In this lesson we take a look at how to play an easy Boogie Woogie on the guitar by playing a typical Walking Bass with the thumb and offbeat-chords with the index finger. This lesson is in the style of ‘Step It Up And Go’ by Blind Boy Fuller, but off course it can be applied to a countless number of other Blues songs.
The basic Walking Bass figure in G
We start with a simple Walking Bass figure with the root G. This chord was made for playing a bass figure like this!
Just grab a plain old G major chord but play it with the 3rd, 2nd and 4th finger.
We will need the index finger later to play a G7 chord.
Next practice playing this bass line while leaving the pinky on the third fret of the high E-string. Try to play the bass notes as long as possible (this is called ‘legato’).
The next step is to add an upwards strum with the index finger after each bass note (alternate between thumb and index finger). The score only shows the string where the upward strum should start, so it doesn’t look to messy, but of course you should hit two or three strings to get a ‘fuller’ sound.
And this is what it should sound like:
These Walking Bass or Boogie Woogie figures can be played straight or with a shuffle feeling.
Here is a variation with a 7th instead of the octave in the bass:
The third fret on the D string is fretted with the ring finger. Again if you need to you can leave out the pinky on the high E-string and the upward strums at first.
Playing the IV and the V chord
To play a complete 12 bar Boogie in this style in the key of G we need two more chords: C and D.
In bar 5 and 6 we play a C chord:
The fingering is pretty much the same as with the G chord. You can start the upward strum at the B-string or the high E-string. The high e string can be played open or with the pinky at the third fret (I prefer the last version as it makes a smooth transition from the G chord to the C chord).
For the D chord we could play something like this:
Just hold a simple D major chord and play the additional bass notes on the fourth fret with your pinky. You can play the upward strums from the high e string (fretted at the 2nd fret). Which version do you prefer?
Most guitarists play the D bass run like I’ve just shown you. When I played with the Blues legend Steve James I learned a few neat tricks about bass runs. One of them is playing the last three notes of the D bass an octave lower:
You can use your thumb for the 2nd fret or use a different chord shape to free your index finger to play these notes:
12 bar Boogie Woogie
A complete 12 bar Blues or Boogie Woogie in the key of G usually has the following chord changes:
/ G / G / G / G /
/ C / C / G / G /
/ D / C / G / G /
Now it’s a simple plug’n’play procedure: Just plug in the appropriate pattern into each bar and play some Boogie Woogie. In bar 10 you just play the first bar of the C pattern and then return to the G pattern.
I added another little bass run in bar 10 and a turnaround in bars 11 and 12 to get this:
This could be used as accompaniment while singing or while somebody else is soloing. In the next lesson we’ll learn a self-accompanied solo chorus we could put in between the vocal verses when we are playing without any other instruments.
You’ll find many more examples like the ones in this lesson in my new book ‘Garantiert Akustik Bluesgitarre lernen’. There are many sample pages and audio samples to try before you buy at www.garantiert-bluesgitarre.de