It’s easy to play a solo over a great rhythm section, but what do you do when it’s someone else’s turn to solo? A good rhythm player can lock in with the bass and drums and really drive the whole band. In blues, the feel of the song is the most important element. A good place to start with a good blues song is a very simple chord progression, or even one chord. Boogie rhythms are great for this!
A boogie rhythm is a particular type of blues shuffle that uses rests and percussive strumming on the beat to help drive the rhythm along. Boogie songs often stay on one chord rather than following a 12 bar blues pattern. John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat and ZZ Top are masters of this art.
Boogie Rhythm & Blues Shuffle Exercise 1
Try this repeating one measure boogie pattern with bass notes on beats 3 and 4. It’s a favorite of John Lee Hooker and Magic Sam. You can either use a pick or play it fingerstyle. Notice the use of percussive strums in place of rests are represented by an X. To play a percussive strum, leave the left hand lightly touching the strings as you strike the strings with the right hand.
Boogie Rhythm & Blues Shuffle Exercise 2
Here’s a slight variation. This time a two measure pattern with bass notes on beats 3 and 4 of the second measure. This type of pattern is also a feature of John Lee Hooker, ZZ Top and Canned Heat.
Once you’ve memorized the notes, play the pattern for an extended period, concentrating on the feel of the music. A good boogie should become hypnotic. This is best developed using a metronome or a drum machine playing a simple shuffle beat.
Boogie Rhythm & Blues Shuffle Exercise 3
Sometimes at the end of a vocal line you might want to throw in a fill. It’s important to keep the rhythm going though. This one uses notes from the A minor pentatonic scale on the higher strings.
Boogie Rhythm & Blues Shuffle Exercise 4
Finally, here’s an eight measure boogie pattern using bass note variations and a fill in the last bar. Have fun with these rhythms and try making up your own variations.
About the Author
Peter Gelling is an Adelaide based musician, composer and author. While he is best known as a bluesman, he is classically trained and his talents extend to many genres. Peter is the author of many music instructions published worldwide by LearnToPlayMusic.com.
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Do you strum all down strokes or do you use down and up strokes for these exercises.
Thanks for your question Joseph. You can either use a pick or play these exercises fingerstyle. If using a pick, we recommend using a downward strum to fit the rhythm of the exercises.
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