The Boogie Bass
An important sound in rock and rockabilly is the popular low-note figure called
the boogie-woogie (or just boogie) bass, borrowed from the left-hand rhythms of
blues pianists. We’ll work in the key of A, using the chords A, D, and E to make
up a blues.
Let’s start with the boogie bass that goes with an A chord. On the fourth string,
fret with your index and ring fingers and pluck the notes with a downstroke of either
your thumb or a flatpick.
Now let’s add two things. First we’ll double up the notes to give them a more
insistent quality. Continue to pluck with downstrokes, keeping the beat even and
steady. At the same time, let’s pick with a slightly broader downstroke that catches
the fifth string as well as the fourth, in order to get a fuller sound that suggests
Once you’ve mastered this sound, it’s not too hard to go on to the boogie-woogie
figures that go with the D and E chords. Just make the identical moves, this time
on the fourth and third strings for D and on the sixth and fifth strings for E,
Now we’ll just fit these bass figures that go with the A, D, and E chords into
the structure of a 12-bar blues. A classic rockabilly guitar part is the result.