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One-Chord Boogie Grooves
Keith Wyatt

Blues has always been a stylistic sponge, soaking up the sounds of
other, more popular musical trends and incorporating them into its 
timeless framework.  Over the years elements of rock, Latin and funk
have all been added to the blues vocabulary.  Of course, the influence
goes in the other direction too, some times in ways that are less
obvious.  B.B. King and Snoop Doggy Dog, of course, would seem to be
unlikely candidates for a duet album, but there's another side of blues,
predating rap by 30 years, in which - much like rap - melody and harmony,
take a back seat to verbal wit and rhythmic drive.  Two names associated
with blues and R&B, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, could in fact team
up very well with a beat box, since each first hit the charts with what
were essentially spoken word lyrics over a hypnotic, one chord groves,
"Boogie Chillun" and "Bo Diddley," respectively.  In this column and
the next, we'll look at the one chord boogie, based on these classics
and others like them. 

Young players often assume that the fewer chords there are in a tune, 
the easier it is to play.  This is true only on the level of fretboard
shape shifting.  On a one chord tune, like "Boogie Chillun" the  complexity
lies in the feel and dynamics.  This involves very close coordination
between the hands, and a very strong sense of time and development.  
FIGURE 1 is a rhythm figure like "Boogie Chillun."  The original is 
played in open A tuning; this example is adapted to standard tuning.  The
emphasis falls on the upbeats of the shuffle, rather than the downbeats
a common feature of "boogie" riffs, as they have come to be known.  It
can be played with the pick alone, thumb and fingers, with the pick
playing the downbeats and the fingers (middle and ring) playing the 



FIGURE 2 adds a simple bass figure, like that found on Slim Harpo's 
boogie classic, "Shake Your Hips."  Here you can add accents on the
second and fourth beats of the bar, slapping the strings with the pick
to lend the effect of a drummer playing a snare drum backbeat.



FIGURE 3 is another bass line variation, like that heard on Magic Sam's 
instrumental boogie tour de force, "Lookin' Good" (he also cut a more
melodic version of "Boogie Chillun," titled "I Wanna Boogie").  Here
again, accent the backbeats (two and four) for extra dynamic punch,
keeping the wrist completely loose with a steady down and up motion.



FIGURE 4 shows a slightly more complex version of the boogie groove,
implying a chord change - similar to ZZ Top's "La Grange."  Though
all these examples are shown in the key of A, they can easily be 
transposed to other keys by means of a capo.



The key ingredient in making a boogie happen is hypnotic drive.
There are no other chords to go to, so it's all a matter of locking
into the pocket and creating interest through dynamics and intensity.
One chord boogies, like rap grooves, are the perfect setting for 
spoken word lyrics, since by stripping down the harmony and melody,
they focus attention on message and personality.  From Mississippi
to Compton, boogie to rap, it's the poetry of the street.

h = hammeron                    Judy Letostak                         
p = pulloff                     Internet
/\ = slide                      Fidonet 1:202/762                     
x = ghost note                  MetalNet 666:666/2                    
t = tap (right hand)            The Music Shop BBS (619)423-4970 24hrs
~ = vibrato                     * = picked harmonic
bf = bend full                  tr = trill
rb = release bend               p.s. = pick scrape
dive = dive with bar            b = bend / step written over note
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