How To Play The Jazz Shuffle
by Tim Lake
The shuffle, like jazz, has its roots in the blues; in fact the shuffle is the blues. It is built on the lilting swing of the triplet with the pulse on the downbeat being anticipated by a shorter upbeat. It can sung as |: Dum ba Dum ba Dum ba Dum ba :| and thought of as a heart beat.
There are many variations on the shuffle depending on which part of the United States you are in, but here we are looking at the basic jazz version that was made popular by Art Blakey.
Figure 1 shows the complete pattern. Make sure you are articulating the quarter note pulse in the ride cymbal pattern. The snare drum part plays all the swung notes with a strong accent on the downbeat of two and four.
The snare drum part can be a little awkward at first. The motion for pulling out the accent is a little difficult.
FIgure 2 isolates the snare part. Play it slow and make sure you count |: 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let :| through out. The accent can also be played as a rim shot. When comfortable add the feet - Figure 4.
Also work on isolateing the hand parts - Figure 3. Keep counting and make sure everything lines up without flamming. Again add the feet to build the full pattern back up.
Figure 1a shows a typical variation where both hands play the shuffle in unison. Again you must articulate the quarter note pulse in the ride cymbal part as well as pull out that strong accent on two and four in the snare drum.
Figure 2a again isolates the hand parts for you to work on.
Oh and keep that bass drum nice and balanced. Don't let it overpower the hands.
Playing a good shuffle requires discipline and endurance, because once it is in the pocket the music is not going to stop and you don't want to break the magic. It is an essential groove in a jazz drummer's toolbox.
Some jazz shuffle tunes:+ Moanin' - Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin'.
+ The Chess Player - Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, The Big Beat.
+ Soul Station - Hank Mobley, Soul Station