History

We've Got the Blues: Instruments and its Influence on Modern Music

In collaboration with Jeroen Hamelink - records / vinyl expert | Last updated: 21st January 2019 by Simone

Did you know that many of the rock and roll legends we know and love today were inspired by the melancholy blues? Recorded blues has his roots in the early 1930s, but the blues itself can be traced back to Africa. In the mid-960s the so-called electric blues albums reached the UK, inspiring many British bands to play the blues. These bands were branded as the British Blues invasion and included The Rolling Stones, Cream, Yardbirds, Them and Fleetwood Mac, just to name a few. Here are some of the most instrumental instruments for blues music and a couple of the most influential blues artists.

Harmonica
One of the best-recognised instruments in blues music is the harmonica. A solo musician can carry out the traditional call and response style on his own; he sings, and the harmonica responds. One of the best-known blues harmonica players was Sonny Boy Williamson II. His influence extended to the British blues rockers and he recorded with big names such as Eric Clapton. Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger are two others who were so profoundly inspired by the blues that they even play the harmonica quite well themselves.


Guitar
Many types of guitars have been added over time, especially the electric guitar which helped develop the blues as a genre. One unique guitar used in the blues is the Dobro or resonator guitar. These instruments are unique because rather than carrying the sound through the soundboard (the top of the guitar), the vibration of the string goes over the bridge to a resonator or multiple resonators. The use of resonators was implemented in order to amplify the sound of the guitar, however electric amplifiers have since solved this problem, but the resonator guitar is still prized of its unique sound.

The inspiration for many starting blues guitarists is Robert Johnson. Legend has it that he met the devil at a crossroad where he traded his soul for the gift of music, and what a gifted musician he was. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards said that "Robert Johnson was like an orchestra all by himself." He introduced Johnson’s music to bandmate Brian Jones who at first could barely believe that there were not 2 guitars on the recording, only Johnson.


Image Source: americanbluesscene.com

Another great guitarist we can't go without mentioning is BB King. As a singer, guitarist, songwriter and record producer, he is considered to be the most influential blues musician of all times. With his guitars he left a legacy on the world of blues forever. 

Bass
Both the bass guitar and the upright, or double bass are used in blues music. Although the upright bass can be played with a bow, it is more popular in blues music for the bassist to pluck the strings, a technique called pizzicato, to create rapid, walking bass lines. The most influential blues bassist may be Willie Dixon who was famous for saying “the blues is the roots, the rest is the fruits”, a statement very true of the blues’ influence on other genres. Another name you may recognise among blues bassists is Donald “Duck” Dunn. He made an appearance in the film Blues Brothers. Aside from his film career and his contributions to the development of the blues, he backed many other artists including Freddie King and Eric Clapton. 

Drums
Not only do the drums carry the beat of the music, but they are also often given solo sections as well. One big name you may recognise is Steve Jordan. After accompanying Stevie Wonder, he went on tour with the Blues Brothers, although he did not appear in 1980 film. Another name you may recognise is drummer Mick Fleetwood, the founder of Fleetwood Mac and the drummer in his own blues band. 

This list isn’t extensive, but it should get you started on your journey into the world of the blues. If you’re feeling inspired and ready to experience this music genre for yourself, you can purchase a number of excellent blues records at or monthly Blues, Soul, Jazz & Funk auction. Perhaps you’re also feeling inspired to join these great musicians. Then head over to our Guitars auction and find yourself an instrument to get you started on your journey.

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