3 O'Clock Blues Analysis Essay

1061 Words Sep 15th, 2013 5 Pages
“3 O’Clock Blues”, as performed by BB King

An analysis

BB King is undoubtedly one of the greatest blues musicians, and an equally unparalleled pioneer of guitar music. Brought up in the midst of poverty, strife, and struggle of the rural Mississippi Delta, King experienced great hardships from a young age, and used this as a source of inspiration for much of his later music (King & Ritz, 1996).

King’s celebrated music career emerged from very modest beginnings. At the age of 18, King started to perform his renditions of traditional Delta blues music at churches around local areas in Mississippi; but his talents saw him gradually travel further up north over the years, as many blues musicians, and many other African-Americans
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The lack of a rhythm section also allows for King to showcase his guitar playing better, as there is not such a thick texture.

An element of King’s cover that sets it apart from other urban blues is its slow tempo (65 beats per minute). The slow tempo allows for much more emotive guitar playing, where King’s signature ‘butterfly’ vibratos and bends can be greatly emphasised. In fact, the solos in the song almost revolve around these ‘butterfly’ trills; at each chord change, King plays a trilled note an octave higher than the chord note, and often follows with a bluesy lick in the major pentatonic scale, before returning back to the chord note. This is why many of King’s songs do not require much of a rhythm section; just by listening to King’s guitar playing, we can tell when chord changes are occurring, as he tends to begin each lick on the note of the chord. Another distinctive elements of King’s improvisation style is his tendency to play subtly in the major pentatonic up until the IV chord, where he utilises a minor third, which adds tension and a sense of a ‘build up’ to the solo, and gives a very authentic blues sound. As is the case with many BB King songs (e.g. Thrill is Gone, Hold That Train, Sweet Sixteen, etc), 3 O’Clock Blues almost centres around King’s guitar solos.

In the verses, King creates a ‘call and response’ effect between his vocal lines and his guitar licks. The guitar licks are often not very complex, but are variations of the same

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