Cultural and Technological Factors of the Blues

with producer, songwriter, Lincoln Center Scholar, and Amp Up NYC music educator

Harold Stephan

In this second lesson, demonstrations within PULSE will include how to use assets from Take Me To The River and Study Room to create an interdisciplinary blues lesson. Click here to view Harold's first lesson entitled "Leveraging a Current Hit Song to Teach the 12-Bar Blues".

View Harold Stephan's presentation from the 2016 City Music Summit, here, to learn how you and your students can remix a current hit song using Logic Pro X, Noteflight, and Youtube.

Overall Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • Understand and discuss the socio-political factors that gave rise to the Blues
  • Understand and discuss technology’s influence on shaping musical genres

Materials and Resources: 

  • Computer with Chrome, Safari or Firefox to access the PULSE website
  • Projector, PA System
  • Blues Essay Worksheet 

PULSE Connections: (request a demo account)


  • Informal – class discussion
  • Formal – compare and contrast essay on music of today and the past and technology’s impact on musical genres

Instructional Strategy:

Warm-Up (10 Minutes)

 1. Teacher asks, “What did we do last class?” (Expected responses are that we used “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) to compose a new song; we completed the “City Music Blues” worksheet; we composed a 12-Bar Blues song)

2. Teacher asks, “What is the rationale behind composing a 12-Bar Blues?” (Expected response is that The Blues is America’s first homegrown musical genre)

3. Teacher asks, “Where did The Blues come from?” (Expected response is from people in the south)

4. Teacher asks, “Who were these people, and why were they there?” (Response is open ended)

5. Teacher directs conversation towards a discussion about the historical roots of the blues, including slavery, African tribal music (slaves) and European folk music (slave owners).

Mini-Lesson (10-15 Minutes)

1. Play “Take Me To The River” Movie Clip #1 – Introduction (above)

Work-Time (30-35 Minutes)

1. Teacher projects VENN diagram of musical genres on the projection screen

2. Teacher calls on students to interpret the meaning of the diagram (Expected response is that it shows three primary musical genres comprised of African Music, European Folk Music, and Delta Blues, with various sub-genres related to these)

3. Teacher hands out the Blues Essay worksheet with the VENN diagram on front and lined essay paper on the back.

4. Teacher has students write a compare and contrast essay that compares the music of today and the music of the past. Consider how culture and technology influenced the creation of the blues in the American south. (Note: Provide sentence starters for struggling writers and IEP students.)

 Sharing (5 Minutes)

1. Call on a student to share the learning target in his or her own words using an “I can” statement (e.g. “I can understand how culture and technology influenced the creation of the blues in the American south)

View Harold's first lesson, "Leveraging a Current Hit Song to Teacher the 12-Bar Blues", here.

Download the lesson material here, which includes Core Arts Standards, NY State Art Standards, and National Standards.