Jungle Boogie | How Does This Song Work?

Jungle Boogie | How Does This Song Work?

Jungle Boogie | How Does This Song Work?

In this free guitar lesson, I have another installment of How Does This Song Work? featuring “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and The Gang. This song features a scratchy funk guitar, chords from Dorian mode, and a bass riff that makes use of chromatic passing tones and 3 over 2 polyrhythms.

For my sound, I’m using the bridge humbucker on my guitar, and I’m playing through a Marshall amp sound set at the edge of break up and with reverb. 

Jungle Boogie Guitar Strum Pattern

I’m going to discuss a few different parts in this song, but the guitar actually only plays one of them. Throughout the whole song, all the guitar does is play a G note on string 4 fret 5. 

You need to mute everything but the fourth string, then strum across all the strings to play the scratchy funk guitar rhythm. 

There’s some slight variation to the strumming throughout the song, but the strumming generally follows this sixteenth note pattern.

That’s all the guitar does throughout the song. But, this small part plays a big role in creating the funky groove that makes the song so catchy. And it takes the right touch to play it correctly. If you’re looking for an opportunity to get better at this type of strumming technique, you can use “Jungle Boogie” as a 3-minute practice track. 

We’ve covered everything the guitar does, but there are interesting things happening with the rest of the music, so let’s keep going.

Jungle Boogie Guitar Chords

Overall, the general tonality of the music is G minor, so think about playing a Gm barre chord. Normally, when playing in a minor key, it’s assumed to be the natural minor which is Aeolian mode. In this case, G natural minor is relative to Bb major. 

But “Jungle Boogie” makes use of the note E natural instead of the Eb in the G minor scale. You hear this clearly in the vocals at the top of the song, “Get down, get down.” When you analyze the notes being sung during these sections, they form Gm7 and Am7 chords, which you can play in various ways on the guitar. 

Gm and Am are chords ii and iii out of the F major scale, so they make G Dorian mode. 

Jungle Boogie Bass Riff

Next is a short interlude section that features a riff played by the bass and clavinet and later joined by the horns. The guitar continues the scratchy funk strumming and does not join in on the riff, but I demonstrate the riff with the guitar joining in anyway.  

This is when things get tricky. It’s difficult to see how all these notes fit into any one scale because of the added chromatic half steps. I think of G minor pentatonic as being the base scale and the other notes as fitting in around it.

On top of this chromaticism, the rhythm is extremely syncopated. While everything fits into sixteenth note subdivisions, there are times when it feels like you’re playing a 3 against 2 polyrhythm. You need to pay attention to when notes fall on the down and upbeats as well as the “e” and “a” parts of the beat. 

Jungle Boogie Chorus

The next section I call the chorus because it’s when members of Kool and The Gang sing the words, “Jungle Boogie.” 

Taking a look at the notes in the upper voice first, you play F-E-D-E which is b7-6-5. These notes fit into the G Dorian scale. 

In the lower voice, you play Db-C-Bb-C which is b5-4-b3. These notes fit into the G minor blues scale.

You luck out on the rhythm here because it’s straight eighth notes.

If you’re up for an added challenge, you can see if you can play as fast as a horn player. In between the vocal phrases, the horns play rapid fills.

These notes are straight out of the G minor blues scale. They’re played as sextuplets. That means, you play a group of six notes per beat (on beats 3 and 4 in this case). 

I alternate pick this and slant my pick upward to more easily transition to the third and fourth strings with my upstrokes.

Another option is to play legato by using hammer-ons and pull-offs. 


Now you know how the song “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and The Gang works and you can play along with the basic parts. If you want to figure out anything else you hear in the music, remember to think about the chords Gm and Am as well as the scales G minor pentatonic, the blues scale, and Dorian mode. 

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