Tom Patterson Deerpark – A Blues Guitar Primer by Tom Patterson, Band Director

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The blues guitar is one of Deerpark Band Director Tom Patterson’s favorite instruments. Working as Deerpark Middle School’s band director provides Tom Patterson with the opportunity to orchestrate a wide variety of instruments. Director Tom Patterson says that working with a middle school band is a great and satisfying role, but he jokes that it could use more blues guitar. Since middle school band ensembles do not typically use blues guitar, band director Tom Patterson pursues the study as a hobby. Here, Tom Patterson delves into some of the particulars of just where the blues guitar has come from.

Blues guitar, as explained by band director Tom Patterson, is played in any suitable key. The three basic forms of blues guitar, according to Tom Patterson, are based on bars. A bar, said the Round Rock band director, is a unit of musical time similar to a measure. According to band director Tom Patterson, blues songs are structured as eight, twelve, or sixteen-bar blues. A classic example of an eight-bar blues tune is “Heartbreak Hotel,” pointed out Tom Patterson, and the band director also noted that “St. Louis Blues” is a very popular and recognizable version of twelve-bar blues. Sixteen-bar blues, said Tom Patterson, is a bit more rare and complex, but is exemplified by songs like “Saint James Infirmary.”

Band director Tom Patterson particularly enjoys the beauty of the eight, twelve, and sixteen-bar blues forms. The blues are built out of a simple and accessible structure, explains the Deerpark band director, so that once learned they are easily maintained and improvised upon. Once a group of musicians familiarizes themselves with the blues bar count, they can play with any other blues performers, adds Tom Patterson. The Deerpark band director says that breaking blues into basic forms, like eight, twelve, and sixteen-bars helps to create a versatile and universal musical language that performers from any culture can use to collaborate.

In the end, according to band director Tom Patterson, twelve bar blues is the most popular of the three basic blues styles. Tom Patterson says that twelve bar blues are well suited to vocals. Not to mention, adds band director Tom Patterson, that they are very catchy and popular with listening audiences. Furthermore, concludes the Round Rock band director, twelve bar blues is the format appropriated by many great tunes beyond the original blues style.


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Tom Patterson, the Band Director at Deerpark Middle School, has been passionate about music for as long as he can remember. Deerparkā€™s Band Director Tom Patterson played with the University of Texas Orchestra and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble.

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