I remember watching ITV’s South Bank Show about the history of Boogie Woogie in 1986, I was only 14 and had just started to learn the piano. The show captivated me and I spent the next few years totally absorbed in playing and listening to boogie-woogie piano, it was my aim to solve the secret of this style of music.
The main ingredient of playing great boogie-woogie piano derives from a left hand that plays a set ostinato figure as in the above examples. This pattern runs independent of the right hand and mostly follows a 12 bar blues chord structure. The right hand is then free to ‘comp’, play boogie riffs and improvise a melody around the chord progression.
The first of the two examples lends itself to a country style sounding boogie and is probably the easiest pattern to start with. I’d recommend playing this pattern over and over until you feel you could play it in your sleep and then improvise over it using a C minor blues scale. The second pattern with the repeated open 5ths leans more to a rock n roll piano style and sounds great played with both straight 8ths and swung 8ths.
Remember, the key to playing boogie-woogie is to have a solid left hand, so keep practicing!