Built primarily on blues music, Gospel is a relatively modern style originating in the ‘30s developing from a the influence of spirituals and hymns. In this edition of Blue Traditions, you’ll learn to play heritage Gospel tunes like “Jesus is on the Mainline,” “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed,” “Down by the Riverside,” and “Samson & Delilah.” Rev. Jones will explain and demonstrate all of the essential concepts and approaches along the way.
Here are 6 free videos from the course to help you get started. For the full course, check out Rev. Robert Jones’ Blues Traditions: The Evangelists on TrueFire where you’ll be provided with standard notation and tablature for all of the performance studies!
From Spirituals to Gospel Music – Demonstration – Blues Guitar Lesson
Understanding the differences that exist between spirituals, prayer/praise hymns and gospel is important. As I talk about in the video, spirituals were born in slavery and really laid the foundation of most of the African American music that followed. Spirituals tended to be very individualistic. They were often sorrowful, and they were often based in Old Testament imagery (for example, songs might be based on the exploits of Moses, Joshua, David or Daniel). Prayer and praise hymns, on the other hand, came later. Prayer and praise hymns are more geared to group singing, often use repetition for the purpose of building emotion and togetherness. Gospel is a 20th century style that emphasizes vocal and instrument virtuosity. Gospel is a professional style that often borrows from the popular music around it. Think – I sing a spirituals in my room, we sing a prayer and praise hymns in our church, but Aretha sang gospel on the stage.
Wade in the Water – Performance – Blues Guitar Lesson
We use “Wade in the Water”, a traditional spiritual, to illustrate the differences between spirituals, prayer and praise and gospel songs. Obviously, it’s not the melody that defines the style, it’s the approach. So, in this segment, I try to show how you can play the same tune any number of ways. The idea is to make the song into what you need it to be, whether it is an individual song, a group song or a performance song.
Wade in the Water – Breakdown – Blues Guitar Lesson
I hope that it is easy to hear blues concepts like the use of the minor pentatonic scale, call and response and singing behind the beat in a sacred music context.
Blind Willie Johnson Overview – Blues Guitar Lesson
Blind Willie Johnson was from Beaumont, Texas, and he represented an older guitar tradition than many that we find in the blues. Though he made some fairly influential recordings in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Willie Johnson made his living, primarily, as a street singer. His slide style, for which he is primarily remembered, was very melodic and yet driving. In Johnson’s recordings, the guitar is almost like a second voice, sometimes it sings with him and at other times it responds to his vocals like another singer.
Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed – Performance – Blues Guitar Lesson
I decided to present Josh White’s “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed” to show how differently two artists can approach the same song. Josh favored the small bodied (00) 12 fret rosewood guitars that gave him an strong pre-electric tone that emphasized his great guitar solos.
Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed – Breakdown – Blues Guitar Lesson
This song is also in Open D. As I mentioned earlier, Josh White was a very accomplished player, and here I’ve shown a very simple version of “Dyin’ Bed”. Some of White’s recorded versions of this song includes a relative minor (Bb) on the way to the IV chord. I was intending to include this version in the lesson, but I didn’t get around to it. In any case, listening to the original recordings will give you a lot of insight as to how you want to play a given tune. Remember, this is the way that I play it, not necessarily the way that they played it or that YOU will play it.
Digging these free lessons? Check out Rev. Robert Jones’ full course, Blues Traditions: The Evangelists