Piano Lesson: How to Play Boogie Woogie Piano
“I didn’t think anybody could play like that. Jools has got the left hand that never stops”
When the ‘King of the Blues’ B.B. King said this about Jools Holland, it was not only a huge compliment, but also an acknowledgement that a sign of a good blues pianist lies as much with what he does with his left hand as with his right. One of the best ways of spicing up your left hand is through a study of a style that first became popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s, known as boogie-woogie. The main feature of it is a very active left hand.
Here is the 12-bar blues you learnt to play in lesson four from 8notes. To keep things simple, in this version the right hand only plays chords.
Now you’ve got that under your fingers, let’s try a boogie-woogie style bass line, left hand only. Don’t forget to swing! The key to getting this right is practising slowly to start, gradually building in speed.
Now try putting left and right hands together
If you’ve managed to do this, you’ve already achieved a great deal. However, do you remember from your blues lesson that the style is all about improvising? If you really want to be able to boogie-woogie like Jools you need to be able to keep your left hand going, whilst allowing your right hand a bit more freedom to improvise. Take this SLOWLY! It is really tricky, so start by just allowing your right hand a little bit of freedom. As you get more confident, you can be more adventurous. Here’s an example of how this might sound. You will notice that in it, the right hand gradually becomes more independent, the same thing that you should aim for, only over a longer period of time.
If all this seems a bit hard, why not try some 8notes original pieces for piano in boogie-woogie style, which can be found here?
And finally, for the adventurous, here’s an even harder classic boogie-woogie left hand for you to try. The chords in the right hand are the same. If you can play this and improvise then, like Jools, you’ll be able to boogie-woogie boast!