How to Shuffle

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Coward Of Reali, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. Coward Of Reali

    Coward Of Reali

    Oct 13, 2003
    Just like the title says. I'm learning some blues and everyone says 'shuffle this shuffle that' but I dont know what it means.
    Someone help me out or atleast point me to some recordings of shuffles
  2. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Sweet Home Chicago is a Shuffle, so is Roadhouse Blues

    Its basically a feel: dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth four beats to the bar.
  3. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I must say respectfully that you're falling in a very common mistake: A dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth note is a very similar feel to shuffle (also called "swing"), but it's slightly different (and this little difference turns into a BIG one when listening). Shuffled (or swing) eights are, as you said, a different feel for playing eighth notes. Normally, you subdivide a quarter note beat in two equal parts. These are called "straight eighths". For shuffling (or swinging), you subdivide each beat in three equal parts and tie the first two. This can be understood in two ways: 1- Like playing an eighth triplet per beat in which the first two eights are tied or 2-Thinking of a ternary measure instead of a binary one, like turning a 4/4 into a 12/8, for instance. In a ternary measure, each beat is subdivided in three equal eighths. Tie the first two and you get the shuffle feel.

    A dotted eighth plus a sixteenth implies that the beat is subdivided in four equal parts (being each a sixteenth note) and you tie the first three. This is a VERY DIFFERENT feel. Please download the zip file in the link below. You can hear three different recordings I've done in my computer for explaining the difference: Straight eighths, shuffled eighths and dotted eighth plus sixteenth.


    Hope this helps. :)
  4. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

  5. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    The two rhythms are to be played with the same feel when the word "swing" is written before them, especially when dealing with R&B, Blues, Jazz, etc. Yes you are correct in saying the two figures are not the same in the classical sense but most guys in working situations understand that the two figures are the same "shuffle" feel when "swing" is written before them.
  6. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Alvaro is correct. A shuffle is a variation of a swing beat, where you find time divisions by three as well as four.

    But even the variations in the feel of swing are infinite, varying from "full 3" to "almost no 3".

    In most older music, the shuffle note (the note that follows the downbeat) is NOT played by the bass but by piano or guitar. This is tastier but requires a good rhythm section. For example, Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City" is a great shuffle but IIRC the piano plays the shuffle note through the vocal verses; you will hear the bass play the shuffle note only during the instrumental verse where the pianist changes HIS rhythm part.

    A great example of the shuffle which is not blues is most of Ray Price's material from the mid-to-late 1950s (Crazy Arms, My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, Pride, etc..). Rock solid.

    Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Further On Up the Road" and B.B. King's version of "Everyday I Have the Blues" are interesting shuffles in that the drummer and rhythm guitarist play the shuffle note much STRONGER than the downbeat, which is handled by the bass and bass drum. Again, the bass does not play the shuffle note. This has the effect of making it sound like double-time.

    The advent of smaller rock and roll bands - and the Fender bass, which allowed playing more notes - meant that bassists more often played the shuffle notes.

    For good blues shuffles with the bass doing the shuffle note:

    "All I Want Is a Little Bit of Love" by B.B. King, "Live and Well";

    Many Muddy Waters recordings with Calvin "Fuzz" Jones on bass.