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Play Boogie Woogie Piano

Updated on August 29, 2012
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John Mello is a composer, musician, and author of books for children and adults.

Pete Johnson
Pete Johnson | Source

Get Down & Boogie

Playing boogie-woogie piano isn't difficult when you know a few basics. Just take a repeating bassline, add that famous 12-bar blues pattern, mix in a few chords, and you've got a recipe for fun and entertainment!

To make things easier, I've uploaded the score to Score Exchange. Follow this link to see, listen and print the music off as you work through the hub. You might need to download the free Scorch plug-in to view and hear the score, which you can get by clicking here.

Learn the Bass Line

First off, learn the left hand bass line pattern. We're using the key of C so there's no unnecessary complication.

Practice playing the notes C, E, G, A, Bb, A, G, E in a repeating up-and-down pattern. Keep it simple in a steady quarter-note rhythm.

Change Position

Got it? Good. Now try the same pattern starting on F. This time the notes will be F, A, C, D, Eb, D, C, A.

Change Once More

Next, try the same pattern in the G position: G, B, D, E, F, E, D, B. Then try all three patterns one after the other to get used to moving your hand around.

Learn the Chords

Well done! Now let's practice the chords. We'll start with the C chord in its second inversion, the notes G, C, and E reading from bottom to top. HINT: Middle C should be the middle note of the chord.

The second chord is the F chord in its first inversion, the notes A, C, and F. Once again, middle C should be the middle note of the chord, making it easy to move from one chord to another.

And the final chord is G, or the notes G, D, and B. The lowest note G is the same low note used in the C chord.

Mixing it Up

Practice playing the three chords one after the other. When you can do that, try ONE bass line pattern with ONE chord. Make sure to play the chords on EVERY SECOND BASS NOTE only.

Next, try playing the bass lines in the other two positions with the relevant chords -- i.e. F chord with F bass line, G chord with the bass line starting on G.

Okay, now for the big test. It's time to put the whole thing together. Go slowly, start off in the C position, and play it over a few times until you're comfortable. Work on the first line only until you’ve got it. Then move to F on the second line, and on to G on line three.

You'll notice that half-way through the score there are twice as many chords. You don't have to do it this way, but I think it adds excitement. If you're having trouble, slow down and practice one bar at a time.

Practice makes Perfect

Keep repeating the pattern until it's ingrained in your fingers. Then finish off with my 2-bar ending (you can work it out!) or experiment and come up with your own ending. HINT: make sure you finish on the note C in the bass and with a C chord in the right hand.

Congratulations! Nothing to it when you know what you're doing, is there? And if you enjoyed that, why not check out my Writing the Blues hub for some more fun with jazz piano? See you there!


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