How to play boogie woogie piano

How to play boogie woogie piano

Boogie woogie is an upbeat, high-energy genre of music commonly associated with dancing.

It was developed by African-American communities in the 1870s and rose in popularity during the 1920s. It started with a piano and from there, grew to be paired with certain instruments and eventually bands.

How to play boogie woogie pianoespring4224/flickr Source: espring4224/flickr

It is characterized by a repetitive, swung note or shuffle rhythm similar to the blues.

It has gained a resurgence in popularity thanks to dance competitions and artists who bring back the style as a means to harken back to the past and revive the old days. Normally it is America that is associated with the Boogie.

How to play boogie woogie pianoPexels Source: Pexels

But a lovely young Swiss lady by the name of Ladyva seems to have a passion for the genre.

She started at the age of 14 and only 2 years later began performing with her brother, Pascal Silva.

Ladyva is inspired by the great masters of boogie woogie and it really shows. She has a sweet, laid-back countenance about her.

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

And in her simple, yet lovely dress and her hair swept and tied back, she lights up the room with quick successive taps of the same key on her Schimmel piano.

That familiar 1-2-3-4 bass beat fills the air and she looks to her audience with a smile and a knowing nod as if to say, “It’s on.”

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

Her smile gets the crowd clapping to the melody of her performance.

Ladyva seems to appreciate her fans’ clapping. She looks out towards them and gives a wink. Her hands don’t stop though and even her online viewers are in awe.

“She must have two brains, one for each hand.”

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

That is a heck of a compliment. Another said,

“We cherish your flying on the keyboard AND YOUR SMILE TOO . ”

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

The notes are clean and precise. As lightning fast as her playing is, you can hear each specific note and it is a wonder to watch and listen to.

Ladyva is “Best Boogie Woogie Pianist” of 2017 at the Boisdale Music Awards and she is living up to her title.

This Swiss pianist is playing “Boogie Woogie Stomp” in Germany.

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

For keen fans, they know that “Boogie Woogie Stomp” is a piece from a man named Albert Ammons. The son of pianists from Chicago, Illinois, Albet learned to play at the age of 10 mostly thanks to his father. He went on to perform with his friends and became a notable pianist of the genre.

Ammons has influenced countless pianists but sadly passed before his 43rd birthday.

The late great Albert Ammons would have loved Ladyva’s undeniable talent. He would have been so proud to see his influence extending to the new millenium and beyond. She’s doing a great job at it too.

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

Ladyva continues to play and her shows pack seats from people of all ages.

She simply doesn’t miss a single note. Her playing is flawless and it evokes a sense of pureness and simplicity born from the times of the Boogie Woogie. And all through out her piece, she cannot stop smiling. She loves her craft.

And somewhere out there, the great masters of the Boogie love her too.

How to play boogie woogie pianoYouTube Screenshot Source: YouTube Screenshot

Listen to Ladyva’s perfect piano skills in the video below

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How to play boogie woogie piano

This comprehensive instructional book takes students through a step-by-step process of learning both the basics and the more advanced techniques of the style so that they can eventually become their own teachers. Based on Arthur Migliazza’s uniquely systematic method of instruction, and over 19 years of experience teaching students of all skill levels, this book covers everything from left-hand bass patterns, right-hand licks and essential chords, to turnarounds, intros, endings, and even a chapter on how to play by ear.

Inventory #HL 00140698 ISBN: 9781495007910 UPC: 888680040758 Width: 9.0″ Length: 12.0″ 112 pages

Prices and availability subject to change without notice.

This comprehensive instructional book takes students through a step-by-step process of learning both the basics and the more advanced techniques of the style so that they can eventually become their own teachers. Based on Arthur Migliazza’s uniquely systematic method of instruction, and over 19 years of experience teaching students of all skill levels, this book covers everything from left-hand bass patterns, right-hand licks and essential chords, to turnarounds, intros, endings, and even a chapter on how to play by ear.

Hal Leonard Digital Books are cloud-based publications, which are streaming and require internet access. Upon purchase, you will be provided with an access code and a link to Hal Leonard’s MyLibrary site, where you can view your digital book along with supplemental audio or video where applicable.

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“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.

How to play boogie woogie piano

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.

How to play boogie woogie piano

Now try putting left and right hands together

How to play boogie woogie piano

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!

Boogie-woogie piano is a style of music that is extremely rhythmical and focuses on dance. It was first developed in the late 1800’s in rural African American communities in the Southern United States. Boogie-woogie piano is played by the left hand maintaining a steady, repetitive bass pattern while the right hand plays various counter rhythms, melodies, and licks on top of it. It is a very physically demanding style of piano playing and can be compared to an athletic event.


