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from Mark Wilson’s Blue Grooves
The boogie-woogie rhythm is a popular shuffle heard on countless recordings throughout the years. From B.B. King to Stevie Ray Vaughan, all of the greats have put their own stamp on this rhythm. The bass plays quarter notes to lock in a strong groove with the drums, while the guitar doubles the bass line using eighth notes. This rhythm is effective at any speed, with the tempo determining the feel.
Let’s take a closer look at this classic boogie-woogie bassline, which is based on a dominant chord. Since we’re in the key of G, let’s start there. Most people already know the minor pentatonic scale: I, flat III, V, flat VII. Since this example is over a G7 chord, we’ll use the arpeggio, but leave out the third. That would be I, VIII (octave), flat VII, V.
To help achieve the proper rhythmic feel, be sure to use alternate picking – down-up-down-up – remembering that each downstroke should match up with the downbeat. Essentially, every time you tap your foot should be a downstroke. Another right hand tech nique that works well in this lesson is palm muting. Experiment with it to lend the rhythm a more authentic sound.
For left hand technique, keep your fingers close to the strings to help mute unused strings. Also, practice moving from position to position quickly, to keep the feel going, your pinky for the octave note, to help keep your left hand in a close compact position to facilitate throwing in the occasional blues lick. For variation, explore the idea of root-fifth power chords as a relatively simple way to add more texture to the rhythm.
The second example is a lead to play over the boogie shuffle. The main ideas here are the movement from major to minor pentatonic scales to create tension and movement. Also notice when the solo goes to the IV, or C, it remains in that position after the change back to G, or the I chord. Also look for the use of the VI, in this case E, to add sweetness.
That wraps it up for this month’s TrueFire blues lesson. Check back next month for more blues tips.
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