Blues shuffle or boogie played on guitar in E major[1] (About this sound Play  ).

Boogie is a repetitive, swung note or shuffle rhythm,[2] "groove" or pattern used in blues which was originally played on the piano in boogie-woogie music. The characteristic rhythm and feel of the boogie was then adapted to guitar, double bass, and other instruments. The earliest recorded boogie-woogie song was in 1916. By the 1930s, Swing bands such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Gerald Martin, and Louis Jordan all had boogie hits. By the 1950s, boogie became incorporated into the emerging rockabilly and rock and roll styles. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s country bands released country boogies. Today, the term "boogie" usually refers to dancing to pop, disco, or rock music.


  • History 1
  • Usage 2
    • Songs 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The boogie was originally played on the piano in boogie-woogie music and adapted to guitar. 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.[3] Boogie woogie developed from a piano style that developed in the rough barrelhouse bars in the Southern states, where a piano player performed for the hard-drinking patrons. Wayne Schmidt remarks that with boogie-woogie songs, the "bass line isn't just a time keeper or 'fill' for the right hand"; instead, the bassline has equal importance to the right hand's melodic line. He argues that many boogie-woogie basslines use a "rising/falling sequence of notes" called walking bass line.[4]

The origin of the term boogie-woogie is unknown, according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word is a redoubling of boogie, which was used for rent parties as early as 1913. The term may be derived from Black West African English, from the Sierra Leone term "bogi", which means "to dance"; as well, it may be akin to the phrase "hausa buga", which means "to beat drums."[3] In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the term "could mean anything from a racy style of dance to a raucous party or to a sexually transmitted disease."[5] In Peter Silvester’s book on boogie woogie, Left Hand Like God — the Story of Boogie Woogie he states that, in 1929, “boogie-woogie is used to mean either dancing or music in the city of Detroit.”[6]

Schmidt claims that the "earliest record of boogie woogie was Texan pianist George W. Thomas' release of New Orleans Hop Scop Blues as sheet music in 1916." [4] Boogie hit the charts with Pine Top Smith's Pine Top's Boogie in 1929, which garnered the number 20 spot. In the late 1930s, boogie became part of the then popular Swing style, as big bands such as "Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Louis Jordan...all had boogie hits." Swing big band audiences expected to hear boogie tunes, because the beat could be used for the then-popular dances such as the jitterbug and the Lindy Hop. As well, country artists began playing boogie woogie in the late 1930s, when Johnny Barfield recorded "Boogie Woogie". The Delmore Brothers "Freight Train Boogie" shows how country music and blues were being blended to form the genre which would become known as rockabilly. The Sun Records-era rockabilly sound used "wild country boogie piano" as part of its sound.[7]

However, by the early 1950s, boogie became less popular, and by the mid-1950s, its related form, rock & roll, became the most popular style.[4] By the mid-1970s, the meaning of the term returned to its roots, in a certain sense, as during the disco era, "to boogie" meant "to dance in a disco style". In the 1980s, country bands such as The Charlie Daniels Band used boogie woogie in songs such as the 1988 "Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues". In 1991 Brooks & Dunn released "Boot Scootin' Boogie". [2]


The boogie groove is often used in rock and roll and country music. A simple rhythm guitar or accompaniment boogie pattern, sometimes called country boogie, is as follows:[2]

simple rhythm guitar boogie pattern on a D major chord

The "B" and "C" notes are played by stretching the fourth finger from the "A" two and three frets up to "B" and "C" respectively on the same string. This pattern is an elaboration or decoration of the chord or level and is the same on all the primary triads (I, IV, V), although the dominant, or any chord, may include the seventh on the third beat[2] (see also, degree (music)).

A basic boogie rhythm riff (0:19; Ogg Vorbis, 154 KB)

Problems playing this file? See .

A simple lead guitar boogie pattern is as follows:[8]

simple lead guitar boogie pattern on a G major chord

A basic boogie lead riff (0:15; Ogg Vorbis, 134 KB)

Problems playing this file? See .

Boogie patterns are played with a swing or shuffle rhythm and generally follow the "one finger per fret" rule, where, as in the case directly above, if the third finger always covers the notes on the third fret, the second finger going only on the second fret, etc.[8]

The swung notes or shuffle note are a rhythmic device in which the duration of the initial note in a pair is augmented and that of the second is diminished. Also known as "notes inégales", swung notes are widely used in jazz music and other jazz-influenced music such as blues and Western swing. A swing or shuffle rhythm is the rhythm produced by playing repeated pairs of notes in this way.


Swing-era boogie hits include the 1940 Glenn Miller song "Boog It" (#7) and The Andrews Sisters' number two hit from that same year, "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar". In the mid-1940s, bandleader Tommy Dorsey had a number five hit with "Boogie Woogie", jump blues maestro Louis Jordan had a number six hit with "Caldonia Boogie", and Count Basie scored a number 10 hit with "Mad Boogie".

In 1948, Freddie Martin had a number six hit with "Sabre Dance Boogie" and three years later, Ernie Ford hit number four with his "Shot Gun Boogie". After several decades out of the hits catalogue, singer-actress Bette Midler hit number eight in 1973 with her cover of the song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; the original track, whose details Midler reproduced closely, was a 1941 national hit for the Andrews Sisters. Other well-known songs using a boogie rhythm or bass pattern include Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", Marvin Gaye's "Can I Get a Witness" and The Shadows's "Shadoogie"; and Jerry Lee Lewis playing "Great Balls of Fire".

See also


  1. ^ Wilbur M. Savidge, Randy L. Vradenburg, Everything About Playing the Blues, 2002, Music Sales Distributed, ISBN 1-884848-09-5, pg. 35
  2. ^ a b c Burrows, Terry (1995). Play Country Guitar, p.42. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London. ISBN 0-7894-0190-8.
  3. ^ a b The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Updated in 2009, and Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003 CITED IN "Boogie-Woogie",
  4. ^ a b c Schmidt, Wayne. "Wayne Schmidt's Boogie Woogie Page", This and That.
  5. ^ Cavalieri, Nate. "Boogie Knight", Metro Times Detroit. 18 December 2002 8:00:00 AM.
  6. ^ Silvester, Peter (1989). A Left Hand Like God: A History of Boogie-Woogie Piano. ISBN 0-306-80359-3.
  7. ^ Hoffmann, Frank. "Rockabilly", Survey of American Popular Music, modified for the web by Robert Birkline.
  8. ^ a b Burrows (1995), p.43.