How to Boogie-Woogie


Three videos to help...


Boogie-Woogie piano requires mastery of and much time spent with the following four core aspects at the piano.  Without them, no or very little progress will be made which may result in you giving up, which would be a great shame! However, as this article will discuss, there's a few things to do away from the piano as well.

At the piano, you'll focus on the following which are presented in videos below:

1. Left hand techniques;

2. Right hand riffs;

3. Hand co-ordination;

4. Steadiness in execution/rhythmic feel.

The first is discussed in the following video and includes many demonstrations:



The second is discussed in the following video which also includes demonstrations combining the left hand techniques from above:


The third is provided in this video for which I composed a little piece which goes around the the 12 bar blues twice and provides a nice mix of the previous videos. It relies on and encourages hand independence and your sense of rhythm, as mentioned in the list above:

Away from the piano efforts are strongly encouraged no matter your path because if you can't do or don't know something in your mind, you'll encounter great struggles at the piano, thinking that you're not advanced enough when often this is not the reason; it's because your mind isn't ready, only your fingers... which isn't enough!

Before you embark on your Boogie-Woogie journey, you need to be aware of the landscape which means you need to listen to a variety of performances; and not only piano ones! After all, blues started by singing then moved to guitar before it started to spread to other instruments and places.  I propose reading this link to learn about where Boogie-Woogie came from as a piano style as your first away-from-the-piano step.

The following recording is considered one of, if not the first full recording of Boogie-Woogie as we know it. Try to focus only on the left hand and then on the second listen, note the repetitive patterns he uses in the right hand (one of the things I discuss in the second video above). I'd propose that you go and try to mimic what he is doing, once you've identified the key (hint: G).

This is how you get good quickly at Boogie-Woogie (or any genre): listen to what has been done before, especially during its early life.

Eventually, you'll discover names such as Pinetop Smith, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson, albums and tracks of whom I strongly suggest you internalise but do please discover and listen to others. Here is a good starting point:



By listening so much, you will become familiar with a wider range of left hand patterns, right hand riffs and a few do's and don't's. The 12 bar blues will also start to cement itself in your feeling, since you must get to the point of 'just knowing' where you are as you progress through a 12 bar blues structure. The chord types help, as some practice will demonstrate. You will also develop a sense of rhythm and hopefully tap your foot along quite a lot!

Combine all of this away-from-the-piano effort with my three videos above and you'll be a a rare knowledgeable, well-drenched Boogie-Woogie player in no time!