. They don't really do a call & response thing. Rather, they will sing a couple verses, then take a solo on the sax. But I've seen one guy actually answer a phrase or two of singing on his sax and it sounded great. What you can't do of course, is play a backing line on the horn while singing. But anything else goes.
 

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I'm doing call and response now we have a blues club.http://www.mvbluessociety.com/index.php The people love it on jam nights.The only thing is you got to be quick with the mouthpiece and try not to break a tooth!!
 

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haha, who cares about my teeth? As long as it sounds good, I'll break what I want.
Sid: Mississippi Delta Blues, or just plain Delta Blues, is the old-school original blues music that developed down in that region. 2 Famous Delta Musicians are Booker White and (my favourite) John Lee Hooker. It's known for stuff like call-and-response with a guitar (ie, sing a line and then play a riff), use of the minor blues scale, and the major 12-bar blues pattern.
Delta Blues is pretty much as common as Chicago Blues, which isn't as good in my opinion. Chicago blues makes use of the piano (Delta Blues can be played on the piano--but it's usually the piano only) and horns, but can sound corny sometimes because it often borrows notes from the major scale in addition to the blues scale and this can make it lose its 'edge.'

Anyway, I've been working on writing some blues verses so I can use them with my sax and it's not turning out too well... It's hard not to be cliché
when so much of the blues stuff out there is VERY cliché, but I'll get the hang of it.

For anyone else in my position: learn the song 'boom boom' by John Lee Hooker. Sing the verses and play the guitar bits on your sax. Try to make the sax part up by yourself. It helps more to be inventive than by just playing what Hooker played.
 

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Booker, more commonly Bukka, White. Now the most famous of all the old Mississippi country blues musicians is Robert Johnson, but back in the day he was nobody (heresy!) and had little influence until he was resurrected by Lomax and then the Stones, Clapton, et. al. I'm not dissing Robert -- he was a very great and original artist -- but this is simply so. Tastes vary and narratives clash, but in my opinion the pillars of the old Delta blues were Charlie Patton and Son House. Later on Elmore James plugged it in.

Great stuff. Nothing like it. Catch Son House doing "Death Letter Blues." Oh my god. Scary. And Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning." Great music, and great poetry too.

"Smokestack Lightnin'/Shinin' like gold/Can't you hear me callin'?" Goosebumps.:cool:
 

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I know people called him Bukka... But I recall reading some kind of bio of him that mentioned him disliking the name. I always call him Booker now...a sign of respect, I suppose.
I've never heard of Robert Johnson, actually. I'm not much into country blues. I just know a couple of musicians I came across while looking for blues music I could learn from. I know alot more about Jazz than anything else :p
 

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PrezFan said:
I know people called him Bukka... But I recall reading some kind of bio of him that mentioned him disliking the name. I always call him Booker now...a sign of respect, I suppose.
I've never heard of Robert Johnson, actually. I'm not much into country blues. I just know a couple of musicians I came across while looking for blues music I could learn from. I know alot more about Jazz than anything else :p
Bukka played country blues; so did John Lee in the beginning, and Muddy Waters in the beginning. Country blues just = so called Delta blues as long as it's mostly individual musicians or small ensembles playing acoustically. I prefer the term "country blues" because so-called Delta blues was definitely not confined to the Delta, but this is a Mississippian's quibble.

Robert Johnson? Who wrote "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Hellhound On My Trail" and "Love In Vain" etc. etc.? What I said before about Johnson is certainly true, but it's also true that he is one of the great musical geniuses of America: when people finally found their way to him they never looked back. You need to dig Robert Johnson.
 

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Don't forget 'Crossroads' too. I watched a tv programme with Clapton recreating some of Robert Johnsons music. Clapton said at one point "I'm reckoned to be a fair guitarist, but I've been practicing this one for a month and I'm still not happy that I've got it right." He also described one piece as being played in 5/4 but sung in 4/4!
 

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Honker said:
Don't forget 'Crossroads' too. I watched a tv programme with Clapton recreating some of Robert Johnsons music. Clapton said at one point "I'm reckoned to be a fair guitarist, but I've been practicing this one for a month and I'm still not happy that I've got it right." He also described one piece as being played in 5/4 but sung in 4/4!
A list of all RJ's important songs would be at least as long as a P. Mauriat banner ad. Actually it would be as long as that "write about the person above you" thread that used to go on here in the good old days. . . .:D
 

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Check out Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.
 

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PrezFan said:
Anyway, I've been working on writing some blues verses so I can use them with my sax and it's not turning out too well... It's hard not to be cliché
when so much of the blues stuff out there is VERY cliché, but I'll get the hang of it.
Try: "Welllll, I didn't wake up this mornin";)
 
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