Can’t play a convincing shuﬄe? You might as well cross a whole range of potential gigs oﬀ your bucket list. Shuﬄes play a crucial role in every professional drummer’s vocabulary, and those still struggling to get the hang of this particular feel might be surprised to learn there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Shuﬄes can lightly bounce behind a track or drive like a freight train, and everything in between. You may be content knowing a handful of basic patterns, but there are dozens of types of shuﬄe grooves that can help you develop greater control and coordination while expanding your ﬂuency. So let’s take your shuﬄe to the next level.
WHAT IS A SHUFFLE?
As you dig deep into shuﬄe pedagogy, you’ll ﬁnd that they’re sometimes written as triplets in 4/4 and other times as 12/8. So, to help you adjust to this idea, we’ve presented the following examples both ways—in either case, they’re more or less equivalent. I’ll refer to both patterns as being counted as 1 & ah 2 & ah 3 & ah 4 & ah because it’s easier to count them that way, even though my music theory teacher would slap my wrists for that.
Shuﬄes generally sound like a child skipping, with a cymbal pattern playing the pattern 1 – ah 2 – ah 3 – ah 4 – ah. However, as you’ll soon see, there are countless variations on this idea. Sometimes the feet play the shuﬄe, or it’s divided among several limbs, or occasionally it’s just implied.
For those new to shuﬄes, we’ll start with a few blues beats that aren’t technically shuﬄes, but will help you get used to the feel of triplet-based beats. These grooves are written in 6/8, and since they’re shorter, they’re easier to master. Practice each slowly until it becomes comfortable, and then try speeding up the tempo.
Keep your snare and bass drum medium strong, and play your hi-hat softer using the tip to create a musically balanced sound. Once you’re comfortable with these, you can link pairs together to create longer and more interesting patterns. The second line has some simple shuﬄes.
When playing these on the ride cymbal, you may close your hi-hat with the snare note. The third line is trickier. To master these, play the unaccented snare notes very softly. More advanced drummers can expand these by buzzing or playing soft drags instead of ghost notes for diﬀerent textures. Feel free to add variations on the cymbal, foot, or snare patterns to spice up any shuﬄe once you’re comfortable playing it.
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