The Songwriter’s Guide to the Blues


Durham, North Carolina’s Jon Shain is a veteran singer-songwriter, fingerstyle Blues picker and an internationally touring artist. A recent finalist at the International Blues Challenge, Shain keeps the Piedmont Blues alive while incorporating its traditional elements into his own modern approach — mixing in bluegrass, swing and ragtime flavors as well.

Plus, I take lessons from Jon! We Skype most weeks and I try to practice a bit in between. 😉 He’ll be headed to my hometown of Metuchen, NJ on Saturday, September 18 to lead a two-hour acoustic blues guitar workshop. I recently asked him some burning questions about blues songwriting — here’s what he had to say for this week’s Q&A!

Q:  What is a blues song? How do you define that in a universe where we all probably have an image of our head of what that means?

Jon: A blues song can be defined by some people by a certain chord progression or melodic tonality, but to really be a “blues”, it should lyrically connect with some true feelings and be expressed in a way that people can feel it as being “real.” Blues is the human response to when life throws everything it has at you. [Read more…]

How to write a “sticky” song

Foot stuck into chewing gum on street

Sometimes after I’ve been to an evening of music, I try to predict what song is going to get stuck in my head.

Believe me, there’s always one. Sometimes it will haunt me for days, when I wake up and when I go to sleep, when I drive in my car or take the train. There it will be, that *$%&@ sticky song that just won’t go away. According to The Atlantic, one-third of people get songs stuck in their head at least once per day!

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