wikiHow to Construct a Blues Song

Three Parts:Writing LyricsCreating the TunePutting it Together

The blues is a genre of music with roots in African American culture that covers a wide range of emotions and incorporates elements from other musical styles. “Feeling blue” is expressed in songs whose lyrics speak of injustice or expressing a longing for a better life. Meanwhile, the blues is also a brusque dance music celebrating happiness and success. The idea behind blues music is that performing or listening to it enables one to overcome sadness and lose the blues. Anybody can create the blues as long as you have passion, soul, and a basic understanding of music.

Part 1
Writing Lyrics

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    Familiarize yourself with iconic blues music. The best thing to do before you construct your own blues music is listen to the blues. Simply listening gives you a basic understanding of the structure, emotion, and overall sound. Take some time to relax and listen to a handful of different artists, jotting down notes when you hear something you feel inspired by.
    • A few classic songs you can listen to include “Memphis Blues” by W.C. Handy, “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith, “Pine Top Boogie” by Pine Top Smith, “Dust my Broom” by Elmore James, and “Boogie Chillun” by John Lee Hooker.[1]
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    Brainstorm. Get a pen and paper and start making a list of every concept, perspective, or potential lyric that pops into your head. Remember that blues music is raw and full of emotion, so let yourself feel every thought that comes to mind.[2] Allow these ideas to guide and inspire the content of your song as you move forward.
    • The key here is not getting tied up in perfection. This is just creative brainstorming meant to get ideas flowing that will later lead to your perfect song.
    • Let ideas brew for a while. Bring a notepad with you wherever you go so that if you feel inspired, you can capture the thought on paper regardless of whether you’re in a meeting, at the gym, or cooking a meal.
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    Choose your topic. After you’ve spent time brainstorming ideas, choose your favorite topic to start constructing your song. It should be something you feel passionate about and can relate to in some way or another. You want your music to feel and sound believable.
    • Some common blues topics include love sickness & heartache, gambling, depression, discrimination, good times, religion, and superstition.[3]
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    Establish your meter. Blues music has a three-line verse structure where the second line repeats the first - A A B. In the first line state the problem. In the second line you repeat the first line. In the third line state the solution (or consequence). In the fourth line, state the second half of the solution (or consequence.) The third and fourth line can be written separately or in one line depending on your preference.[4]
    • For example, “I went to the river, fell down to my knees.” “I went to the river, fell down to my knees.” “Have mercy dear Lord,” “save Mary if you please.”
    • The repetition of the first line gave artists time to think of the third line because singers often improvised the words.[5]
    • Many blues songs feature a short instrumental break after each line, a sort of call and response.[6]
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    Make your lyrics flow. You want your lyrics to flow nicely from line to line instead of sounding choppy or awkward. Notice that “I went to the river, fell down to my knees” has 11 syllables. Then notice that lines 3 and 4, “Have mercy dear Lord, save Mary if you please,” also has 11 syllables. As a rule of thumb, how ever many syllables are in the first line should be the same, or nearly the same, in the third and fourth combined.[7]
    • While not all blues songs are constructed with this formula, it’s a great way to get started.
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    Make your lyrics rhyme. In order to keep establishing a nice flow to your song and avoid awkwardness, you'll want to make sure your lyrics rhyme. The first two lines repeat, the third doesn't matter, and the fourth line should rhyme with the first line.
    • Repeat this rhyming pattern for every verse of lyrics.
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    Finish writing your song. Following the A A B formula, write about four verses or so on your chosen topic. Use your inspiration from brainstorming to write your lyrics and stay true to your emotion. You want your listener to understand how you’re feeling and relate to it in one way or another.
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    Revise, revise, revise. Unless you are a top-selling blues artists, the first draft of your song probably won’t be perfect. That’s okay! Take your time going over the lyrics and making changes so that you have stronger material.
    • If you’re struggling to come up with content, take a break for a few hours, or even days, to give your mind some rest. Maybe listen to some more blues music for ideas or just go for a walk to clear your head. Then, when you’re ready, revisit your song and let your new inspiration sink in.

Part 2
Creating the Tune

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    Understand the basics. Most blues music has four beats in a bar, use three four-bar phrases, and are built on the 12-bar blues form. Knowing this basic form will lay the foundation for your song.[8]
    • While most blues music follows these three rules, remember that your music can be whatever you want it to be so feel free to play around and make any changes you want.
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    Decide which cords you will use. Your chord options are A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Blues music uses only 3 chords: the tonic (chord 1), the subdominant (chord IV), and the dominant (chord V), so choose your three favorite chords to use.[9]
    • For example, if your first chord is C, then your fourth would be F because it is the fourth from the main one. Your fifth cord would be G because it is the fifth from the main one.
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    Create three bars. After you’ve established the three cords you’re going to use, you want to create your bars. There are four beats in each bar and there is a basic pattern for these bars that blues music follows.[10]
    • The form is pretty simple. Your first bar is 1 (tonic), 1 (tonic), 1 (tonic), 1 (tonic). The second bar is 4 (subdominant), 4 (subdominant), 1 (tonic), 1 (tonic). Your third bar is 5 (dominant), 5 (dominant), 1 (tonic), 1 (tonic).
    • A new bar is indicated with | so the form is written as 1 1 1 1 | 4 4 1 1 | 5 5 1 1.
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    Apply the form to the key you picked. If you were working with the key of C your first three bars are CCCC | FFCC | GGCC[11]
    • Just like that you’ve created a 12 bar blues form! You have four beats in your bar and three bars, which all adds up to be 12.[12]
    • Listen to Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues” or “Sweet Home Chicago” for some examples of the A A B / 12-bar blues form.[13]

Part 3
Putting it Together

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    Structure your song. Now that you have your lyrics and your bars, you need to put it all together. Arrange lyrics into verses if they aren’t already and make sure they follow the bars you came up with. Just keep repeating the 12 bar form you came up with until you’ve got a beat for every lyric.
    • It can be helpful to write your lyrics on a notepad with the bars below them. For example: “I hate to see the evening sun go down” with CCCC written below it. “I hate to see the evening sun go down” with FFCC written below it. “‘Cause my man he done left this town” with GGCC written below it. Keep repeating this order of bars under all of your lyrics until you’ve finished.
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    Practice and refine. Almost no song is going to be a showstopper the first time. Start practicing your song and keep practicing until you love the way it sounds. Sing your lyrics until you have them memorized. Don’t be afraid to make revisions here and there to get your song to where you want it.
    • You might find it helpful to first practice on your instrument and master the tune before you start practicing the lyrics.
    • Remember, practice makes perfect so don’t get discouraged if you don’t love your song the first few times you hear it.
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    Produce your song. If you’d like the world to hear your creation, contact a producer or self-produce your song. You can share it with your friends and family so everyone can appreciate your work!
    • SoundCloud is a great way to share new music with the world.[14] Create an account, edit your profile, and then upload your track. Use hashtags to get people’s attention and keep up with everyone’s questions and comments.
    • If you aren’t comfortable sharing your music, don’t feel like you have to. You can create music for your own enjoyment too.


  • The blues can be played in any key so pick whatever sounds good to you and don’t be afraid to experiment with different keys.
  • The blues uses a lot of different instruments so you can play with the guitar, harmonica, etc.
  • Remember you always have creative freedom. Blues music follows a general structure but artists take creative twists to give their music even more life.
  • Lyrics are always optional so if you’d prefer to just create bars and skip the lyrics, feel free to.

Things You'll Need

  • An instrument.
  • A basic musical knowledge.
  • Paper.
  • Pen.

Article Info

Categories: Songs and Song Writing