Part 1 of 4: Getting Started Download Article

How to play boogie woogie piano

Listen to the masters. Music is a language, and like learning any language, you need to listen to its native speakers. Start by listening to some of the old masters to get an idea of their rhythms, phrasing, timing, and styles. Here are some good people to start with: Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Jabo Williams, Montana Taylor, Jimmy Yancey, Hersal Thomas, Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Big Maceo Merriweather, Otis Spann, Amos Milburn, Professor Longhair and James Booker. Download their music and listen a little bit to them every day to start getting the true sounds of boogie-woogie in your ears!

Part 2 of 4: Learning the Left Hand Download Article

Learn at least one left hand bass pattern. The left hand is the most important feature of boogie-woogie piano playing and without a steady bass pattern there is no hope of playing true boogie-woogie. Most left hand patterns are “8-to-the-bar”, meaning there are eight eighth-notes played in every bar. Learn at least one left hand bass pattern and be able to play it automatically and independently of the right hand.

How to play boogie woogie piano

Develop hand independence. This is a great exercise for getting your foot in the door to achieving left hand independence with any new bass pattern you learn.

  • For this example, use your boogie-woogie left hand pattern from Step two. Play the Shuffle pattern (staying on the C chord) in the left hand, and introduce increasingly complicated rhythms in the right hand, using a C6 chord in the first inversion.

Practice this technique over the three chords of a 12-bar blues. The most common musical form for boogie-woogie songs is a 12-bar blues It consists of three chord changes, the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. In the key of C, the I chord is C, the IV chord is F, and the V chord is G. It is absolutely essential that you memorize the 12-bar blues form.

  • You can simply transpose the voicing used for C6 to the keys of F and G, or you can try these different voicings: to make an F chord, simply lower the E to an Eb from your C6 chord. This will make an F9 chord. For a G chord, shift your fingers slightly over to f-g-b-d. Practice the hand independence exercise shown above in the new keys of F (starting the left hand pinky finger on F, and playing an F chord in the right hand) and G (starting the left hand pinky finger on G, and playing a G chord in the right hand).

Part 3 of 4: Learning the Right Hand Download Article

Learn a right hand lick. In boogie-woogie piano playing, when the right hand is not playing chords to accompany vocals or another soloist, it usually plays licks. According to Arthur Migliazza’s book “How To Play Boogie Woogie Piano,” there are only 8 primary licks, from which infinite variations and combinations are possible. Lick #1 is the most basic, and consists of keeping the right hand in the basic position of a C major triad.

Learn some variations of your first lick. Learn some variations of the lick so that you have more material to work with in your song.

Practice the lick and variations while playing the left hand bass pattern. The next step is to introduce your right hand licks to your left hand boogie-woogie bass pattern. Practice in C, F and G separately. [Note: you can transpose these licks to F and G, or just play them in C while the left hand changes! It still works!]

How to play boogie woogie piano

When you are comfortable playing the licks in all three keys, put them in the context of a 12-bar blues.

Part 4 of 4: Putting it Together with an Introduction and Ending Download Article

Learn an introduction. Introductions to boogie-woogie songs vary widely. A very common way to start a boogie-woogie is by simply playing the left hand bass pattern for four measure by itself, and then introduce the right hand.Another common way to begin a boogie-woogie is by using the first two chords of a turnaround progression, the I7 and I dim 7. In the key of C this means C7 and C diminished 7.

  • An intro of this sort is usually four measures in duration and consists of going back and forth between these two chords. These four measures count as the first four measures of the 12-bar form and when the left hand comes in with the bass pattern it is on the IV chord.

Learn an ending. The simplest way to end a boogie-woogie is by playing this figure with the left hand by itself.

Combine a repeating, rhythmic bass pattern in the left hand with chords and licks in the right hand. Use an intro to start and an ending to finish and now you’re playing boogie woogie!

How to play boogie woogie piano

Teaching is one of my biggest passions. Many professionals in the Blues world were so kind to me growing up, and taught me many things with exceeding patience. I love passing on the tradition and teaching people to play and enjoy this wonderful music!

How to play boogie woogie piano

Learn Boogie Woogie Piano with Arthur’s book!


During the past 22 years of teaching, I made an amazing discovery – aside from the various left hand patterns, the Blues and Boogie Woogie piano style can be boiled down to eight main “licks”, of which almost everything else is a derivation, variation or combination. This realization led me to begin developing the systematically progressive teaching method that I use with so much success today. Students are led through a series of steps, each one building on what came before, until they are playing Blues and Boogie Woogie.

I teach beginners as well as professionals, and no sheet music is used. Instead, I pass on the music by the same “oral tradition” from which I was taught by several of the masters. The information is explained and broken down in a way that is understandable to the individual student. In addition to teaching private lessons, I have 20 years of experience teaching piano classes at the world renowned Augusta Blues Week in Elkins, WV, and at the similarly world famous Centrum Blues Week in Port Townsend, WA.

