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  • Created by: Alice
  • Created on: 09-01-14 20:00


Howlin Wolf

  • Chester Burnett 1910-1976: A black American singer, Guitarist and Harmonica player
  • Renowned as a powerful singer in Chicago Electric Blues Style. 
  • I'm Leavin' You was recorded in 1958 in the style of 1950s Chicago Rhythm and Blues 
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Howlin Wolf: Instrumentation

  • Vocals: Vocals lead the piece (melody) 
  • Lead Guitar: 'Fills in the gaps,' takes the melodic lines and fills when vocals do not lead melody
  • Rhythm Guitar: The rhythm guitar helps maintain rhythm  
  • Piano: Largely improvised, within each bar extended chords are given to give pianist an idea of what to play
  • Drums: Drums play shuffle rhythm, plays rhythmic fill when instrumentation stops the emphasis is on the weaker beats of the bar giving a sense of syncopation 
  • Harmonica: punctuates the texture with characteristic chords.
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Howlin Wolf: Texture

  • Mostly homophonic in the verses, with a strong chordal accompaniment acting as a backing for the vocals. 
  • There is a dialogue between Voice and Lead Guitar - typical of both Rhythm and Blues and earlier Blues styles. 
  • Stop’ time textures feature in the first three bars of Verses 2, 3, 5 and 6. Punctuating chords on the first beat of these bars, and a triplet fill in the fourth, lead to the subdominant chord in the fifth bar of the sequence
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Howlin Wolf: Tonality

  • Key of G major
  • Some modal inflections in 'Blue' notes in the vocal and instrumental parts (modal inflection is alterations of one or more notes within a tonal context that hint to one or more modes) 
  • No modulation
  • Blues Modality
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Howlin Wolf: Harmony 

  • Lots of 7ths and 9ths (Blues notes)
  • A ‘standard’ twelve bar Blues sequence in G: 

Bars 3-6 G7 (I) 
Bars 7-8 C9 (IV) 
Bars 9-10 G7 (I) 
Bar 11 D7 (V) 
Bar 12 C9 (IV) 
Bar 13 G7
Bar 14 Db-D9 (chromatic approach to V).

  • Product of improvisation than pre-composition
  • Based on chords or primary chords (1, 4 and 5)
  • Extended Chords (G7, C9, D7) 
  • Last bar prepares ear for return to the tonic in nect repitition of the sequence
  • 7th Chords do not have cadential function as in 'traditional' harmony
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Howlin Wolf: Melody

  • The vocal melody consist of a series of 1 bar phrases, most of which begin on a D and work downwards, to various notes, e.g. tonic (Bar 3), subdominant (Bar 4). 
  • The frequent ‘blue’ notes (Bb and F natural) clash with the underlying diatonic harmonies
  • Pentatonic shapes predominate, mainly based on the notes F, G, Bb, C, and D. 
  • Guitar lines are more complex, with use of the Blues scale, including the flattened fifth (D flat), as well as the third and seventh (Bb and F natural). 
  • Much dialogue between the Vocal and Lead guitar parts. 
  • Frequent slides and pitch bends in both guitar and Vocal parts.
  • Use of few two note and three note melisma's
  • Descending phrases
  • Blues Scales
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Howlin Wolf: Rhythm

  • Driving 4/4 time, but with a ‘shuffle’ rhythm (swung rhythm). 
  • Triplets. 
  • Semiquaver grouping ending with Scotch snap (Bar 21). 
  • Snare drum ‘backbeats’ on beats 2 and 4. 
  • Syncopation at times, e.g. bar 2.
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Howlin Wolf: Structure

Six choruses of a standard 12 bar blues, to which is added a short intro and a repeat and fade (Coda) 

  • B1-2: Introduction - Guitar Break
  • B3-14: Verse 1 - Vocals, Rhythm and Lead Guitar with piano improvisation
  • B14-26: Verse 2 - 'Stop' time at opening
  • B26-38: Verse 3 - 'Stop' time at opening
  • B39-50: Guitar Solo - Guitar, wordless vocals and Harmonic, while rest of band continue in shuffle rhythm
  • (B50-62) 14-26: Verse 5 - 'Stop' time at opening
  • (B62-74) 26-36: Verse 6 - 'Stop' time at opening
  • B51-End: Coda - Improvised vocal lines over guitar riff

(Verse, Stop Chorus, Solo, Repeat, Coda) 

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Performance Techniques

Howlin Wolf: Performance Techniques

  • Vocal Part likes mostly within middle range, spanning for the most part a mjore sixth (F-D) 
  • Syllabic style
  • Frequent slide/bend and half-spoken inflections - typical of blues style
  • Harmonica punctuates texture with characteristic chords
  • The Lead Guitar opens the song with a typical Blues introductory figure. It then works in dialogue with the voice with a combination of monophonic ‘licks’ based on the Blues scale, and double–stopped thirds, high in its register. 
  •  In its solo (verse 4), it also plays some three note chords, both root and first inversion. 
  • Slides and bends are used quite frequently in the Lead guitar part. 
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