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I'm sure plenty of you guys know this situation well: Someone's playing some blues guitar lick, and right as things get real stanky, they make a weird face, seemingly in reaction to the lick they're playing (some seem to be unable to avoid doing this, actually, and still others do it on purpose!). My questions are asking when and how this tradition got started.

There's another question that kind of gets at this a little in its answers, but are there any explanations as to why this occurs?

Do we know whether early blues pioneers did this when they played, or is this a relatively recent development?

This facial twist occurs in other contexts/genres, too, especially during difficult passages. Is there any record of this being observed for other styles in the past? (the western musical tradition has a bunch of recorded history for classical music, so maybe there?)

  • I do exactly that - usually after a bum note's been played... – Tim Sep 20 at 6:42
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    Is it the result of trying your best (in the face of distraction) to concentrate on some difficult task? Have you observed it in people doing apparently difficult things other than playing music? – Rosie F Sep 20 at 7:52
  • When playing music where i feel like being one with it, making every feeling that i have talk throug the music, i make the same face like sexual climax (lol). I think this might have to do something with releasing your tensions (physically and psychological) when playing music. This is something which happens - at least to me - automatically. It is very satisfying. – Olli Sep 20 at 8:40
  • I think this is something - more or less - normal in playing music. I guess blues - as a very expressive genre - is kind of made to cause this. But i think other genres can cause this aswell. – Olli Sep 20 at 8:43
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    It's not just musicians, check out the faces athletes' faces at top effort. – ojs Sep 20 at 10:42
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Blues performers do tend to drift into thespianism to "enhance the experience" or some such. So do boy bands and opera singers.

By way of comparison, I find it amusing that Yo-yo Ma and J. duPre move and emote(d) a lot while performing, yet Starker and Feuermann hardly moved or changed facial expressions at all. (Starker famously told his students that any effort put into body motion was effort lost to producing great music. so there you go).

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