My method includes:

Common left hand patterns in both Blues and Boogie Woogie styles

The eight common right hand licks/riffs and their variations

Achieving left hand independence so that the right hand is free to improvise

Ear Training and playing by ear

Playing solo and with a band

Music Theory – as it applies to these topics


I am currently only offering virtual lessons. All lessons are one hour.

$100 – Online (Skype, Zoom)

Please email [email protected] to set up a lesson!

My entire method for teaching, as described above, is now available in my first instructional book, “How To Play Boogie Woogie Piano”. The book includes over 150 musical transcriptions and over 130 audio tracks (downloadable) that I personally recorded for the book. To order online please click here.

In 2018 I created the first ever website to teach yourself how to play boogie woogie piano. The School of Boogie is completely free and the courses are self-guided. Give it a shot and in no time you too will be playing boogie woogie!


This is THE Boogie Woogie bassline.

If you look up “Boogie Woogie” on Wikipedia, you’ll find this bassline right at the top of the page.

Brett is here to break it down and teach you how to play it, so you can start jamming out to some Boogie Woogie today.


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5 Days To Better Hand Independence On Piano

Hand Independence can be one of the greatest challenges we face as piano players! But in this video, we are going to show you how in just 5 days you can begin to master this skill.

Using one simple exercise that will change and increase in complexity, you will gradually develop the skills needed to master your hand independence. It’s that easy, follow along with this step by step lesson and you will be seeing measurable results in less than a week.

So if you’re like most piano players and would like to develop this skill, you’re in the right place: Let Lisa walk you through the 5 days to better hand independence on piano.

0:00 – Day 1
2:18 – Day 2
3:29 – Day 3
4:23 – Day 4
4:49 – Day 5
6:33 – Final Thoughts

Are you ready to boogie?!

You’re about the learn the DEFINITIVE Boogie Woogie bassline. It’s literally the first bassline you see when you search Wikipedia for “Boogie Woogie”.

Don’t believe me? Go look, I’ll wait ?

You see? So you are going to learn something awesome today, but I will warn you — this is not the easiest bassline to play. It will take some practice, especially when you start changing chords. But it is SO MUCH FUN and if you play this for someone, guaranteed they’ll smile ?

And you’ll be working on your left-hand strength and dexterity!

The pattern

The great thing about this bassline is that it follows the same pattern, no matter what chord you’re playing it over.

We’ll be in the key of C today, and we’ll use the C, F and G chords.

Over C, the bassline looks like this:

It looks complicated, but we can break it down.

Starting on C, you play an octave above to a higher C. Then you start on the 3rd (E) and walk-up by half-steps until you reach the 5th (G). Once you do, you simply play a G octave below.

And that repeats over and over again.

The hard part is changing chords

This is where it gets a little tricky. This bassline is fast and jumps around a lot. It can take a bit to master, but the real challenge comes when it’s time to change chords.

From the C we’ll move to an F. The pattern is identical, but everything is now in relation to the F chord.

So we’ll start with the F octave, and then find the 3rd (this time it’s A) and walk-up by half-steps until you reach the 5th (now a C) and then play that C octave.

After F, we’ll move to G. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out the notes. Remember, the pattern NEVER changes.

Don’t forget to boogie

This is the Boogie Woogie, so don’t forget to play it with some style and bounce!

This is not the bassline to play with a straight rhythm. You want to swing, and really ‘feel’ the bassline.

So get to the keys and start to boogie!

How to play boogie woogie piano

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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How to play boogie woogie piano

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How hard is it to play boogie woogie piano?

To play boogie woogie on a beginner level is actually very simple. To play at a professional advanced level is difficult in that you do need “chops” and stamina to pull it off effectively.

What key is Boogie Woogie in?

Who originated the boogie woogie style of piano playing?

Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, & Meade Lux Lewis In Chicago during the 1920’s, this musical form developed into the sound which today we recognize as boogie – woogie .

How long does it take to learn blues piano?

If you can already play songs hands together it’ll take you about 4 months to get good at playing piano by ear. If you’re a complete beginner and you’ve never played a song hands together before, it’ll take you about 6 months because you’ll need to learn some other skills first.

Is Boogie Woogie jazz or blues?

Boogie – woogie , heavily percussive style of blues piano in which the right hand plays riffs (syncopated, repeating phrases) against a driving pattern of repeating eighth notes (ostinato bass).

What are the characteristics of boogie woogie?

Boogie-woogie is a style of blues piano playing characterized by an up-tempo rhythm , a repeated melodic pattern in the bass , and a series of improvised variations in the treble.

Which pianist was famous for the style of boogie woogie?

Is Boogie Woogie another term for ragtime?

This urban blues singer recorded 180 sides for Columbia records and was notably called the “Empress of Blues.” Boogie woogie is another term for ragtime . Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Robert Johnson all played in the urban blues style.

What does Woogie Boogie mean?

: a percussive style of playing blues on the piano characterized by a steady rhythmic ground bass of eighth notes in quadruple time and a series of improvised melodic variations.