Boogie Rhythms

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!

Blues Shuffle

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.

Blues Shuffle - Boogie ex1

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.

Blues Shuffle - Boogie ex2 

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.

Blues Shuffle - Boogie ex3 

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.

Blues Shuffle - Boogie ex4

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

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