While the shuffle is mostly associated with the blues, it’s a pattern that can be played in any style of music. As a drummer, it’s important to this pattern and all of its variations. While in high school, I studied drums with Chet Doboe. He told me that ability to play a good shuffle would allow me to make more money as a professional drummer. While I can’t draw a direct correlation between my ability to play this groove and my income, I will say that it has come in handy on many occasions.
Here are the basics:
- The cymbal pattern is based on triplets.
- You play the first and last triplet of every quarter note.
1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let
- As it gets quicker, you’ll eventually stop counting and feel it.
To learn more about the basics, check out this article on blues drumming.
My friend, fellow drummer and drum teacher, Chris Scherer said to me once that he felt people get thrown off when learning to play triplets. There is something about adding that third note to the rhythm that makes it a lot more difficult than counting eighth or sixteenth notes. As a drum teacher, I couldn’t agree more.
It’s important to get comfortable counting and feeling triplets.
While the groove itself might seem simple, it can be quite difficult to execute. It’s important to count out loud, go slow, and use a metronome.
According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), the following grooves are important to know:
This is a fast pattern. It’s mostly about what is going on with the hi hat.
- The hi hat opens on beats 1 and 3, while closing on 2 and 4.
- Next, eliminate the “let” of beats 1 and 3.
- This essentially becomes your standard jazz cymbal pattern.
- Accent the snare on beats 2 and 4.
- The bass drum can play a variety of patterns.
This can be challenging to play at first because both hands play at the exact same time. One is on the ride (or hi hat), the other on the snare. Then accent beats 2 and 4 on the snare. The bass drum can be on beats 1 and 3 or on every quarter note. This is a driving groove! Check out music by Stevie Ray Vaughn with Chris Layton on drums.
Kansas City Shuffle
Like the Texas variation, this is a double shuffle (both ands play the exact same time). It’s a lot faster than the Texas variation. Played on the ride, it sounds happier.
Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) teaches even more grooves, such as the Flat Tire Shuffle, the Driving Shuffle, and the Charleston Shuffle.